The season got off to a weird and wonderful start, with Hawk proclaiming, "It’s a beautiful day in the city beautiful." Once we got our adjectives back in order, things got a little nutty with a slew of "games where good teams find a way to win" and 7 straight at bats of Tyler Flowers getting a hit.
The Other Options
The other day I was talking with a friend about how the Sox should handle Matt Davidson this year, and the conversation felt as out of sorts as Adam Dunn at the Oscars. I’ve long been jealous that as a Sox fan I haven’t been able to engage in a Royals-type debate on how to manage a legitimate prospect waiting for their turn. The White Sox complete inability to hit on position players in the draft during much of the last two decades has forced the team to basically stick with the opening 25 man roster until September rolls around. During good years it was no issue, but during the bad years it wasn’t fun watching Jerry Owens hit leadoff and realizing Luis Terrero was option #2. Just as it wasn’t fun watching Josh Fields with Andy Gonzalez in the wing.
Robin Ventura has plenty of healthy competition this year within his roster and it's already paying dividends. Instead of standing idle in the dugout with his hands in his jacket pockets thinking, "Well, Viciedo looks completely lost at the plate but Casper Wells is not happening" now Robin can stand idle in the dugout with his hands in his jacket pockets and at least have a few possible fixes in mind when futility arises. There’s a great Louis CK bit about a doctor having no solutions for a 40-year-old, out-of-shape guy’s warn out ankle and that’s exactly what our roster was last year. We’ll find out what kind of doctor Robin is this year now that he has some options beyond "stretch it for a half hour a day" and giving it 10 doses of Josh Phegley.
Really, it’s just nice to tune into a White Sox broadcast this year and hear about a prospect like Micah Johnson and not have it be in the goofy context of Hawk trying to gear us up for CJ Retherford. "My guy CJ Retherford went 1 for 5 last night, driving in a pair. He’s a guy with a knack for right place, right time." That was always good for a laugh.
Leury Garcia Bunting Down 0-2
Part of the entertainment in attending Sox games this year is listening to people try to pronounce "Leury" and "Avisail." Because, of course, the God of Induced Mispronunciations had to give them the same last name. I’m still not confident I know how to pronounce either of them correctly. Anyhow, wasn’t it great watching Garcia (of the L variety) drop down that bunt in the 11th inning of a tie game with an 0-2 count. That’s really what this whole season is about, isn’t it? The Sox are up against it this year but that doesn’t mean they can’t see the third baseman sitting comfortably on his heels and lay down a perfect bunt. It should be a year of Let’s give it a shot. Batting Gillaspie third is a little like bunting down 0-2, it’s not good math, except with this team it’s the best odds we got.
Falling in Love with Spank Goodman
A.J. Pierzynski was a lovable scoundrel. Adam Eaton is a lovable rascal. There’s a sizable difference. It’s a more lighthearted hyperaggression. Eaton will take you out at second but smile and pat you on the butt afterward. He has certainly lived up to the billing of being the grinder/spark-plug/dirtbag guy that the Sox were in need of last year. He has the classic grinder backstory: Midwest boy who went under recruited in high school, too small to be regarded as a pro prospect, drafted 574th and outworked everyone to the majors where he now sprints down the first baseline after a walk. It’s a great story. What has impressed me even more than his unending hustle and incredibly high waistline, are his baseball instincts. There’s big things like his eye for the strike zone and his ability to cover center field, but even little things like on a pick-off attempt, he dove back to first with only his left arm outstretched, making the tag harder to apply. He’s a meticulous rascal.
One of the first things I heard Adam Eaton say in an interview was how this offseason he had to lay off the bench press to allow for more range of motion for throwing. Then I saw his twitter handle, @AdamSpankyEaton, and a picture of him wearing a clown hat. Then I saw him strutting around the outfield on Opening Day, at 5’ 8" with his head forward posture and boyish excitement. It dawned on me, this guy is totally the more civilized step-brother of Ben Stiller’s "White Goodman" character from Dodgeball. They have identical build and stature, play their respected sports with the same bluster, and to top it off, they both throw left handed, I mean, c’mon what are the odds. It also wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Ol’ Spanky had an inflatable cup in his locker to really keep the guys entertained during a rain delay. Calling Adam Eaton "Spank Goodman" is not a slight. It’s an appreciation of his rascal ways. Keep sliding into first, Spank. Never change.
I realize I’m speaking to a tired audience on this topic, so pass on through if you’d like. I infused some really solid Cubs jokes in here, though, to spice it up a little. Let’s start with the obvious: the last two games of the home opening series were as empty as the Chicago Cubs trophy case (just a solid Cubs burn, right guys). Of course no one went to those games. I’ve never felt more connected to another group of people than I did to all the Sox fans who decided to sit those games out. I wouldn’t have gone if tickets were offered to me. The second game of the season was cold and windy and a Wednesday afternoon and Felipe Paulino was making his first start in two years so you knew it’d be a long one. Why would anyone go to that game? And why do media people act like it’s wrong for fans not to show up to that? Those are my people not going to cold day games. Follow along at work and hold out for the good ones. It’s not even being stubborn or a bad fan, it’s just being smart, unlike all those dumb Cubs fans who leave the game early once they are losing and their beer coat wears off (am I putting them on a skewer or what).
Numerous times this season, I’ve heard both Hawk and Farmio say that Abreu has looked much better than advertised defensively, which begs the question, exactly how badly was he advertised? Because he has looked like the type of big stiff that would take Bo Ryan two years to develop. I don’t think he’s awful at first, certainly he’s better than Dunn, but I have yet to see a pitcher really uncork one over to him on a pickoff attempt, likely in fear that the ball will end up down the right field line. His early season woes could be simply getting accustomed to baseball in America, but catching the baseball you’d think would be an easily transferable skill. And even when he manages to scoop one, it appears to be predicated on luck.
On the flip side, Adrian Nieto looked very impressive behind the dish in his first start. He showed a strong arm and received the ball quite well. I read one scouting report comparing him to Ivan Rodriguez, which is crazy, but he does have the athleticism and soft hands you like to see, making him the Sox first plus defensive catcher since… Miguel Olivo???
Predictions for the Week Ahead
5. Marcus Semien will make a strong throw to first on a routine putout.
4. A guy named Joel will call into Rongey’s postgame show and will introduce himself as "one of the more positive White Sox fans" and will suggest Paulie get a few more at bats.
3. Jose Abreu will hit his first major league homer in the light air of Coors Field.
2. The U.S. Cellular replay review system will inexplicably redirect a call from New York to Schnitzel King on 33rd Street and only Robin will know why.
1. Chris Sale will pitch a beauty.