Major League Baseball is experiencing a wave of change.
Perennial losing teams such as the Orioles, Reds, and Rays are now finding success in their youth movements. Clubs like the Padres, Yankees, and Guardians, teams that have owned playoff spots in recent seasons, must now decide if they are still within their window of contention. There are also franchises such as the Royals, Tigers, and Pirates that are rebuilding and investing in their future to find guys who will lead them to glory in years to come. The landscape of the league looks very different than it did just five years ago.
There are two things that stay the same, though, and those are the fates of the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago White Sox. These beleaguered franchises remain largely unchanged and struggle with the same identity issues that plagued them then. In fact, the similarities between these two teams are glaring when taking everything into account, and I’m here today to do just that.
Let’s break down what aspects these poor guys have in common and discuss which of them holds the edge.
At the start of play on August 20th, the two clubs held identical records. They’re two of the bottom-four teams in baseball as far as wins and losses and haven’t a prayer of reaching the postseason this year.
It ain’t lookin good, friends.
What’s actually a difference between them, though, were their preseason expectations. The White Sox were projected to play winning, or at least .500, baseball and fight for a playoff spot. The AL Central is probably MLB’s weakest division overall, and a Chicago team that under-performed in 2022 seemed primed to erupt in ‘23. Instead, they’ve continued to struggle and found themselves sellers at the trade deadline, letting loose parts such as Jake Burger, Keynan Middleton, Lucas Giolito, and Lance Lynn. With their preseason hopes squarely in the rear-view mirror, they punted on the season and decided to try for the future.
The Rockies, meanwhile, are basically exactly where they were projected to be. The NL West boasts some of the National League’s premier talent, and Colorado was always going to be hard-pressed to contend with Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Even the Arizona Diamondbacks, their rebuild seemingly nearing its end, have taken marked steps forward and seem poised to re-enter the playoff scene behind their new must-see star Corbin Carroll.
Colorado is therefore left to simply be in the NL West, firmly entrenched in last place and bereft of any hope of competing, at least in the near term. They, too, parted with big league talent this trade deadline as they try to get some help in their lower levels. In this way, the Rockies and White Sox are unfortunately all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of playing a losing season.
Speaking of the future, let’s discuss the minor league systems of these franchises. While their MLB rosters struggle, there is hope among both fanbases that help is on the way in the form of promising minor leaguers, and many are salivating at the thought of these prospects getting their MLB squads back to their winning ways.
We’re in luck, as MLB Pipeline has only just recently posted their rankings for each team’s farm system! Let’s see where our guys stack up:
Oh hey, they’re two places apart and aren’t in the top of the league. Okay...
The Rockies boast the 18th-best farm system, per MLB Pipleline, while the White Sox hold the number 20 spot. These rankings aren’t the be-all-end-all, but they provide insight into what fans can look forward to.
It’s not just the rankings themselves that show similarities, though, as Colorado and Chicago both position a shortstop as their top prospect in Adael Amador (likely to be moved to primarily second base but still) and Colson Montgomery, respectively. Both began their professional careers in 2021, with Amador currently tearing up Rookie ball and Montgomery doing the same for Double-A Birmingham Barons. Both young players carry high expectations and can be considered the future of their franchises, but neither are likely to crack the bigs for the next few seasons.
Adding to the increasingly Twilight Zone-esque characteristics of these teams, they both have a prospect in their top ten rankings that have Montgomery as their surname. Chicago’s is obviously the aforementioned Colton, while Colorado’s Benny holds the #8 spot in their rankings.
These prospects are fun to hype up, but unfortunately that cannot be said of the rest of their minor league systems. These teams rank where they are compared to the rest of the league because, some standouts aside, they just don’t seem to have the kind of depth that teams such as the Orioles and Pirates do. Of course there are bright young stars to latch on to, but purely depending upon these minor league talents may not yield the results that fans expect.
And speaking of fan expectations...
This is where we get to it. If there’s one thing, abstract to quantify though it may be, that these two teams share, it’s apathy from their fanbases. The White Sox find themselves in the lower third in league attendance, while the Rockies sit at 13th. If the season ended today, it would mark the first time since 2016 that Colorado finished outside the top ten. Neither team has had deep playoff success since the mid-2000’s when the White Sox won the ‘05 World Series and when the Rockies reached the ‘07 Fall Classic.
So, yeah... it’s been a minute.
While both clubs have seen a little postseason action since then, neither have made it out of the divisional round. The faithful fans that have followed these franchises fervently support their team and try to rally, but it’s clear that they’re losing their patience. Questions about the leadership of these teams continue to swirl, and without an immediate answer available, it’s worth considering where things go from here.
The leadership, and general culture of the clubs themselves, actually leads us to another difference. Historically, the Rockies have kept things fairly close to the chest and don’t typically give insight into strategy, long-term goals, or the finer nuances of roster construction beyond the ideals of “focus on winning today.” Their clubhouse is typically easy-going and the players seem to get along with each other well. Things aren’t explosive or high energy, but calm and tranquil. Colorado’s franchise is made up of guys that want to be here — all else comes secondary.
Unfortunately, the White Sox do not enjoy the same peaceful nature that the Rockies do currently. I haven’t had the same access to their space as I have Colorado’s, but the recent string of unflattering observations that have recently arisen from former players have given fans pause about what goes on behind the scenes. The recent scuffle involving Tim Anderson is arguably the most-evident example. Things don’t seem to be too cheery in CHI.
I do want to stick up for Anderson for a minute, though. I’ve never conversed with him, but I can’t imagine that the last couple weeks have been easy for him, and yet prior to the series finale at Coors this past weekend, Anderson was at the end of the opposing dugout signing balls for children and taking pictures, smiling the whole time. I hope that that can act as a microcosm of Chicago’s turnaround — recognizing that things are tough right now, but with the possibility of the players coming together and turning things around, putting smiles on the faces of the young fans that still care for them and cheer them on.
I’m not one to be all doom-and-gloom, and I want to be clear that there are still aspects of these two clubs that fans can attach themselves to. For example, they both carry promising young pitchers on their major-league rosters such as Chicago’s Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease and Colorado’s Ryan Feltner and Noah Davis. There are exciting bats as well, including the likes of Oscar Colás and superstar Luis Robert Jr. for the White Sox and potential Rookie of the Year candidates Ezequiel Tovar and Nolan Jones for the Rockies.
The point of this exercise in comparison, in addition to pointing out fun trivia like the Montgomerys, is to show that the similarities between these two teams isn’t just superficial. I hold these two franchises close to my heart and have seen them at their very best and, now, likely their very worst. I hope that one or both of them can turn things around and return to winning form. It’s certainly not impossible, but it’s also not going to happen without a lot of work and change from the top-down. Both fanbases deserve to have their suffering end, and I sincerely hope that that bright future is somewhere on the horizon.
I posed a question at the top of this piece: to see which of these teams holds the edge. That was kind of rhetorical because at this point, I don’t think either team really does.
There are some aspects of baseball that the Rockies are finding more success in, and others that find the White Sox ahead. In the end, though, they’re both teams going through a rough time. It’s hard cheering for these clubs, and I feel for those that still catch every home game and keep up with every eked-out victory and blowout loss. I want to see them both bounce back and achieve the status that they once held. It might be a while, but I’ll be in the trenches with you all the way.