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Ten years later, it's far different on the South Side

7/20/2015
Not even a start by Chris Sale, who wasn't his usual self on Sunday, could give the White Sox a needed lift. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

CHICAGO -- It was supposed to be a weekend of celebration for the Chicago White Sox organization, but the takeaway from four games against the Kansas City Royals was that the club is a long way away from its championship run a decade ago.

Heroes of yesteryear such as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede invaded U.S. Cellular Field over the weekend, and if they dared look at the action on the field, they had to be wondering what happened to their grand old stage.

The White Sox lost three of four to the Kansas City Royals when they really needed the exact opposite results to convince the front office that this roster is worth keeping intact.

With just inside of two weeks remaining before the non-waiver trade deadline, the White Sox look ready to set up the lemonade stand: Players -- 10 cents a glass.

On Friday, general manager Rick Hahn said the team had not determined whether they’d be buyers or sellers with the deadline approaching. But then the Royals reeled off three victories in three days, leaving the White Sox 13 games back in the American League Central.

“This is the only championship they’re giving out this year, is the 2015 championship,” Hahn said Friday. “However, it’s part of the responsibility of this position to be objective and look at the long-term benefit of the club and do what makes the most sense objectively given the situation that we’ve played ourselves in.”

If the greatest thing the 2015 club can do is to make the 2017 or 2018 or 2019 club a better team, then that has to be considered a decent payoff for a team that will go into Monday’s off day with a 42-48 record.

Manager Robin Ventura has been peppered with questions all month about how his team will handle a potential sell-off at the end of July. After losing the series to the Royals, he was asked again.

“We're going to play on Tuesday,” Ventura said. “I know everybody wants to talk about it, but we're going to play as hard as we can against St. Louis.”

It wasn’t as if the White Sox did not play hard against the Royals. Did they make mistakes? Sure. Did they run into embarrassing outs? Absolutely. But were they just beaten by a much better team this weekend? Yes, they were.

“You come out and you’re playing hard; we’re grinding it out,” said Chris Sale, who was not at his best while allowing four runs on 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings. “We’re playing as hard as you can and that’s all you can really ask.

“We got some bad luck along the way too. We’re squaring some balls up and doing some things. Balls hitting off guys’ gloves and going to the other guy. It’s just sometimes you have to shake the bad luck before you get on a roll.”

In all likelihood, Jeff Samardzija will be moved. The best-case scenario for the White Sox is that clubs who are looking for starting pitching, primarily in the National League where Samardzija has been a good fit, start upping the ante by bidding against each other.

But Samardzija doesn’t figure to be the only regular the White Sox can use to make deals. Jose Quintana, Alexei Ramirez, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke and Adam Eaton all figure to find themselves mentioned in rumors over the next 12 days.

While saying that the White Sox would rather be buyers this season, Hahn saw that window close quickly this weekend. Gone is the good feeling built by winning nine of 12 games before the All-Star break.

To each his own with his finances, but often the idea of taking out a loan at a higher interest rate to pay off a loan on a lower interest rate would keep you in debt longer.

“We do have to remain somewhat objective and try to do what is best for the organization in the longer term, not -- I don’t want to say throw good money after bad -- but not continue to invest in something that might not make the most sense for the long-term health of the franchise,” Hahn said.

A rare bright side Sunday finally came in the ninth inning when Tyler Saladino hit a home run, the first of his career. With just seven games of major league experience, the weight of a disappointing season doesn’t appear to be on Saladino’s shoulders … yet.

More fresh-faced youngsters could be on the way.

By trading some established players for prospects over the next week and a half, the White Sox are going to take their lumps the rest of the way in 2015. But it seems like that will happen whether they make deals or not.

By making some trades, they can at least buy a little optimism for the future.

When members of the 2005 team talked about their championship run this weekend, they spoke about unity, confidence and a will to win.

“We hit home runs, but we could drive in a tough run with two outs, and the defense was clutch,” Konerko said about the organization’s only championship in nearly 100 years. “There’s a difference in making a great play in an 8-2 game, and when you have to turn a double play or the tying run scores. That never got away from us.

“We would make those plays, and it felt like 1-0 and 2-1 games were still in our comfort zone. When we blew somebody out it was easy, and when we got blown out, it didn’t matter. When we played close games, we didn’t feel anxiety, we felt better than the other side.”

None of those feelings seem to exist with the current White Sox team. What a difference 10 years can make.