Three takeaways from a SoxFest filled with hope and healing for long time fans

White Sox fans celebrated SoxFest for the first time at West McCormick Place. There was a freshness in the air, with excitement everywhere.

The sports section of a newspaper is filled with stats. What can be more real news? A White Sox home run is a home run. That’s a fact. Fans and media can analyze the hows and whys to death but box scores don’t lie.

This past weekend, SoxFest was no lie either. Fans were welcomed like family. There is a reason home teams have an advantage. Fans are part of the whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

The electric atmosphere at SoxFest further encouraged White Sox fans to believe that the 2020 version of the team, the next stage of the rebuild, is finally here. The Sox are relevant again in Chicago and fans are absolutely all in, filled with hope that a playoff game is on the horizon. That is fact. Put it on the board.

Despite the hour wait from 3:00-4:00 on Friday in an incredibly long roped-off maze of a line, everyone (thousands) stood quietly waiting for the gates to open. Some took the opportunity to get to know each other and others said hi to old friends. Shout out to Phil from the North Side! Hope you got those autographs!

I didn’t really enter with a particular agenda in mind. I am not a collector of memorabilia. Those days ended when someone stole my scorecard with autographs of the entire Big Red Machine. Rose, Morgan, Seaver, Bench…had them all. I was 12 years old then and waited at the visiting team’s bus after a game at Wrigley.

So, I walked into the SoxLoveFest and decided to canvas the area and see what piqued my interest. After a few minutes I said hi to David Kaplan, host of Sports Talk Live, who mentioned they are about to shoot. Having tired legs anyways from the hour-long jam to get in, I decided to relax and catch the show.

It was pretty cool, with Aaron Bummer and Nomar Mazara answering a few questions. But my favorite part of the evening was the Town Hall Meeting with general manager Rick Hahn and manager Rick Renteria that followed.

I shot a few videos (also a new hobby, I guess) and here is how I interpret three specific answers Hahn gave to audience questions.

1) Rick Hahn says nobody on White Sox is untouchable:

Rich Hahn was asked whether anyone was untradeable. His response was an immediate “No!”.

He explained that they always want to “play out those conversations” and emphasized the importance of knowing the “value of everyone on your roster”. More importantly he reminded us of his biggest move as a White Sox GM.

Hahn said “given some of the players we have traded in the last couple years, I think we have backed up that nobody was untradeable”

In essence, Hahn was speaking of the Chris Sale trade. It is not easy for a general manager to give up a perennial Cy Young Award candidate, who is on a very manageable contract. His answer can be interpreted to mean that by playing out conversations, he gets a good feel of his assets worth. Also, sometimes what is being offered is an offer that cannot be refused.

In other words, he did it once, and it can happen again. In fact, at some point it probably will. Rich Hahn is constantly reassuring ownership, media and fans that he has a plan and he also is not stuck in how it will play out.

There are games being played between team’s management at all times at the highest levels. While Rentaria manages the team on the field, Hahn has done an excellent job of managing change and creating a foundation for stability and continued success.

I think his statement was also important because you never want your players getting too comfortable. Even Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert‘s self-proclaimed father, Jose Abreu is not guaranteed a lifetime pass.

However, let’s hope that the new young core of Moncada, Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Nick Madrigal, Lucas Giolito, and Michael Kopech would demand a king’s ransom to allow any of them to play in a different uniform.

Just by seeing the potential star power in that room, especially when Moncada and Robert were on stage, my heart was healed from years of despair. I was especially in awe of how big Luis Robert is. La Pantera, as he has been nicknamed, is only 22 and it felt like being in the presence of a future Hall of Famer.

2) Rick Hahn says Kopech wont have an innings restriction:

David Laurila of FanGraphs has already reported that Kopech (elbow) is fully healthy and will enter spring training without restrictions. So, the obvious question was asked. Will there be “a minutes restriction” on the player who can throw at 110 MPH, who we have been waiting to see pitch again for over a season?

According to Hahn, there will not be. BUT it doesn’t mean there won’t be at the start. As Hahn put it there will be a “ramp up” in his innings. Therefore, he may not put in 200 innings but more like 145. That sounds a like a restriction of some sort to me.

It also makes sense. So just say the obvious. This guy is too good to push him hard out of the gates. Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that even Kopech assumes he may have to start in Triple-A Charlotte. And remember that Hahn described Kopech as a very “self-aware” guy.

So the restriction is that he will be left off the White Sox opening day roster. They will not give him a spot in the rotation in April so he can pitch five innings. That is why they picked up Gio Gonzalez. They also have to see where Dylan Cease and Reynaldo Lopez are at.

If Kopech can’t start at the big-league level without restriction, he will be pitching at the minor league level until they are certain he can easily handle 6-7 innings. That means a lot will be expected from Lopez, Cease and Gio. They may be competing for who gets to stay in the rotation when Kopech does come up.

3) Rick Hahn says the door isn’t closed on White Sox bringing Yolmar back:

Yolmer Sanchez won the Golden Glove Award for his play at second base last year. You would think that it is a no brainer to bring him back but he is a free agent with the right to test the market.

It is also well-known that Madrigal, the 40th rank baseball prospect, who is also a tremendous fielder, is slated to be the second baseman of the future. So, even if Yolmar were to resign with the White Sox, it would not be as a starter but to provide back up infield depth.

Surely Yolmar, is looking to start on a major league team and to receive a starters paycheck. When asked if Yolmar may still wind up in a White Sox uniform next season, Hahn responded “there’s no reason to think he won’t”. Really? How about another team signing him?

He then corrected himself, “I mean other than the fact that he is a free agent, the fact that he hasn’t signed anywhere yet has not closed the door”.

Hahn then ended “never say never, absolutely” he may be back.

In other words, if Yolmar does not get the deal he is looking for, the White Sox very well may bring him back. Having Yolmar as an insurance policy certainly is important with a young infield that will include a shortstop that led the league in errors and a rookie at second.

It was an all-around great interview with an intelligent and level-headed general manager. He has positioned his team to compete for a playoff run and bring excitement back to a hungry and appreciative fan base.

Afterward he spoke, I shook Rick Hahn’s hand and offered a personal thank you. I left SoxFest knowing that it is going to be a great year to be a White Sox fan.