Death of a Journeyman

ROBIN: Willy, you can’t go to New York for us. WILLY: Why can’t I go? ROBIN: I don’t want you to represent us. I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time now.

I’m not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There’s a big blaze going on all around. I was fired today.

On Wednesday afternoon, Will Ohman closed out a satisfying drubbing of the Minnesota Twins. Ohman's performance itself was not satisfactory -- he allowed three runs over his two innings, including a homer, a walk and two hit batters.

The White Sox designated him for assignment immediately after the game.

Sure, the Sox may be 40-35, and they may hold a 2½-game lead in the AL Central. Their surprising rise to the top of the division hasn't been a smooth one, though. Out of the 25 players to make the club on Opening Day, Ohman is the seventh to leave the roster, and the fourth by force.

There's a big blaze going on all around, all right. Compared to last season, it's a veritable wildfire.

Let's update the body count:

This stands in stark contrast to the way the Sox stood past last season. On June 27, 2011, the White Sox were 38-41, good for third place and five games behind the Detroit Tigers. Here's the entire list of players who were on last year's roster for Opening Day, but not June 27:

Yup, that's all of them.

The White Sox had plenty of guys who weren't contributing. Oh, did they ever. Thanks to BaseballMusings.com, we can easily list what every Sox hitter had accomplished by June 27, and it wasn't pretty. Six different players struggled to keep their OPS above .600, including four starters. A seventh player, Omar Vizquel, was hitting a less feeble .276/.304/.343, but the evaporation of his defense canceled out his contributions at the plate.

The White Sox could have improved their team by choosing one of several possible moves, but they decided to sit on their hands. They did demote Milledge, but it was more inspired by Ozzie Guillen's desire to return to the standard seven-man bullpen. Basically, every move and non-move was designed to maintain the status quo, even though there was little to like about the product.

That mindset might have trickled down to the players. Right before the trade deadline, Mark Gonzales mentioned that over the last two seasons, two scouts from different organizations told him that "too many Sox players appear too comfortable."

I'm willing to wager the clubhouse is a little more on edge this year, because White Sox management flipped their tolerance dial from "upstate New York bus monitor" to "SEAL Team Six." This year's front office pursues opportunities to try something else, even though the White Sox are in first place. This year's front office isn't dicking around.

Star-divide

I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Ohman never made a lot of money. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.

Ohman was an odd duck, starting with his contract. A guy who spent his entire career on a year-to-year basis received a backloaded two-year deal to be the third lefty in the bullpen. It wouldn't rank in the top five overinvestments of Kenny Williams' tenure, but I couldn't understand the urgency.

That said, the Sox showed some urgency in letting him go. Had the Sox used him as the product guarantee stated -- a strict LOOGY -- he'd be hard to notice, as he's holding lefties to a .186 average. That would have been enough to carry him If you graded him on last year's curve.

But Robin Ventura didn't use him as a LOOGY. It's hard to tell if Ventura, like Ozzie Guillen, just couldn't resist pushing his luck. Maybe Ventura overexposed Ohman out of perceived necessity. It's possible that with raw arms like Hector Santiago and Nate Jones, a LOOGY was a luxury that the White Sox bullpen couldn't afford. Given the heightened risk of flops, Ventura might think it's vital for everybody in the front end to have the ability to record multiple outs, not just a certain kind of out.

That's a more reasonable explanation for Ohman's usage, anyway, but we'll have a better idea of what the Sox want from that spot when they officially replace Ohman for the opener of the series against the Yankees.

Star-divide

I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Ohman!

Listening to a little bit of Boers and Bernstein after the game, Dan Bernstein mentioned that most Sox wouldn't shed a tear over Ohman's departure. He apparently rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, with Bernstein describing Ohman's deal as "undeserved cockiness," and that Ohman "didn't deserve to carry himself the way that he did, considering he was a punching bag."

The Sox probably regarded Ohman as more than just a guy entering the season -- at this point, they're still paying him $2.5 million this year -- and back when he struck out a batter an inning, he had something unique to offer. This year, though, he lost the ability to get swings and misses. He struck out just 13 batters over 26⅔ innings, and when a guy with Ohman's already-limited utility can't miss bats, it's automatically playing with fire any time he's in the game.

This version of Ohman isn't even replacement level at the moment, which means he's the very definition of "a dime a dozen." And unfortunately for Ohman, he fell off during the year the White Sox decided to treat replacement-level players as interchangeable...

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit.

...or, in Willy Ohman's case, disposable.

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