One national writer joins South Side fans in recognizing White Sox are 'perfect' for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com
OK, so not every South Side baseball fan is rooting for the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sagas to end with one of the 26-year-old superstars in a White Sox uniform.
But a seeming majority of White Sox fans has been energized by the team's aggressiveness this winter. Rick Hahn's front office has landed itself as one of just a few contenders for the two biggest names on the free-agent market, a thrilling change of pace for a fan base that suffered through a 100-loss campaign in 2018 and a pursuit that fits right in with his carefully laid rebuilding plans.
Well, White Sox fans, you're not alone in seeing the South Side as the ideal destination for one of the game's best players.
MLB.com's Richard Justice penned a piece that looks at seven reasons why the White Sox are what he calls the "perfect" landing spot for either Harper or Machado, in other words touting them as the best option (contract specifics aside, of course) for any big-name player trying to decide where to play his home games for the better part of the next decade.
Justice, like the White Sox likely did in their pitches to Machado and Harper, started with the future, pointing out all those highly rated prospects that have already started making their way to the major leagues. He points out the weaknesses of the AL Central and that one of these superstars could change the division's balance of power in a hurry. He touts Chicago as one of the world's best cities, a no-brainer to us Windy City residents, even on a 16-degree morning such as this one. And he finishes up by complimenting manager Rick Renteria and the White Sox organization as great people to play and work for.
No argument here.
The White Sox have always seemed to have a nice list of selling points, chief among them what they have coming in Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and others. The opportunity to spend many years surrounded by that core would figure to put one of these guys in the thick of a playoff race on an annual basis. And while teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are better equipped to pitch winning rosters in the immediate, those teams are going to run into financial and roster crunches sooner. The White Sox, thanks to their rebuilding effort, have financial and roster flexibility that could keep that group together longer. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies, the White Sox chief competition in the Machado derby and one of the other teams in on Harper, might not have as attractive a present or future as they think they do strictly based on what the major league roster and top-prospects list look like today.
And that ties into another point of Justice's: the city. I don't have to extol the wonders of Chicago to Chicagoans and Chicago fans. But someone has to do that for Machado and Harper, and someone surely did and they did a better job of it than whoever pitched Philadelphia because both players are reportedly not big fans of the City of Brotherly Love. Machado got a firsthand lesson in Philly sports fans' passion when a construction worker yelled "do the right thing!" at him upon his arrival to his meeting with the Phillies during his free-agent tour. Philly fans are a passionate lot who love their teams, but it's a notoriously ruthless sports town when things don't go perfectly. Just ask Santa Claus.
Undoubtedly one of these guys could dramatically change things in the AL Central. Even though the White Sox might not even be a playoff team in 2019 with the addition of Machado or Harper, there's not much standing in the way of an ascent to the postseason in the American League. Ask the Oakland A's.
Right now, there are three teams destined for the postseason in the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, with the Cleveland Indians another almost by default. With rumors of trades involving All-Star type starting pitchers swirling all offseason, the departure of Michael Brantley and a near consensus that the contention window is closing, how much longer can the Tribe be considered a playoff lock? Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are in a deeper rebuilding modes than the White Sox, and the Minnesota Twins took a step backward last season. There's obviously a long way to go before the White Sox are where they want to be, a lot more development that needs to occur before the rebuild transitions to contention, but with so little competition in the division and across the Junior Circuit - is anyone really scared of the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays or Texas Rangers? - it might not be long before the White Sox are back in playoff position.
And while some White Sox fans have their grumbles about Renteria or the organization as a whole, there's no doubt that players love playing for Renteria and for the White Sox. Many players discussed the buy-in to Renteria's brand of culture, with shortstop Tim Anderson using the phrase "Ricky's boys don't quit" more times than Hawk Harrelson last season. And Jose Abreu, to use one example, often talks about how he wants to be with the White Sox for his whole career and thanks the organization every time he's asked about an individual achievement. Grumble all you'd like, the guys in the clubhouse - which is what Machado or Harper would be - have nothing but rave reviews.
Of course, none of this is news to White Sox fans. But an explanation to the baseball world at large that the South Side of Chicago can be a more perfect place for the game's biggest names to land than New York or Los Angeles is refreshing to say the least.
We'll see if it ends up mattering to two guys who are expected to get a boatload of money thrown in their direction.