How’s that Cubs’ blueprint for winning a championship working out for you, White Sox?
If the White Sox have proven anything since turning their win-now corner before last season, it’s that tanking to overhaul a roster to contend is far from any guarantee that you’ll get the results you want, much less right away.
Like the Cubs and Astros before them (and a laundry list of teams since) the Sox tanked full seasons and sold off all its big-league players with value to assemble the core that reached the playoffs last year — then, like the Cubs, sacked Rick Renteria to hire a high-profile manager, added more key pieces and traded for the best closer on the market.
But got bounced again in the first round.
Maybe they’ll put it all together in the next year or two and win that championship the Cubs won in 2016 to help give the Sox cover in town for their own tank job.
“We’re going to be pretty hungry trying to get back to where we’re at and exceed where we were this year,” Tuesday’s starting pitcher, Carlos Rodón, said after the 10-1 elimination loss.
Take that for what it’s worth. Rodón, a free agent who flashed a 99-mph fastball Tuesday, probably won’t even be here by then.
Meanwhile, the Sox won exactly one postseason game each of the last two postseasons.
Hell, they used to do that much in the playoffs (see: 2008) before they tried this tanking thing, and even mixed in World Series title in 2005 back when they tried to win without intentionally giving away seasons first.
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn — who once called the Cubs’ process a “masterfully done rebuild” — was all in on the blueprint by the time the Astros followed the Cubs with their own tanking-to-the-top run in 2017.
“I do think perhaps it helps the fan base understand a little bit about what the process looks like, where other teams have been and the path they took to get to the ultimate goal of winning the World Series,” Hahn said during the general managers meetings in 2017, less than a year after trading Chris Sale to the Red Sox in the Yoan Moncada-Michael Kopech deal.
“Certainly we saw it in Chicago; many fans saw it first-hand with the Cubs,” Hahn added. “Houston’s another example. Kansas City before them. There’s certainly more and more examples in the game in the last several years that help sort of show fans a path and justification for what we’re doing.”
That’s a problem for baseball that continues to grow to embarrassing levels.
Beyond the obvious league-integrity issue, the big problem in practice is that the “more and more examples” of teams tanking to win, the more it assures that most of them will fall short of that “ultimate goal” for doing it in the first place.
Even the Astros, who spent the most years tanking during this “golden age” of MLB tanking, have won only one championship — and needed to cheat to do it.
Since that 2017 title, none of the teams that took the cheap and lazy tanking approach has won it — the titles going to the Red Sox, Nationals and Dodgers since then.
Maybe the White Sox will have enough in their tank to win next year or some other year during this window they have with core players Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, et al.
But for now, the Astros are simply the better team — tanks, a lot.
And the Red Sox might be, too — or the Giants and everyone else in the National League field, for that matter. Not that we’ll get a chance to find out, tank you very much.
Whether the Sox eventually get there and win the whole thing — or even if they win a few — maybe it’s time baseball scrapped this whole tanking thing.
Because if we’re starting to learn anything by now, it’s that the promise of that blueprint is a myth — almost mathematically provable once multiple teams start engaging in it.
And baseball can only hope — perhaps with an assist from the players’ union in CBA negotiations this fall — that the practice has run its course.
Hell, if an Atlanta team with five ex-Cubs — and Anthony Rizzo’s bat — can almost singlehandedly debunk the ex-Cubs Factor of postseason success by upsetting the Brewers to reach the NLCS, anything seems possible.