MLB: South Siders Installing New Hope In Once Lost Fan

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

As far as sports is concerned, my first love was baseball.

But by the summer of 1994, with the Chicago Bulls not far removed from winning their third-straight championship and with the owners of Major League Baseball declaring a strike on their players which ended that season in its tracks, I was not lacking any further justification for abandoning my first love and falling for the National Basketball Association.

So off-putting was it for me, an 11-year-old Chicago White Sox fan who couldn’t wait for the “Good Guys who wore black” to avenge their 1993 American League Championship Series loss to the eventual World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays (compiling an American League Central-leading 67-46 record at the time of the strike), that my affection could not be recaptured even as the team that still plays a Steve Stone’s throw away from my childhood bedroom window earned World Series glory in 2005.

Flash forward to the present and, ironically enough, the harsh reality of another abbreviated season — this one as a result of a global pandemic, not a financial impasse between owners and players — that once again has my eyes wandering back toward the game my late father and I spent hours together watching.

If stability was needed to draw me back into baseball, this season wouldn’t be very appealing at all.

There won’t be any games played North of the border due to Canada’s valid fear of American Covid cooties. Fans won’t even be given the chance to ignore social distancing practices at the parks because they’re effectively banned as no major United States municipality can say its out of the woods regarding Coronovirus cases.

Also, quite a few boldface names are saying “nope” to the 60-game stretch to salvage 2020, among them is the promising young White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech who likely chose to opt-out of playing amid his personal Coronavirus safety concerns. There’s a good chance this already offbeat campaign will get kookier once the first-ever late July Opening Day commences Thursday, it’ll be a season that bears quite a different appearance from what anyone of us — be they a diehard seamhead or someone returning from a decades-long break — have ever been accustomed to.

Though three-months behind schedule, this regular season is no-less chockful of juicy storylines and potential plot twists, including how will managers grapple with the frenetic pace of their respective teams playing 60 ballgames in 67 days without much cushion for error if a postseason berth is to be secured. Or, how the first couple of weeks of play could cause a playoff contender to plunge toward the bottom of the standings and the unlikeliest of teams to be flung ahead of its division or just where exactly will the Toronto Blue Jays play their “home” games after the Canadian federal government rejected a plan that would have allowed them to continue to use their home Rogers Centre?

For this now 37-year-old who still seeks reconciliation with the team for whom his former idol, Robin Ventura, once played and managed, the crux of this season will be watching the White Sox expectant maturation from an also-ran with over a decade-long postseason drought to a legitimate American League Central contender. My renewed interest in the South Siders seems apropos given their combination of lively personalities — from the likes of Tim Anderson to veterans just arriving (Edwin Encarnacion) and well-established on the South Side (Jose Abreu) melding with compelling young talent like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

Considering his continued growth it wouldn’t be far-fetched to peg Anderson as an AL Most Valuable Player candidate. Still, the gregarious shortstop who boasted a major league-best batting average a season ago wasn’t even the best player, statistically speaking, on the team in 2019. That honor belonged to third baseman Yoan Moncada, who after a period of uncertainty rejoined the Sox last week after testing positive for the Coronavirus.

Supplying even more muscle to the heart of their lineup is arguably the best catcher in baseball in Yasmani Grandal, who was acquired via free agency in November, a move that signaled the Sox overdue establishment as a welcome destination for talent on the open market.

The previously mentioned Robert has put on a show during summer camp scrimmages and the recent exhibitions with the Cubs, splendidly slapping pitches around Guaranteed Rate Field and drawing early comparisons to Los Angeles Angels five-tool stud Mike Trout from Jimenez.

Its looking like the South Siders could have a surplus in offensive firepower and that’s not even factoring in a possibly revamped starting pitching rotation headed by Cy Young hopeful Lucas Giolito and solidified with the additions of ultra-experienced hurlers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.

The White Sox have as good a reason as any team in baseball to carry forth into the uncharted territory of the 2020 season with optimism. Hell, they’ve already won back this fan’s favor and they’ve made it count.

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