So, the holidays are over and it seems like there is just an infinite number of cold and snowy days ahead and the spring seems like a thousand years away. What is a White Sox fan to do? The Cubs fans are still basking in their World Series win (we remember what early ’06 was like, right?) and we hope for the best for the Blackhawks or Bulls to keep things interesting – but there doesn’t seem to be much to look forward to for Sox fans.
However, that’s not entirely true. We as baseball fans simply need to shift our thinking. The fact is that the White Sox appear to have taken to the idea of rebuilding and we have a lot of young players and a new manager. While it is possible that all of them will suddenly and magically click and become a great team – we all know that this is extremely unlikely. That means a lot of losing in 2017 as the team tries to find its footing and figure things out. That means losing into the 2018 season, more than likely, too. That means dealing with gloating Cubs fans as their team looks to make it into the post-season again while our season ends in September and we brace for another long winter.
However, there are some things to watch for that will make 2017 and 2018 a lot of fun. Here are the XX things to watch and keep in mind for 2017 so you can still enjoy the season.
1. Stop looking to the post-season
Again, the great thing about baseball is anything can happen. Young teams have surprised the experts and the White Sox always seem to do best when the experts count them out well before the season starts. However, we simply cannot go into 2017 expecting there to be a trip to the playoffs. It’s very unlikely. Enjoy the moments while you can and, if you want, have a back-up team to root for. Personally, I suggest the St. Louis Cardinals just to really annoy any Cubs fans in your life, but you choose what you want.
2. Watch the new manager
We have to remember that Rick Renteria is a baseball guy, but untested as the manager. I was hoping the team would spend some time looking for just the right guy for the spot and find someone with fire and passion for the game like Maddon across town. We have yet to see if Renteria has that. The right manager can light a fire even under young, inexperienced talent and make them win. Julia Vinas did that with the White Sox Triple-A team Charlotte Knights in 2016 and maybe Renteria will do that, too. However, this is likely to be a training season for him, too, so keep an eye on him and see how he does.
3. Pick your favorite players
I have to admit I am most excited about Yoan Moncada coming to play for the south side. His few appearances in the big leagues with Boston were promising, but too short to know for sure. His minor league numbers, however, are impressive. It reminds me of the days when we Sox fans were hearing about this amazing young talent in the Sox farm system hitting homers like they were going out of style – Frank Thomas. Of course, it is way, way, way too early to compare Moncada to Thomas and, unfair. He’s not Frank Thomas, he’s Yoan Moncada and he’ll hopefully blossom into the talent everyone seems to think he will be – or he won’t. There are other young players to watch, to pick a favorite and root for them and keep an eye on their stats and how they grow rather than the team’s record.
4. Follow the minor leagues
The Sox seem to be making investments in their farm system, too. While most of us watch Chris Sale leave and wait for news on Quintana, the team is signing prospects to their own farm system and making changes. During 2016, I followed the Knights as they fought into 1st place, stumbled, fought back again and were in the hunt until the end.
We now know how important prospects are. We can use them for our own team, of course, but also for bargaining trades, too. The Knights will have a new manager in Mark Grudzielanek (a former Cub) which should be interesting. The Knights’ manager from 2016, Julio Vinas, has been moved to Double-A Birmingham and the Barons have a nice shiny new stadium to play in. So, don’t just focus on the big league team – keep an eye on the minor league teams, too, and widen your focus for the year.
5. Brace yourself for more Cubs celebrations
Looks, getting back into the post-season and garnering another baseball championship is one of the hardest things to do in all of major league sports. We know this from 2006 and it’s likely Cubs fans will learn it the hard way in 2017 – maybe. Let’s face it, that team is deep into what the Sox are just starting – rebuilding with young talent. That talent is mostly still there, still young and still talented.
That means it is likely the Cubs will keep winning. If you’re like me, it will drive you nuts that the sporting world seems focused on that and doing all it can to forget what the Sox did in 2005, but it is what it is. We’re Sox fans and we should be used to second-tier status even when it’s not deserved.
So, brace yourself. Grit those teeth. Practice the fake smiles. All the while, know that the Sox appear to be sincere in making the changes or the future. Keep an eye to 2019. It isn’t as far away as you think.
2017 and the coming years are going to be exciting. If we understand what we’re getting into and prepare for it, then we can still enjoy this season. It’ll be rough to look at the standings and WIN column, but we can do it. We’re Sox fans, darn it.