By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) Just when I think I have good luck, I soon realize my existence is one of comic irony.
I attended a Chicago White Sox game in May. It was the Hawk Harrelson alarm clock giveaway game, to be specific. I didn’t obtain a clock. This isn’t the kick in the junk, though.
The White Sox do a really cool thing where if you buy a ticket from them online, they later ask you to take a survey about the game experience, after which you get to choose two tickets to a future game. I had a lovely time — as usual — at Guaranteed Rate Field, despite not getting my clock, and I let the PR people of the Internet know. Then I was given a choice of a handful of non-marquee games to choose from. The Los Angeles Dodgers are really good, and I don’t have much going on weekday nights during the summer when we teachers steal money for three months, so Tuesday, July 18 it was. Click.
Lo and behold, that ended up being a Clayton Kershaw start. What luck to be given tickets to see one of the best pitchers in a generation in person. He didn’t disappoint, dealing seven innings of shutout ball en route to a 1-0 Dodgers victory. There was added buzz in the outfield seats, too, with news trickling across cell phones that the White Sox were finalizing a trade sending Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the New York Yankees for more of the coveted prospects whom general manager Rick Hahn is stockpiling in his impressive rebuild.
Then I got home from another quality live baseball experience on the South Side. And the news exploded into my Twitter timeline.
This is why I suck.
“We aren’t bringing him here to sit,” Hahn said of the jewel in return for trading Chris Sale to Boston in the offseason. “We are bringing him here to continue the development that needs to take place in Chicago.
“He still has some work to do. He’s obviously still very young. But we feel that he’s ready for that next challenge that comes at the big league level.”
In all seriousness, though, this is a day to be happy amid the series of demolitions going on with the White Sox. Having gone through this on the other side of town, I’m taken back to a specific jolt amid the doldrums of the Cubs rebuild when they called up a kid named Anthony Rizzo in 2012. It wasn’t a random piece of meat thrown at starving fans a la a Felix Pie, representative of the shrug emoji previous front offices, but instead a major piece of the future whom the organization had pride and confidence in as a fixture of the future. To this day I call him “Chrizzo” because amid the suck of a rebuild, he was the first “savior” of the Postmodern Cubs.
And Rizzo was a highly rated prospect then but not the top-rated one in baseball as Moncada is. Today is a happy day for White Sox fans and baseball people who love to see a name we’ve all heard about finally don an MLB uniform.
“There’s going to be growing pains here. He’s not a finished product,” Hahn buffered against Chrizzo-like reactions. “I don’t suspect any of these players as they make their debut here in the coming months, and years, no matter how highly anticipated they may be, there’s still going to be an element of development that’s going to happen in Chicago. The thought is it’s time for Yoan to get that opportunity to take that next step.”
Yeah, fine, Moncada isn’t necessarily a superstar right now, and he certainly can’t do much to move the needle on the 2017 White Sox (and you should prefer they lose as much as possible right now). But little bits of happiness like this help get you through this kind of process, and the Moncada call-up is just the first of a gradual — if slow and sometimes frustrating — trickle of young talent joining the big club in what hopefully will become one of baseball’s most solid cores down the road. Because the process overall sucks. It’s asking to you to wait a few more years to fix a disaster you went through for pretty much the entire post-2005 existence. Such patience is a lot to ask of a consumer.
Then the trades of veterans become part of it. They’re something between ripping off a Band-Aid (Todd Frazier, David Robertson) and a spinal tap (Sale, Jose Quintana), hating them in the immediate while knowing it’s for your own good long term.
The Sox now have seven of MLB’s top 50 prospects, and 10 of the top 68. Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Jake Burger, Dane Dunning, Alec Hansen and now most recently Blake Rutherford — these are the names that will swirl around salivating tongues for the next few years.
And the names in return are cool and all and show an intelligent plan and a reason for rational hope for once in a long time, but they’re minor leaguers. They aren’t impacting the play at Guaranteed Rate Field right now where the White Sox are playing to the tune of the American League’s worst record — which is painfully a good spot for now. It’s tough to know what these names can do against actual big league pitching and hitting. And you have to temper yourself realizing that not 100 percent of them will be successful MLBers, but you know there’s strength in numbers. Still, you still have to wait.
Until you don’t. Until a piece comes to fruition. And you realize that amid the planned, necessary slog, you’re witnessing a team going through a planned, necessary slog. Appreciating how lucky that is, even if you picked the wrong free-game tickets from the online survey.
When you get a Happy Moncada Day.
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.