By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It would be easy to forget that there are six months of baseball ahead and probably much more to come that will be less than encouraging to watch. Development, as a whole, isn’t an entertainment product in and of itself.
This past weekend of White Sox celebration was more relief rally than anything, a small and often ornery fan base mostly pleased by a new awareness and transparency, ready to be treated differently by team leadership. Recognition of that in particular seemed to underpin the optimistic tone, with welcome sunlight coming from within a city steeped in winter clouds.
General manager Rick Hahn’s combination of ready availability and lucid intelligence is finally changing long-held perceptions of nebulousness in the front office. This was and is his show, regardless of any off-message Kenny Williams comments that have convinced conspiracy theorists of skulduggery and power struggles. The size and coordination of the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton in December achieved multiple ends — fulfilling Hahn’s pledge to redirect a team “mired in mediocrity,” remove two divisive and selfish players from the clubhouse, obtain numerous prospects who project to matter and allow for frequent and lengthy public explanations of what they’re trying to do and why.
Any further moves — Todd Frazier and Jose Quintana, we’re looking at you — will only accelerate this much-needed housecleaning of organizational cobwebs and provide more opportunity for fans to invest in something they better understand and appreciate.
And it still might not ever work.
Long-term buy-in is untested in South Side waters but amid a rapid teardown is being asked nonetheless. To get it, the White Sox finally seem to know that they can let fans into their process to a greater degree than before, in evidence when Hahn and scouting director Nick Hostetler answer questions and offer honest assessments of the many new moving parts.
What role manager Rick Renteria plays remains to be seen, but for now he looks like a gentle and jovial shepherd of whatever major league flock he’s given, when he’s not busy cooking queso fundido and ceviche for the cameras. He has never presented the mien of a baseball heavyweight, and the truth is there’s no need for that at the moment.
This is the time of Tyler Saladino, essentially, if you had to sum it up in one perfect epitome of what you will be watching until and if it comes together — a 28-year-old at marginally above replacement level who resembles a real enough player but engenders no pretense of anything more for anyone outside of whatever is left of Hawk Harrelson.
It’s all very nice, what the White Sox have actually decided to do, at long last making needed and difficult decisions and acting on them concertedly. But as the good vibes of their festival fade, it’s time to hurry up and wait.