During my long weekend in Chicago, I went to Saturday's game against the Rangers. It was my first trip to U.S. Celllular Field since May, which meant that I hadn't experienced the standard crowd response to Adam Dunn and Alex Rios in person. I'm sure many of you grew used to it long ago. I thought I was ready for it. Still, the immediacy of the disgust and resignation startled me a little bit -- especially when Rios emerged from the dugout to replace Carlos Quentin after he injured his shoulder.
It's now part of the standard soundscape at the Cell. Dunn used to hear boos only when he struck out -- now they come after medium-range flyouts. Rios gets them on sight. We used to debate endlessly about the morality behind booing a team's own players. It's seldomly mentioned now, because the nature of the jeers evolved from "That is not the desired outcome" to "We don't want to see these guys anymore."
It's hard to disagree with the latter. Since Dunn and Rios made a pact to carry the team on their shoulders, the results aren't pretty. Neither player has improved.
- Before: .160/.292/.305
- After: .181/.294/.255
- After: .212/.223/.347
The Sox have responded by ... actually, they haven't responded. Alejandro De Aza's fine first impression is limited by Ozzie Guillen, who won't allow De Aza to boot Rios from center. Dunn started six of the last eight games, all of them crucial. He raised his average from .162 to .165, yet a terrible series in Anaheim stalled his attempted transformation into a slappy singles-hitter.
Guillen's can't bear to disrespect veterans. Kenny Williams has practically disappeared. The fans are left to fend for themselves.
The disconnect sets a scene akin to a dress rehearsal that's supposed to count. Imagine Paul McCartney taking the stage at Wrigley Field last month to a crowd that paid $250 a ticket. Except in this case, he's trying to play right-handed, he has a new drummer and keyboardist, and nobody has tried putting it all together until the show started. He stop songs after one verse, working out the charts with his band while the microphones pick up half of what they're saying. A good chunk of the crowd disperses, and the fans who remain are left to enjoy the brief bursts of music and heckle when nobody's playing, until McCartney finally bids goodnight 90 minutes later.
The White Sox's product is detached from its environment in the same way. Granted, nobody would advise letting public sentiment guide a team's philosophy, but what about when the fans are right? Dunn and Rios have provided zero reason to believe. De Aza (and Tyler Flowers to a lesser extent) showed that Triple-A production can translate to the majors during a pennant race. Dayan Viciedo could have been introduced in a number of ways. Yet Dunn and Rios play on, just about every day, in their preferred spots. They're comfortable; everybody who has to watch them suffers.
Quentin's status could be the final nail in the coffin. The Sox are 6 1/2 games out, and they've been playing shorthanded since Quentin hurt himself on Saturday. He will not be available for the Seattle series, which shouldn't come as a surprise. A DL stint is possible, but at this point, do the Sox even care? They've played the entire season with an arm tied behind their back, and it's apparent that they'd rather be physically limited than actually take a course of action. The decision-makers have allowed Rios and Dunn to drag them down all season. Maybe they'll be allowed to finish the job.