White Sox Drop Series to Royals; Time to Take Look in the Mirror

There's no more denying that the White Sox are a bad team. We're 6 full weeks into the season and the Sox have a total of two series wins, have a winning record against only one team (the lowly Seattle Mariners, who the Sox walked-off twice and won all three games by 1-run on homers in the last at-bat), and have won on back-to-back days just three times (twice in the Seattle series).

They're universally poor in all phases of the game; offense, pitching, baserunning, defense a coaching all deserve some of the blame. But the largest share of the blame (aside from obviously underperforming players) has to lie with the front office who allowed a team to be constructed in such a manner that nearly everything had to break right just for the Sox to compete. 

As we sat back and watched the off-season unfold, we were puzzled by the swift actions Kenny Williams took to construct his roster. Trading for Mark Teahen and Juan Pierre, re-signing Mark Kotsay, bringing in Andruw Jones and J. J. Putz. These were not the moves of a GM looking to overhaul a below-average club, but subtle tweaks that didn't figure to add to the W column. And by the time the off-season ended and it had become clear that Teahen was not a flexible-10th starter but the everyday third baseman despite not being able to actually field the position, that Jones and Kotsay, passable bench bats*, would be given given significant playing time, and when a starting position player inevitably went down both figured to be in the lineup daily. 

* I know Andruw Jones is considered a Williams success story at this point, and I'm not going to argue with his production to date. But we've seen this hot start before, just last season, and he added essentially nothing after his first 150 at-bats. His hot start hasn't changed my opinion of him being a positive 10th guy, and his defense should have him out there everyday he's in the lineup (over Quentin), but I wouldn't count on him being such an asset over the last 4 months of the season. 

The White Sox '10 roster construction lacked imagination and vision. I called the trade for Juan Pierre uninspired at the time, and it appears just that; a Hey, we need one of those fast guys at the top of the lineup type of move, a move that was seemingly made to placate the desires of Ozzie Guillen. But no roster decision bore the fingerprints of Ozzie more than the non-signing of Jim Thome. The official reason given for not bringing in the most productive hitter (as measured by OPS) the Sox had in '09, was that Ozzie didn't think he could get him enough at-bats, that Ozzie didn't want to face the tough Chicago media after sitting Thome. And besides, without Thome on the team he would have the flexibility to play two inferior players in his place, the flexibility to give Omar Vizquel his first career start at DH, the flexibility to be creative with his terrible lineups. 

While Ozzie certainly deserves some blame for his influence over the roster construction, the final decision ultimately should come down to Kenny Williams. And when Williams passed the buck to allow Guillen to make the final decision on Thome, he essentially said I'm tired of arguing with you (Ozzie) and making tough decisions. Here's enough rope to go hang yourself. But no single move this off-season has been as damaging as the trade for and subsequent extension to Mark Teahen, a move that is classic Kenny Williams. Teahen had bounced around positions in Kansas City, and hadn't had a good offensive season since '06, his last as a full-time 3B. Williams seemed to buy that moving Teahen back to 3B, where all metrics seemed to agree he was terrible defensively, would be a recipe for a return to his previous offensive heights, that comfort in the field would translate to comfort at the plate.

Well, Teahen may be comfortable in the field, but that's only because he has the approximate range of Lay-Z-Boy recliner. There's really no excuse for the front office and scouts not know the defensive shortcomings of an intra-division foe. That Williams saw fit to lock Teahen into a multi-year deal prior to him taking a single groundball in a White Sox uniform is further indictment of an organization that relies more on gut than on raw data or even directly observable fact.

It's time for Williams to admit he was wrong. We know this won't happen with Teahen, not anytime soon. Entering Sunday's game the White Sox Designated Hitters ranked last in the AL in OPS with a .187/.266/.288 triple-slash line. Even though Andruw Jones has been a pleasant surprise, the flexibility to run bench bats through the DH position has left the Sox unsurprisingly more than one bat short. It's time for a move, any move.

In a conference call during spring training, Rich Hahn indicated that the Sox had an internal list of DH-candidates and targets on hand should the experiment go awry. At the time, he refused to name names, but Tyler Flowers seemed to be the most-likely internal candidate. The Sox are so far back, with such a thin farm system beyond Flowers and Daniel Hudson, that it seems silly to bother with any of the external options on that list. But Tyler Flowers isn't the answer either. This team needs more than just another competent bat, a title that probably won't be applied to Flowers for a couple of years anyway. 

The truth is there are no answers for this club. Firing Greg Walker might be a start, and might be a sign to Ozzie that he's not the one running the whole show anymore, but it's still unlikely to move the Sox significantly in the right direction. And jettisoning veterans with surplus value probably isn't the way to go either, at least not yet, not when there are 60+ more home dates left.

But moves are coming. Kenny Williams has lost his patience. Ozzie is wondering when the axe will fall. Texas is kicking the tires on A.J. Pierzynski. Covering the White Sox is about to get a lot more interesting, though not for the reasons we'd all hoped. 

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