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And So It Goes

The old man peered over the top of his newspaper, eyeing his grandchildren and their friends.

"Why did they have to trade Madrigal?" lamented one, "even to get Kimbrel. Nicky was one of my favorite players."

"Let me tell you a story," interrupted Grandpa. "When I was about your age, or maybe a few years older, the White Sox had a great, great player. His name was Minnie Minoso. Just saying his name was exciting. Randy Arozarena would be envious.

"Minnie also was the first Black player in team history which brought him immediate attention. When the Sox traded for him, on the very first pitch he ever saw in a Sox uniform in 1951, he hit a home run. Minnie played for some very good teams in the 1950s, long before even your parents were around. Minoso was something like José Abreu. No matter how much he was injured and hurting, he played every day.

"Minnie could hit .300. He led the league in triples, and if you think watching a home run is something to see, you should have seen Minoso slide into third base with a triple. He could steal bases and drive in 100 runs. Oh, did I mention that he was a terrific left fielder? He just never stopped moving, and my friends and I loved him."

"Did the Sox have a good team then?" asked one of the kids.

"Oh, yes," replied Gramps. "They won over 90 games a few times because they had other good players like Billy Pierce, Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio."

"So they won the World Series?" asked another youngster.

"No, that's the point of my story," said the septuagenarian. "There was another team, one with lots of money, the New York Yankees, and they had even better players than the White Sox. And just about every year, they won the pennant and went to the World Series, which they usually won.

"And then one winter - there was no trade deadline then - the Sox traded Minnie to Cleveland. If you think you're upset about Madrigal or your friends who are Cub fans are sad about what happened last week, you shoulda seen how shocked and saddened we were knowing that Minoso would be playing for anyone other than the White Sox."

"So the Sox decided to rebuild?" inquired the old man's grandson.

Gramps let out a labored sigh. "Rebuild?" he gasped. "There was no such thing back then. No, the Sox probably figured that they couldn't beat the Yankees with Minoso, so they traded him for a very good pitcher named Early Wynn, who pitched for the other good team in the American League, the Indians."

"I can see why you were so sad," empathized one of the kids. "Is that the end of the story?"

"Well, not exactly," said Gramps. "Two seasons later Wynn won 22 games, and the Sox finally won the pennant."

"You mean, trading Minnie really worked?" exclaimed an 8-year-old.

"I suppose you could say that," responded the old guy. "But right after that season in '59 - after the Dodgers beat the Sox in the Series - the Sox made another deal with Cleveland and got Minoso back! It was incredible. We were thrilled and excited. We had a team that had won a pennant, and we also were getting back our favorite player of all time."

"So they won another pennant?" was the next inquiry.

"Unfortunately not," reported Grampa. "The Yankees were just too good, and they spent whatever it took to get new players and hold onto the ones they had. There were no free agents in those days, so that wasn't so hard. Early Wynn and other Sox pitchers were never again as good as they were that one season. The Sox also traded most of their young prospects to bring back Minnie while trading for some other good players. By the late 1960s, the Sox weren't a very good ballclub."

"At least you got your favorite player back," pointed out one of the kids, a Cub fan who had been silently listening to the old man. "I lost all my favorite players, not just one."

"Well, now you'll have a story to tell your grandchildren," consoled Gramps. "And the remaining chapters still are being written."

* * * * *

If you saw a provocative Tweet after last Friday's trade deadline expired, one that provided a jolt of reality, the story above shows us how history repeats itself.

The July trade deadline has come to rival Opening Day, the All-Star break, and Game 7 of a World Series as the season's most intoxicating date, which is both exhilarating and profoundly sad. As 3 p.m. (CDT) approached Friday, the Internet, MLB-TV, and newspaper websites reported one major blockbuster after another. The hard copies on Saturday morning encapsulated the post-mortems about some of the game's biggest stars changing uniforms while teams like the Nationals and Cubs, World Series champions as recently as 2019 in the Nationals' case, were reduced to little more than Triple-A status.

Even the Olympics and professional football, whose Opening Day is almost six weeks away, had genuine competition from major league baseball for the top sports headlines. The people who rule the game no doubt were basking in the attention.

This at a time when data tells us that folks who closely follow the game tend to be older than those aficionados who favor games played on gridirons, courts and rinks. Just how much disillusionment is a 10-year-old supposed to endure when his heroes are tossed aside and replaced by athletes who can't hit, catch or throw? Or by players unbeknownst to him or her?

Not that we needed any more evidence that the game has changed in meaningful and stark ways, but the events on both sides of town provided prime examples. The Sox needed bullpen help. Enter Tepera and Kimbrel. Leury García can't cut it at second base? How about Cesar Hernandez?

GM Rick Hahn is no stranger to this game. He has to play it, and he's obviously a master. However, woe be to Hahn, and Tony La Russa for that matter, if this club doesn't at least win a pennant, or better yet, a World Series.

The case on the North Side clearly is just the opposite. Jed Hoyer jettisoned eight of his best players including the trio of Báez, Rizzo and Bryant. Not even a curtain call or a final standing ovation for a last at-bat in that garden on Addison.

But this isn't Kansas City or Oakland. The Ricketts family paid something like $900 million for the franchise more than 12 years ago. It's worth almost four times that today. Meanwhile, their pockets handled tearing down the neighborhood and replacing it with restaurants, a hotel, an administration building, and acquiring the venerable apartments on Waveland and Sheffield with their silly rooftops. I'm sure there is much more, but I try to use Racine Avenue to avoid driving down Clark.

That's not to mention the piles of cash the family contributed to the treasure chest of a former president who once mocked the clan for its inept management of the North Side franchise. By the way, this criticism came just prior to the Cubs winning it all in 2016.

Even assuming it was far more difficult working out an agreement with Anthony Rizzo than snatching another rooftop, money matters, and the Cubs' ruling family has plenty of it. Tickets costing $250 may get you a seat between home and first, but maybe not in the first few rows. Cub tickets are among the most expensive in baseball, and management's time-worn rationale is, "If you want a contending club, you have to pay for it."

This ranks right up there with promises that Illinois tollways were going to help solve funding for schools or that the cannabis industry will help set the state back on its feet. Or that a casino within the city limits will be a boondoggle for raising revenue.

Furthermore, when was the last time the Yankees or Dodgers rebuilt? You might argue that they don't have to since they reach the post-season just about every year. But how do they get there? Not by being sellers. They don't hesitate to open their luxurious wallets to attract guys like Mookie Betts while keeping stalwarts such as Clayton Kershaw and Cody Bellinger in the Dodgers' case. The Yankees wouldn't dream of dealing Aaron Judge for a stable of prospects, but they have paid handsomely for guys like Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, and now last week Joey Gallo and Rizzo.

Today the Yankees are 2½ games out of a wild card spot for the post-season. Chances are they'll make it, but if they don't, you won't see them rebuilding. They'll simply spent more cash, and their fans expect it.

Meanwhile, Hahn has performed admirably by extending contracts, even in the middle of the season like he did with Lance Lynn a few weeks ago. None of this, "We'll wait until after the season."

I can't predict where the White Sox will wind up two months from now. As strong as they appear, just one of 30 teams will win its final game in October. What is assured is that the ballclub is poised to be a contender for a number of seasons down the road. They won't be sellers anytime soon like their brethren on the other side of town.

Nor will they break the hearts of those 8- and 10-year-olds who love Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu and other favorites. Nicky Madrigal would have been nice, but there remain other heroes still worthy of signing an autograph.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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