Hope you all enjoyed Cubs Convention! Getting a chance to rub elbows with your fellow Cub fans and legends takes a little bit of the sting out of winter. It’s a nice amuse-bouche leading up to spring training and that holiest of holies, Opening Day. You even get a chance to hear from team management, and regardless of what you think of them, at least they are making a public appearance.
Alas, no such luck here on the South Side. The White Sox decided before the 2022 season was over that there would be no SoxFest. The decision was ostensibly based on health concerns, but that is a bit of a stretch at this point. I won’t get into the conspiracy theories as to why the annual event is still on ice, but somewhere between cost, attendance worries, and refusal to meet the fanbase after a very disappointing year, the true answer lies.
Instead, we get to “celebrate” the signing of Andrew Benintendi to the largest contract in White Sox history: Five years and $75 million. Sure, that’s a lot of money in the grand scheme of things and no one will worry about Benintendi getting by. The sad truth, however, is that would even have been a big contract if it was signed 10 years ago.
Compared to the rest of MLB, the White Sox are operating like a minor league team. In the AL Central, only the White Sox and Royals have yet to sign a player for over $100 million. The White Sox haven’t paid for an extension over $80 million either. At least the Royals did that in 2021, paying Salvador Pérez $82 million on a four-year extension. Prior to Benintendi, the $55 million deal Albert Belle signed in 1997(!) was in the top five all-time free-agent contracts by the White Sox.
So, one small signing the White Sox want us to think is a big signing is pretty much it for the offseason. It really isn’t a surprise. Rick Hahn pretty much said going big on the free agent market wasn’t in the cards and that trades were much more likely. However, seeing how no one wanted anything the White Sox had at the trade deadline in July, it’s hard to believe things have gotten any more appealing. If they decide to trade players from the 40-man roster, it will only open more holes in a very thin lineup.
Instead of making any significant changes, the White Sox are trying to sell fans on the idea that it has to be better than last year. Even there, the organization isn’t doing it right. The whole point of having a convention is to rev up the fanbase for the coming season. Get the nostalgia flowing with some greats from yesteryear. Bring Hawk back for an afternoon to shout, “He Gone!” a few hundred times and have the current players say all the right things about making the playoffs and beating the Cubs.
After three days of eternal optimism and ballpark food in February, anticipation for the new season would be as strong as ever. Instead, the White Sox have done little to improve and even less to appeal to their fans.