"Who are these guys?" would be a sound place to start. But when the good times are rolling its much better to not ask questions and to ignore the rotting stench the bullpen is emitting. Obviously, it wasn't fun seeing a promising young player go down (Twins fans sigh in agreement) but, on the bright side, losing Avisail Garcia for the year was apparently a worthy enough sacrifice to appease whichever deity decides that Alexei Ramirez never regress towards the mean.The Dunn Debate
The Sox are currently right in between being a high spending midmarket team and a rebuilding salary-wasteland team. The one thing really keeping Jerry Reinsdorf from participating in financial efficiency is Adam Dunn’s $15 million. When you are a midmarket team, there are two things you have to do well to be consistent: 1) have a strong farm system (whether through the draft, international signings, or more fringe ways like ripping off Kevin Towers) and 2) don’t miss on your big contract guys. The Sox didn’t just miss on Dunn, they swung and missed mortifyingly on a slider a foot off the plate (looking at you, Viciedo). Dunn is easily the worst free agent signing in franchise history and I’m sure you could cookup a thinkpiece convincing me he has had one of the worst four year stretches in the history of baseball. On the surface, though, it’s hard to fault Kenny Williams for signing him because at the time the thought process was pretty comprehensible.
(Heads up: The next paragraph is the longest thing ever. Just looking at it is nauseating, but if you go through with reading it, you might actually puke. Skip right on through if you are feeling good about life right now.)
Kenny thought to himself, "We jumped ship one year too early on Thome, the Mark Kotsay Experiment was a bust, now we desperately need a big lefty bat to stick between Konerko and my little friend Rios to give enough run support to my great starting rotation. Stick Dunn alongside fellow free agents Aubrey Huff and Adam Laroche and, even at 31-years-old, he’s looking pretty good. No reason to think he can’t bat .240 and hit 40 home runs a year playing at U.S Cellular and that will be enough. I might have missed on the Swisher trade, but I’m also the same guy who flipped Old Freddy Garcia for Gio and Gavin and signed a counted-out A.J. Pierzynski. I got this. All in motherfuckers." Well we know what happened instead. The Tigers and Cardinals outsmarted everyone, signing Victor Martinez for 6 million less over the same span (and that’s even with him missing the whole 2012 season due to an ACL injury) and getting a 4.6 WAR season out of Lance Berkman for 1-year, $8 mil. Throwing two-years, 16 million at Lance Berkman would have been a move pre-World Series Kenny might have made. Instead, Kenny Williams was chasing the ’05 dragon like Adam Eaton after a deep fly ball, which is what happens when you’re a GM founded on instincts, and then your instincts are rewarded in the biggest way. It’s easy for those instincts to rage out of control. Primal Kenny was the result of this, chasing after "his guys" and having them fail one after the other (Swisher, Rios, Peavy, Dunn). Hold on, throw Manny in those parentheses as well because that was just pointless. He went from snagging guys who had faced adversity for the cheap, to guys who had faced adversity while also carrying egregious contracts. He shipped away every young promising pitcher we had and got back little to show for. On the right type of day, I have no trouble convincing myself the Sox would have drafted Trout if Hahn was in charge, instead Kenny chose a football player with a quicker path to the majors. Of course. Rany Jazayerli and other Royals fans will complain about passing on Chris Sale, try passing on Trout and instead picking another outfielder with half the ceiling. The Sox got so far away from 2005 logic, we started spending like the Cubs and losing like we hadn’t for 43 years. The strategy of over relying on Coop to fix every reclamation project and ignoring defense and team speed had no chance of holding up long-term. As Sox fans, we don’t need to be dazzeled. High salaries scare us. Players locked up into their mid-thirties scare us. Giving big money to a guy who did nothing to earn it in a Sox uniform scares us. Giving lots of money to a DH scares us. We don’t understand three-outcome players and, if a signing smells like something the Cubs would do, we don’t want any part of it. So we boo a lot. The higher the salary the louder we’ll boo. What we do understand is "grittiness"(which is really just being good and playing hard) and going first-to-third and cutting a ball off in the gap, as well as the long ball. (We understand fireworks.) We understand that if Daniel Hudson and Gio Gonzalez were traded away and had success, chances are they would’ve had even more success had they stayed with Cooper. We understand that our World Series team was composed of a few "horses," some home grown talent, and some guys who were counted out. Those are three things we will always appreciate. We trusted in Kenny until Kenny stopped trusting in what he did. Eventually we noticed every other GM in baseball knew things we didn’t. Unfortunately for Adam Dunn, he’s the guy that had to bare all of this.
