Ken Rosenthal reported that Major League Baseball will expand the playoff format, adding a Wild Card team in each league. He added that an announcement will be made on Thursday. As Chicago White Sox fans take in this news, they may wonder what impact this may have on the team.
An initial reaction would be that the White Sox won't benefit from the move in the near future. With the current rebuilding process that Kenny Williams has set in place, the White Sox aren't likely to make a playoff appearance for at least a couple of years. The pitching rotation is in question. The White Sox lineup has only a couple of clear bright spots.
Also, Williams has his hands tied when it comes to the payroll. The White Sox were sellers this winter on the trade front and only made one major league signing. This summer could also see the White Sox play the roll of sellers on the trade front.
Even after Jake Peavy leaves, Williams has his hands tied because the White Sox will still have the big contracts of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
Also inside this initial reaction is the thought that the new Wild Card will automatically go to an AL East team because the AL Central lacks the depth.
Neither of these ideas are far off. Jerry Reinsdorf isn't about to give Williams new money to pursue free agents or make trades for established talent. Reinsdorf's window to give Williams large amounts of money to get help for playoff runs has seemingly closed.
As for the availability of the second Wild Card for an AL Central team, that's unlikely. The AL East had four .500 teams in the last two years, and it's not about to get any less competitive. The Baltimore Orioles are looking to rise after signing promising starting pitchers. Also, the Toronto Blue Jays have tons of young talent that seems to be on the rise.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, as well as the Cleveland Indians, will be flailing at a shot at the second wild card spot. The AL Central has little history with the Wild Card. The 2006 Detroit Tigers represent the only AL Central team to win a Wild Card spot.
The AL Central has rarely been one of two stronger divisions.
One can hardly expect that this Wild Card playoff would involve the White Sox in the near future, considering both factors.
For the White Sox to make the playoffs in the next couple of years, many things need to go right on the current roster (i.e. Adam Dunn turns back the clock five years, Chris Sale instantly becomes Roy Halladay).
Williams needs to pray for an executive order from President Barack Obama, the White Sox fan in the White House, for $100 million allocated to the White Sox.
That aid could go a long way towards bringing home a division title—but not even a governmental stimulus could make the Sox competitive in the new Wild Card picture.