Why Sox will take a mulligan on disappointing season, hope for better results in 2023
Some how, some way, the White Sox are still in the playoff chase.
For as poorly as they've performed, one hot streak over the final five-plus weeks of the regular season could vault them into first place in the flyweight AL Central.
Problem is, this Sox team doesn't appear capable of putting an extended run together.
An underachieving offense, endless string of injuries, subpar defense, head-scratching baserunning and overall lack of urgency has kept a team expected to be World Series caliber hovering around the .500 mark for five arduous months.
In early August, general manager Rick Hahn was asked for his thoughts on the White Sox failing to make the playoffs for the third straight year.
"Everyone is involved in trying to make this team better," Hahn said. "If we fail to get to the ultimate level we feel is appropriate for this team's talent, all of us, myself included, should be held accountable."
With the Sox showing no signs of reaching that "ultimate level," is a major shake-up coming at season's end?
The gut feeling here is the White Sox opt for a mulligan on a year to forget.
Tony La Russa has taken most of the heat for the Sox's maddening play this year. If there is a change, it's likely going to be the 77-year-old Hall of Fame manager heading back into retirement. Hitting coach Frank Menechino is also on the hot seat.
"If we get to where we feel the message or communication is wrong or there's a failure to execute a plan, we have to get to the bottom of what's the plan for that and make an adjustment," Hahn said.
As for roster adjustments, look for Hahn to take all of the injuries into consideration and simply hope for better luck -- and results -- in 2023.
First baseman Jose Abreu and outfielders Andrew Vaughn and AJ Pollock are the only regulars that have played over 100 games while Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada and Yasmani Grandal have struggled to stay on the field.
Abreu and Johnny Cueto are the only players of note that are eligible for free agency when the season's over.
Nearing the end of a three-year, $50 million contract, the 35-year-old Abreu said he wants to continue playing "as long as I can or as long as life wants me to."
The 2020 American League MVP is having an unusual season.
Known for driving in runs and hitting homers, Abreu entered Saturday's play leading the league with 146 hits (103 singles) while ranking third with a .307 batting average.
Abreu was tied with 44th with 13 home runs and 25th with 59 RBI.
Is he going to be a singles hitter again next year, the year after and possibly longer? That's something the White Sox need to ponder with Abreu.
If he does leave, Vaughn could move back to his natural position and replace Abreu at first base.
The Sox still need help at second base and possibly right field, unless they determine Gavin Sheets is the answer at the corner spot.
After that, they're likely to roll out the same lineup next year, hope for better performances and much better health. "We know what the expectations were coming into the season," starting pitcher Lucas Giolito said. "For whatever reason, just the inconsistent play, the injuries, whatever, we haven't met those expectations yet. There's a lot of talent here, we just have to continue to prepare and play with confidence and control what we can control."