During Kenny Williams' 12 year tenure as the general manager of the Chicago White Sox, his teams year in and year out have constantly found ways to overachieve, and then more often than not, have found ways to disappoint their fans as their season came to an end.
The 2012 season was no different.
The White Sox came into the season with very little expectations. Heading into the season with a "retooled" roster, not one expert giving them even a slight chance to compete with the stacked and loaded Detroit Tigers. Yet again, the White Sox managed to prove the experts wrong. They held the lead in the division throughout the majority of the season, rarely allowing the Tigers to enjoy that first place feeling.
That is, until the final two weeks of the regular season came along, and all the experts proved to be right.
The White Sox found a way to cough up the division, going 4-11 in their final 15 games, two of those wins coming in the final three games when they didn't even matter anymore.
The White Sox finished their season with 85 wins and 77 losses, numbers that don't look bad on paper, but won't leave any fan satisfied with their team, as that amount of wins will very seldom lead a team to the playoffs, which is the ultimate of any team heading into the regular season.
If there is one lesson that should be taken out of this, it's that mediocrity never leads to success or positive feedback.
What do I mean by this?
Simple, I'm tired of watching my favorite team constantly be good enough to complete, but very rarely be good enough to succeed.
Sure, they did had a magical run in 2005 when they won the World Series after winning 11 of their 12 playoff games. However, I'm tired of living in 2005, and those type of runs only happen once every 100 years, as proven by the White Sox, who hadn't won a World Series in 88 years prior to the 2005 season.
Up until the end of the 2011 season, I was really happy about the fact that Williams would do anything to ensure that he puts a winning team on the field. His boss was willing to spend money to put a winner on the field, therefore, that is exactly what he did.
Some years his strategy worked out, and other times it didn't. However, upon the end of the 2011 season, the White Sox were stuck in unfamiliar territory.
For the first time throughout his tenure, Williams was asked to trim the team's payroll instead of increasing it. The team had just suffered their second losing season in three years, not reaching the playoffs once in that three year span.
Furthermore, ticket sales had dropped for the fifth straight years, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf couldn't afford to keep spending money on his roster if the fans weren't spending money to watch his team play.
Many fans believed the White Sox were heading into a rebuilding process, especially after trading away Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor for a handful of minor leaguers and not signing any key free agents, not to mention letting Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre sign with other teams.
Some, including me, felt more trades were coming. After all, I feel if a team is going to rebuild, there is no point of stalling the process.
My gut was telling me that at least some combination of Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Gavin Floyd and John Danks would not be in a White Sox uniform heading into the 2012 season.
Instead, the winter months came and went, and no transaction were occurring, leaving many fans wondering exactly in what direction were the White Sox heading in.
Williams claimed the team was "retooling", but I don't think any fan bought that. In my eyes, he was leading the team into mediocrity, which, in my opinion, is the absolute worst position a team can be in.
There is obviously no better position to be in than competing for a championship.
The second best direction a team can be in is completely rebuilding from scratch, as that type of team is at least giving their young talent a chance to develop, giving that organization hope that the team can be competing for a championship sometime in the distant future.
In addition, a team that is rebuilding will most likely finish with awful records for a few seasons, giving them higher picks when the draft rolls around.
The absolutely worst position a team can be stuck in is mediocrity.
The reason I say this is because this type of team has a very, very small chance of competing for a championship and is not giving many opportunities for their younger talent to develop, not to mention the fact that their draft picks will not be nearly as high as they'd like them to be.
After experimenting with "retooling" the roster, there is no more time for games to be played by Williams.
It's time to do exactly what the crosstown rivals Chicago Cubs did during this previous season: start from scratch and attempt to set up the roster with all the young talent that is available via trade, free agency or the minor league system.
Will this be a long process?
It most likely will be. After all, the White Sox minor league system, in terms of talent and potential, is considered if not the worst minor league system in all of baseball, then definitely one of the worst.
When it comes to the White Sox organization, however, it seems like they are out of options.
Despite winning 85 games and leading their division throughout a majority of this previous season, the White Sox total attendance dropped under two million for the first time since the 2004 season.
Sure, it can be blamed on the tough economical times, but I truly do feel that all hope had been sucked out of all White Sox fans before the season even began, and most fans were never able to regain that hope.
There even seemed to be more hope on the other side of town, despite the fact that Cub fans knew there team was going to be awful, if not the worst in the league.
The reason why this was the case was because Cubs fans at least had the opportunity to gaze into the future, and hope that all the young talent they have on their roster will potentially turn the organization into a perennial contender sooner rather than later.
Although the White Sox may not have a surplus of young talent on their roster and in their minor league system, the talent that is there really did provide the some hope for the team's future.
Nate Jones (2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings), Addison Reed (29 saves) and Donnie Veal (19 strikeouts in 13 innings) all did their parts to show that the bullpen can be in good hands over the next 5-10 years.
Chris Sale (17 wins and 3.05 ERA) and Jose Quintana (3.76 ERA) showed the organization that experience is not a necessity for a player to be considered very good.
On the offensive side of the ball, Dayan Viciedo (25 home runs and 78 RBIs) proved that the White Sox will have some power in the future, regardless of whether they are rebuilding or not.
What's more important is the way some of the veterans on this roster performed throughout the previous season.
Adam Dunn (41 home runs and 96 RBIs), Alex Rios (.304 batting average, 37 doubles, 25 home runs, 91 RBIs and 23 stolen bases), Konerko (.298 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, 26 home runs and 75 RBI's) and Crain (2.44 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 48 innings) all showed that they can still play at a very high level.
Why is that part more important?
Because these are the players that can and should be used as trade bait throughout this offseason in an effort to acquire younger talent.
Their trade value is probably at its highest right now, as the chances that they improve on those numbers this upcoming season is highly unlikely.
They may not get as much talent as they'd like in return for these players, but they'll at least get something.
Sure, they can wait until the trade deadline when a team will most likely be in need of one of these players, but that would be a huge risk due to the fact that these players are aging and may not repeat their production during the 2013 season.
The players the White Sox could wait till midseason to use as trade leverage include Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Thornton and Danks. All these players had decent seasons in 2012, but have the potential to have better seasons in 2013, which would raise their trade value.
A few other players who can be used as trade chips during the offseason can be any of the impending free agents the White Sox have on their roster, which includes a list of Jake Peavy, Pierzynski, Floyd, Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano.
The White Sox have claimed that they want many of these players back on the roster for the 2013 season, and if a majority of them repeat what they did this previous season, many teams will be calling the White Sox organization about their availability.
The bottom line is that the White Sox can't afford to waste time developing the young talent that they do have if they continue to bring back their veteran players and continue to rot in mediocrity. Sale, Viciedo and Reed will not be young forever, and the time to fill out the roster with young talent around them is now.
This may lead to a stretch of painful years for the White Sox organization and their fans, but keeping the veterans and bringing back other ones will only lead to a longer stretch of disappointment.
Williams, Reinsdorf and the rest of the organization need to stop being stubborn, and realize this now. I said this last year and I mean it even more this year.
Whether Williams is the right man for the job is a debate for another day!
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