I’m not sure what I expected.
Kenny Williams speaking to assembled media on a golf course is not exactly the forum for a public bloodletting on the state and fate of the White Sox, or even the ideal place for an adjustment on their general policy to err on the side of opaqueness. But in trying to dampen concern about division in the front office, affirm the Sox have a clarity of vision and are cognizant of what needs to be addressed for their team to succeed, he did not accomplish much. Williams speaks to the media rarely enough to assume there’s a purpose to the moments he chooses, but then again he just blamed the fall of the 2016 White Sox on “bullpen injuries,” which is revealing in its own way.
To some degree, and to echo Nick Schaefer, having any discussion about the Sox that isn’t squared around the problems the franchise has had with filling out a viable offense feels like willful misdirection. Using the broad, zoomed out measure of runs per game–which I think Williams would appreciate as a frank assessment of getting the job done or not–the Sox have been near the bottom of the league, or at least solidly below the American League average for four years in a row.
They got .317/.383/.581 from Jose Abreu in 2014 and still only scored 4.07 runs per game, and that looks like the high point of a four-year span. The last above-average campaign came when the Sox got the last good years from the bats of Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Kevin Youkilis in 2012, after they had been bad at scoring again in 2011.
In subsequent years, they have traded away Carlos Quentin to give playing time to Dayan Viciedo; a rawly powerful force whom they could never refine to become a threat to major league pitching, centered a rebuild around the acquisition of Avisail Garcia, and just this year miscast Todd Frazier–a good, but not great hitter–as a lineup centerpiece while bypassing an offense-rich free agency crop.
So yes, bullpen depth and health is a priority when the offense is a permanent failing to the point of requiring perfection from every other unit on the team. But eight years without a playoff appearance, without any sort of hard rebuild that mitigates how damning every additional season of drought should be, strongly suggests this isn’t a disability that can be overcome with the Sox natural advantages in pitching health and development alone. Eight years would suggest the current leadership is fundamentally incapable of developing and building a playoff-caliber offense, and that is a concern grave enough I would think it would be worth addressing at every opportunity.
Lead Image Credit: Steve Mitchell // USA Today Sports Images