(That spiraled quickly.)
Back to the now, I, along with everyone else, realized it was pretty nice playing in Colorado and not having Dunn in the lineup (the "that was Dunn’s best series" jokes are always encouraged). It wouldn’t really bother me if we just sent Quintana up there four times a game and let him take his wild hacks. I don’t know, it’d be cute. I have also realized I have been clueing in to every Dunn at bat this year with a little more focus. I’m simply not ready to write him off as a sunk cost. I’m too stingy. Every Dunn at bat not only carries the in-game implications, it would also be nice if he could carry enough worth this season to get something in return for him at the deadline, as a token of our mental wherewithal. Like if as a footnote in the White Sox history books it could mention Dunn’s historical terribleness with the caveat that he brought back an A-ball pitcher who turned out to be decent. I would accept that. Here’s the four paths Dunn can take this year:
The Abreu Parade
Dan Le Batard wrote a great piece on Yasiel Puig and the stemming of expectations we need for Latin Americans adjusting to the American life. After reading it, I don’t think you can understate the importance of having guys like Ramirez, De Aza, and Nieto in the clubhouse when acquiring Abreu. It appears Abreu isn’t the type to drive 110 MPH in a 70 MPH Zone, as he has marketed himself as a gentle family man, but having those guys to show him the way and make him comfortable is so essential. Now, I’m the kind of guy who wishes there would be an online feed of just the view inside the dugout, not only to truly soak in Paulie’s last year, but I love to read into all the inner chemistry of a team. And if my intuition is correct, everyone loves Jose Abreu.
Case in point: The 439 foot bomb Abreu hit off Danny Salazar. Once Abreu got back to the dugout, Chris Sale went over to check the ballmark on his bat and all he could do was laugh – he didn’t even get it on the sweetspot. Having one of the best lefties in baseball in awe of your power is a pretty great compliment in itself, but John Danks added to it after the game, "Me and Sale want to thank Rick right now for signing Abreu." We all do, John. We all do.Relief Pitching
Here’s where things get dicey with this whole blogging thing. Am I allowed to moan about the bullpen when the offense has been out of its mind? I’ll keep it brief. Scott Downs has that Scott Linebrink look to him like he knows he doesn’t have it anymore. Ronald Belisario has the body of Jose Valverde but the slider of Felipe Paulino. (Put me down as the first to suggest Paulino move to the pen.) The 4 blown saves. Worst bullpen ERA in baseball. High walk rate. Those all spell trouble. Perhaps even more concerning is the number of strikeouts. There just isn’t anything that could be qualified as "nasty" coming out of the pen. I know Rick Hahn likes guys with high ground ball rates, but how about a guy who can come in and make someone look stupid on a slider. The closest we have to that is Maikel Cleto and that’s never a good sign. Matt Lindstrom gets a pass this week because ALEXEI!!!Fake Hawk Harrelson
Keith Law on Twitter: "I want to watch the White Sox-Rockies game - just not enough to watch the White Sox feed." Could I interest you in Mike Huff, Keith? No? Okay, not a problem. I will say with zero irony that listening to Hawk accounts for about 50% of my entertainment watching Sox games. I love him for everything that he is. So, I don’t know, Mike Huff just left me feeling a little unfulfilled over the weekend. (Not to mention we missed a potential Hawk freakout on the Alexei walkoff.) So I present a new idea for when Hawk becomes ill: Fake Hawk Harrelson. If you’re not already sold just on the name, I’ll go on. Fake Hawk Harrelson is a robot programmed with all of Hawk’s catchphrases and charm and is able to react to the play on the field sort of like the MLB Gameday Scout. The vocal quality of his voice will be the same, only with a slightly more robotic cadence. Would this not be the funniest thing? Its 2014, I have to assume this is possible. Get to it, CSN.