Bouncing back from a season in which the Chicago White Sox had a 63-99 record and finished second-to-last in the American League and last in the AL Central is going to be a very difficult task. Though well stocked on all levels with potential stars, the South Siders may have to wait a year or two for that talent to fully develop.
While in Arizona watching the White Sox take batting practice about a week ago, I overheard broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson say to some fans while signing autographs that in all of his years in baseball, this year’s White Sox camp hosts the highest concentration of young talent he’s ever seen in one place. Harrelson is known for his colorful personality and infinite devotion to the White Sox, so I don’t know if he was speaking the truth, his truth or telling the fans what they wanted to hear. However, I do know that after last season, Harrelson’s message of hope for the future based on the White Sox’s new youth movement embodies the fact that there’s really nowhere to go but up for this year’s incarnation of the South Siders.
Thanks to offseason moves that brought in Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson and Avisail Garcia, among others, the White Sox quickly went from a team of crusty veterans to a squad of young talent in varying stages of development. Twenty-five-year-old Eaton has yet to prove himself in the majors, but continues to impress in spring play. Davidson, 22, will probably begin the year in Triple-A Charlotte, but could easily be playing in Chicago by mid-summer. And at age 23, Garcia, alongside Eaton and 25-year-old Dayan Viciedo, anchors an outfield with an enormous amount of potential.
In the end, the message the White Sox seem to be sending for the new season is twofold. To the new players, respect the history of the name on the front of your jersey, and to the fans, bear with us and remember what we stand for. As a franchise, the South Siders have a winning tradition. The 2014 season may be the year in which they rediscover it, but even if it’s not, there’s always next year.