By Tim Baffoe–

(CBS) Has there been a worse year in your lifetime to root for the Chicago White Sox?

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The only year comparable for me in sheer open-palmed insult is the infamous White Flag year of 1997, but even that wasn’t a long drawn-out series of the team jamming a thumb into various pressure points.

As Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline ticked near, rumors swirled of general manager Rick Hahn taking calls on stud pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. There was also the presumption that a piece like closer David Robertson or one of the veteran outfielders, useless on the White Sox in the immediate but potentially worth gems of some other team’s farm system, would try to be moved.

At 3:01 Monday, the White Sox had only moved reliever Zach Duke on Sunday to the St. Louis Cardinals for their 12th-best prospect, outfielder Charlie Tilson, who immediately became the fifth-best prospect of the Sox.

I don’t know Duke well, but this doesn’t seem like the face of a guy gutted at having to leave this team. And who can blame him? What about that White Sox clubhouse right now seems like a nice place to show up to every day?

But that’s the non-contending White Sox of 2016, in toto. They’re the 23-10 team to open the season that isn’t making the postseason and is standing pat.

Where’s the pleading for forgiveness from White Sox fans for this, another in a series of crap-tastic seasons since the fading gleam of 2005?  

“There are certainly multiple pieces that are capable of playing important roles on a championship club,” Hahn said Monday of the roster he kept. “It is very frustrating for all of us that it has not played out, other than the first month of the season. We share that disappointment and frustration. We feel on this roster we have some very special talent. We share that frustration with Sox fans.”

So what then says anything changes record-wise from this year to next with the “special talent” that’s here to stay apparently? First baseman Jose Abreu probably isn’t this bad in 2017, but is outfielder Adam Eaton then sabermetrically sustainably this good? Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson is fun to watch if you don’t care about a top-of-the-order guy with an on-base percentage under .300. Left-hander Carlos Rodon might be good — maybe, hopefully, please. Third baseman Todd Frazier is one homer off the big league lead and somehow has an OPS under .800.

“There were certainly some offers that, if a certain club made a different decision on a package or targets they were holding back, things could have progressed more quickly,” Hahn said. “That could have helped in the end, leading to a deal.”

Yeah, that’s how negotiations work. Thanks for explaining that to us unwashed without MBAs. The problem is none of that explanation gives White Sox fans any shred of satisfaction with the status of the club. It’s not like anybody at 35th and Shields is on their knees pleading with fans to forgive them, which stinks because White Sox fans have been patient for years now with reasons why their favorite team will be good and then why it wasn’t but will be the next year. Maybe those dozen roses and heartfelt card come in the form of offseason deals.

“We are going to remain open-minded in the next few weeks” Hahn said. “With this in mind, we hope to improve ourselves in the long term. The players teams were reluctant to part with this week may be available in the offseason.”

Fine, cool, good to know. Nobody is asking Hahn to settle on deals just to make deals, and if the offers were that weak, so be it.

Building for 2017 and beyond can be accomplished just as well in the winter as this summer, perhaps with even better returns then than now for a Sale or a Quintana. But last winter the White Sox shopped for 2016 and told us this was a team that could contend for a championship.

What we have been given instead is a pair of ill-fitting pants and an irregular shirt that some hothead would take a blade to. And there’s no receipt to return any of it.

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And not a “sorry” to be heard.  

What about that three-year plan talk we heard about? Remember that?

“We felt good where we are,” executive vice president Kenny Williams said in June 2015, “but we felt good about where we are for 2015, ’16 and ’17. So we’re not going to abandon ship right now because of three months in what is a three-year plan.”

And then five months later Williams followed with: “As I sit here today, we have had a number of conversations, even as late as this morning, and Rick hasn’t presented to us a definitive direction based on his talks that he wants to travel down.”

So then in December, Hahn swapped kids for Frazier to show everyone he’s the alpha in that office, and the team looked pretty solid on paper. Then the Adam LaRoche stranger-than-fiction occurred. It was all embarrassing and unbecoming of a professional sports organization. But then a super-hot start happened after money was saved by getting LaRoche to miraculously quit baseball. A bullet seemed dodged.

But then Robin Ventura managed games and bullpens like Robin Ventura with repercussion from his bosses, and the hitting never quite warmed up with the weather, and all the goodwill built up was quickly flushed.

No mea culpas anywhere, though. And no explanation of that plan either.

There were whiffs of an odor of decency from this team that managed to hover at mediocre out of the All-Star break, but becoming buyers for a bat like Jay Bruce never felt all that serious, and the White Sox just seemed to quietly accept that they aren’t going to the postseason. Which, while anticlimactic, is fine if it isn’t followed by enduring organizational stagnancy or coupled with topping the weirdest baseball story of the year, if not ever, in the LaRoche sage with Sale going Scissorhands on throwback jerseys and still not showing remorse while adding his manager and the PR department to the list of people he’s bus-tossed this year alone, including Williams.

Not only has this team underachieved, but they’ve twice been the laughingstock of national media.

White Sox fans don’t deserve a team that’s an absurd combination of bad, unlikable and seemingly meandering. It’s wholly unfair, and it’s bound to hemorrhage interest — maybe permanently — from a lot of Chicagoans who have a positive national story to latch on to a few miles north.

“Our approach of trying to piece things together to try and contend each year has not gotten us to where we have been able to have sustained success,” Hahn said. “It hasn’t let us achieve at the level we want to.”

Is that Hahn letting us know he wants to blow it up and rebuild but can’t? Surely he wants to, and maybe his hands have been tied by a perpetually impatient Williams or a Jerry Reinsdorf that in the winter of his years couldn’t emotionally settle for intentionally bad for some years in order to get good.

But what other option is there now? Heck, do the White Sox even have an organizational philosophy right now? They’re not buyers for now, but their offseasons have shown a propensity for wanting to look like they’re “going for it.” They aren’t sellers at the moment either, and they won’t admit that the current rigor mortis of another lost season has greater meaning.

Sorry is always the hardest word. Figuring out whatever this corpse is and declaring that ASAP with a definitive blueprint and explanation to an undeservedly abused fan base might be apology enough.

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Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.