A good laugh was had by all this week at the continuing and well-documented decline of Justin Verlander. It's more than a guilty pleasure. Verlander has terrorized the division nearly relentlessly since his full-season debut in 2006.
Watching him struggle is not just thrilling because it's like watching the laws of physics lapse, but it hints that life may be moving forward from the prolonged stretch of the Tigers basing yearly contention around two superstars. Miguel Cabrera and Verlander have both exited their 20's, and exited anything resembling affordability, and have the Tigers chasing diminishing returns with less funds to spread around elsewhere. And despite their very genuine and well-funded efforts, the Tigers could pass through the primes of these two MVP winners without a World Series championship.
Once the laughter dies down, it's a bit sobering.
Chris Sale is six years younger than Verlander, and if those six years are healthy, he could easily find himself with the same 1800+ career innings load that Verlander's arm has on it by the time he's Verlander's current age. Jose Abreu is four years younger than Cabrera, and will face every concern that large-body players without elite athleticism face as they breach their 30's that Cabrera faces.
The White Sox are not even at the moment of their competitive window opening, but should nevertheless take a lesson from the teams who can already hear theirs whooshing downward, or even just glance out at the post-mortem of the Philadelphia Phillies. The team-friendly deals that Sale, Abreu and even Jose Quintana are on represent the time frame when the Sox want to be able to strike, they're not the prelude to anything worth waiting for. We all hope Sale and Quintana head up the rotation for the next ten years, but should feel very lucky if they can keep it together for another five.
Because of that, the timeline of a three or four-year rebuild like the Cubs or Astros are on is unpalatable. For the Cubs, waiting was necessary and continues to be, as at most one of the top 3-4 talents in the organization is currently on the major league roster. The best talent in the Sox organization, and the best talent they've seen in some time, has been throwing elite seasons--as a reliever and a starter--since 2010. And if we want to hold the Sox to the same standards the Tigers have been pushing--and why not--those elite seasons have been being more or less wasted since 2010.
As we discussed earlier this week, the Sox plan to rebuild on the fly is unwieldy, and places a lot of players in an in-between space for being the best option for the future, and the best option for the very near-future, but the motivation for it is easy to find. It comes along once every five days.
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