Meanwhile on the South Side: Disappointment Even Before Pitch Is Thrown

As a current White Sox fan and a former Guardians fan, apathy and disappointment come along during most baseball seasons. It usually arrives in June or July, sometimes later if it is a good year, and sometimes earlier if April and May are particularly rough. I can’t think of a time that it arrived during spring training. Until now.

Spring training 2023 was already coming in lukewarm at best following a lack of action over the winter months. The middling signing of an Andrew Benintendi and a new manager don’t really get a fan’s heart racing. Coming into camp, the White Sox are trying to sell everyone on rookies who weren’t good enough to get a deal done at the trade deadline last year. There wasn’t even a convention to pump fans up.

That could all be forgiven, but bringing Mike Clevinger to the South Side has given the White Sox a pallor that is hard to look past.

Even before the story broke about Major League Baseball’s investigation into Clevinger’s alleged domestic abuse, the signing was a puzzler. The first reaction was, “This is the guy you want to replace Johnny Cueto?” Clevinger and Cueto have similar numbers, though I’d give the edge to Cueto: lower ERA, more strikeouts, and more innings pitched are the highlights. Another thing that was weird about the signing was that the White Sox ran out to get Clevinger, signing him in November.

Were they worried someone was going to get him first? Really? What was the market for a 4-5 starter in November? More to the point, what was the market for a middling pitcher with a troubling reputation? Along with Clevinger’s breaking of COVID protocols in 2020, it was open knowledge that his trade to San Diego was a welcome move by the other players in that Cleveland clubhouse. 

Less than a month before pitchers and catchers reported to camp, the news broke about MLB’s investigation. The question of whether he would report to camp or not was answered last week when Clevinger showed up. It remains a disappointment that the White Sox allowed this to happen even though Rick Hahn said they had no choice since the pitcher wasn’t officially suspended. That isn’t entirely true, as they could have simply asked him to stay away from camp until the matter was solved.

Sadly, there are even more troubling aspects to the situation, the first of which is how much and when the Sox knew about the situation. The investigation started in June of 2022 and the White Sox claim they did not know about anything until after they had signed Clevinger. So much for all that due diligence. In the closed shop of MLB, it is hard to imagine nothing was leaked or whispered. I’d like to believe the White Sox were completely in the dark, but that’s a real stretch.

Making matters worse is that when Clevinger’s accuser was given a platform to speak on 670 The Score’s Parkins & Spiegel Show, Clevinger threatened the station with legal action. The White Sox as a team appear to have taken a stand against the Cubs’ flagship station and are dangerously close to going the “He’s our guy, regardless of his behavior” route. It’s a stance that makes a disappointing offseason even worse and it’s hard to see a way it gets any better soon.

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