Good problems to have
As I watched Eloy Jiménez tumble, then seemingly just kind of hang out in the netting in left field, on Thursday night, I knew that the White Sox were about to get some national attention.
It is a common gripe among Sox fans that the national media rarely gives them time of day. It might be hard to hear this, but over the last 10 years or so, I don't blame the national media for staying away, because, I mean, what would they be talking about? Rebuilding teams are mildly interesting on a local scale, but nationally? Not a chance.
As has been widely joked about over the last few years, ESPN on a number of occasions has left the White Sox off of lists showing Chicago teams who won championships.
I don't really care all that much about national attention, especially when the White Sox have struggled to be adequately covered in their own city up until they became interesting again over the last couple of seasons.
So anyway, when Eloy spectacularly misplayed Christian Yelich's fly ball into an inside-the-park home run, I knew the Sox would get some national attention, just not for the reasons the fan base may prefer.
Tweets of the video littered Twitter for the entirety of Thursday evening, and even bled into the viral videos of the day on Friday. This was far from the first time Eloy has looked like a designated hitter playing left field, but this very well may have bee the goofiest example. Naturally, it led to familiar debates within the fan base as to whether or not he'll ever be, as my colleague James Fox noted, at least "below average" in left field.
You might look at below average as the goal, and think "yikes," but think about it this way: If I had been below average in math and science classes in high school, instead of what some former teachers have described as "horrifyingly substandard," I wouldn't be writing this right now, and would probably be sitting in a lab preemptively working on a cure for the next mega virus.
Quick side story, during sophomore year of high school, I had a math teacher tell me at the end of the year, "you know what Sam, I just don't think math will ever be for you."
Truer words have never been spoken.
In the face of debating Eloy's defensive ceiling, injuries piling up, disturbing depletion of once-promising pitching depth, and lots of other valid concerns, I am surprisingly calm.
More than calm actually, I am quite content.
Many of the problems the White Sox are facing early in the 2020 season are no different than the problems that every team, good or bad, will face in any season.
Injuries happen, and the better teams will have depth to step up where needed. It might be a touch too early to say if the depth of this season's team is where it needs to be, or will eventually be down the road, but it's not an uncommon obstacle.
Every team will have players who excel in some areas, and falter in others. Each player's individual development, guided by a team's coaching staff, can determine if that player will improve or remain stagnant.
Jiménez is at least three things, with the third being the most important within this context.
He's an elite offensive talent. To borrow a phrase, currently he's "horribly substandard" in left field. But most importantly, he's only 23 years old.
You don't have to know much about baseball development to know that it is far easier to teach a player to play defense than offense, and Eloy needs no help with the bat. None of this guarantees that he will ever be anything more than (hopefully) at least below average with a glove, but it's far too early to give up on his defensive developmental process.
It is nice to finally see a White Sox team dealing with a list of issues that does NOT include not being able to field a roster of MLB level players.
A common Twitter trend this year has been comparing lineups from only a year ago to lineups this year, and the results are, uh, well ... different:
Talent is not an issue for the 2020 White Sox. Early results show us the next four or five years should be must-see TV whenever the Sox play.
We just have to hope that the day doesn't come where Ricky Renteria has to call Jiménez into his office and say, "You know what Eloy, I just don't think left field will ever be for you."
(As a bonus, take a look at Eloy's pregame comments on Friday, mostly addressing his defensive play, courtesy of the White Sox)