Frustration with management came to a head on Wednesday afternoon when both Adam Dunn and Alex Rios faltered in the ninth inning, due to the precarious position Ozzie Guillen put them in. Guillen used Dunn as a pinch-hitter for Brent Lillibridge, who had already homered and walked in the game. Dunn struck out by swinging through two challenge fastballs.
The game ended when Rios took a slider over the plate for strike three. It wouldn't have been nearly as big of a deal if Guillen didn't bat the worst hitter in baseball in the cleanup spot. Had the game found him while he was batting seventh or eighth with nobody better on the bench, well, all anybody could do is boo Rios and count down the days. Guillen has a way of bringing arguments back to him, I guess.
Seeing Dunn and Rios strike out in the ninth of an important game made me wonder where their All-Star break agreement to carry the team falls in the spectrum of all-time terrible pacts.
I picture the "not that terrible" side anchored by two kids who vow to sleep in shifts to wait for Santa, only both end up conking out before midnight. In the other corner, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. I'm pretty sure the Rios-Dunn Pact is closer to the former. I'm also pretty sure it qualifies as a "non-aggression pact," unless you count the wall next to the bat rack.
"Tyler has been great; very good," Guillen said. "When A.J. gets here, we figure out how we play him. I don’t want to say A.J. is not playing, but we really like, I really like, the way Tyler is behind the plate right now."
I'll believe it when I see it, because Guillen can't bear reducing Rios' role when his play absolutely justifies it, so why would he dock Pierzynski? After all, he was one of the Sox's better hitters when he went on the DL. Since his numbers bottomed out on May 7, he hit .325/.370/.468 over 75 games. Of all the times Guillen could justify reducing Pierzynski's playing time over the years, this probably wouldn't fall in the top 10.
I'd guess Pierzynski will get the chance to start at least 16 more games, since that would put him over the 1,000-inning mark behind the plate for his 10th consecutive year. I'm more inclined to up that number to 21 or 22. Given that Guillen likes what Alejandro De Aza offers the club, but not enough to start him the day after he hits a homer, I wouldn't count on his word meaning much.
The simplest solution, of course, is to slot Flowers as the majority DH until Carlos Quentin returns, because the Sox kinda sorta have a need there, and they'll have the luxury of a third catcher for the rest of the season.
No. 1: It looks like Quentin won't be rip-roarin' and ready to go when he comes off the disabled list on Monday, which underscores the need for a passable bat at DH. Remember when the Sox thought he might not need to hit the DL at all? That was weird.
No. 2: Even without Quentin, September can be mostly Riosless if Guillen cares enough. Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo in center and right, with Lillibridge backing both. Flowers and Pierzynski can trade catcher and DH duties. It all seems too easy.
No. 3: Speaking of Viciedo, Scott Merkin has taken a break from the fake Viciedo fawning because he's noticed how Viciedo tends to hit the ball really, really hard. Which was the point of the whole thing.
Kudos to Lillibridge for taking Guillen's ninth-inning decision in stride:
"I always want to be in there to get the opportunity to win a game or at least give us a chance to win," Lillibridge said. "But that matchup is whatever it is. I trust in Joey and Ozzie and the decisions they make. Hopefully further in my career I’ll be the guy that they want up there and just keep on doing what I can when I get to play.
"Hopefully, I get in there as much as possible in those situations and hopefully thrive at one point. I understand it. It’s part of the game, but I definitely am waiting for the opportunity."
In the game recap, Bent Over Beckham said, "I feel like I'm cheering for the '03 Mets." The Sox aren't that bad, of course, and it's possible that the team's lack of out-and-out jerks pays off in situations like these. Given all career-threatening slumps and problems with decision-making, there's a chance this situation could be a lot worse had the Sox not ensured that their clubhouse stay as unexcitable as Paul Konerko.
Then again, if Rios or Dunn rubbed Guillen or Konerko the wrong way, we might have seen a lot less of them.