The White Sox's 2014 season, for all intents and purposes, is over. You don't need me to tell you that.
Or maybe you do. I don't know. But it's worth restating that if you're still holding out hope that the White Sox can overcome their nine-game deficit and hurdle past six teams to claim the second Wild Card spot, well, I don't even have a joke lame enough to make fun of you.
We found ourselves in a similar position a season ago. We're in the midst of the final two months of the regular season and the White Sox are out of contention. What do you do now?
This season is quite different from 2013, where at this point anyone watching White Sox baseball on a regular basis was considered something of a masochist. But 2014 brings us newfound optimism if not the wins that are hopefully coming in the not-too-distant future.
In reality, the only similarities between late 2013 and late 2014 begin and end with the fact that both seasons gave us the ability to watch Chris Sale pitch every five days. In 2013 that was the saving grace, the masterpiece theatre we watched between the load of crap heaped upon the field every other day.
This season hasn't been as moribund as 2013. We still get Sale every fifth day, and the reality is that the baseball hasn't been all that fun to watch at times. But this year we've got Jose Abreu mashing dingers on the reg (I'm ignoring the fact that he's in the midst of a mini-funk), Adam Eaton doing his best to win over fans with his grindy nature when he's not injured, and Jose Quintana legitimately becoming one of the best pitchers nobody outside of White Sox fans have heard of.
So you've got plenty to root for during these final two months. Whether it's Sale besting Felix Hernandez (and maybe Corey Kluber?!) for the Cy Young Award, Abreu bashing his way to the Rookie of the Year Award, or otherwise, this team still has some positives that can keep you tuned in despite the lack of a contender.
Rooting for these things are all fine and well. I won't fault you for doing so. But me? My rooting interests are a bit different.
You see, the White Sox, as of Friday morning, have a winning percentage of .471. That's the 10th worst winning percentage in all of baseball, meaning if the season ended today they'd pick 10th in next June's first-year player draft.
You don't need me to tell you that higher draft picks equal better talent funneling into the White Sox's farm system. And I know that talking about playoff possibilities would be more fun right now, but at this point in the season, it is integral that they finish with one of the bottom 10 records in the league.
Not only does that give them a better shot at an impact player down the road, but a bottom 10 record protects the White Sox from having to forfeit a first-round pick were they to sign a free agent that is given a qualifying offer by his current team.
It's unclear at this point whether or not the White Sox will be major players in the free agent market this offseason. While dreams of Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester or Hanley Ramirez might dance in your head, what Rick Hahn's plan will be is too far away to determine.
But having wiggle room to operate risk-free is incredibly important in the White Sox's rebuilding plans. And having that Top 10 draft pick means the White Sox can operate this offseason without having to worry about losing a pick that will further enhance a farm system that has already made leaps and bounds over the past 12 months.
It's difficult to understand, that's for sure. I'm not watching White Sox games and openly rooting for them to lose. But in the back of my mind is the understanding that every loss is a positive step toward the future.
So while these 41 games will be fun to watch — for Sale, Abreu, Eaton and beyond — the most critical aspect of them beyond health will be the White Sox securing that Top 10 pick. It's essential toward the team's future.
Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat