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The longest month

The definition of "biding time."
The definition of "biding time."

You know it's a weird season when Jake Peavy is trying to talk himself out of the rotation, and Ozzie Guillen isn't listening to him. It's even stranger when Guillen is ignoring Peavy's requests, even though he doesn't have a whole lot of conviction in his own reasoning.

"No not yet," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think we should keep it the same way. Right now I don't think I'm going to throw in the towel. If they want to throw in the towel that's their problem."

We know that we can't take Guillen's words at face value, and that we need to wait and see what he actually does. Well, here's what he did: Down to his last out with nobody on in a one-run game, Guillen let Omar Vizquel hit for himself.

Guillen had a full bench -- in fact, more than full given September call-ups. And yet when he needed a baserunner, or ideally a homer, Guillen let the guy with the .284 OBP and the .297 slugging percentage hit for himself. That's throwing in the towel.

And that's inevitable. The White Sox's tragic number is 12 with 21 games remaining, and two of his starters have kinda checked out already. First, it was Peavy:

Peavy has talked about next year for about a month now, all while continuing to take his turn in the rotation. He admits he has been struggling with strength and stamina and is anxious to get a break so he can feel more like himself in 2012.

"I look forward to a nice winter and a nice comeback season," Peavy said after his start on Tuesday. " At the same time, I'm grinding through this one. It has been a grind. Some good, some not so good."

John Danks effectively joined him after his rough outing on Wednesday night:

"Yeah, it’s been a [expletive] year, no doubt," Danks said. "I don’t know how many starts I have left but I’ll be ready to throw in those games. All in all it’s been a crappy year. I’m looking forward to next year starting clean. I don’t want to sound like I am giving up on the year, I’m not. But I’m definitely looking forward to starting with a clean slate."

Of course, the problem with cleaning the slate is that it implies entitlement to a do-over, and a good chunk of the roster can't take that to the bank. Danks and Peavy are roster locks next year, and Adam Dunn will get another crack at it. But then you have their interests waging against those of free-agents-to-be like Juan Pierre, plus young players who desperately need playing time to establish their big-league cred.

Further complicating matters is the presence of Guillen, who slaps the "lame duck" label on himself, only to peel it off. In any case, he's vying for security, so it's probably in his interest to carry the Sox's over-.500 record to the finish line for his résumé, even if he thinks he has to minimize the impact of rookies to do it.

It's a strange dynamic, and unprecedented in the Ozzie Guillen-Kenny Williams regime at this point in the season. 2007 doesn't really compare, because Williams used it as a secret rebuilding season, and the injuries and numbing losses put everybody of importance into the "let's-think-about-next-year" camp in early August. In 2009, the Sox weren't truly out of it until there were 10 games left. The Sox have dealt with disappointment and they've dealt with uncertainty, but never at the same time in early September.

Balancing everybody's best interests -- players, front office, fans -- this would seem to be the ideal checklist:

  1. Let Juan Pierre collect his 2,000th hit and get to 150 games.
  2. Let Adam Dunn's season die a quiet death.
  3. The same with Alex Rios, unless this newfound anger means he's actually invested. Then give him a fair share of playing time to see what he's got, but lower in the order.
  4. Play Brent Morel every day.
  5. Play Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo every day until Carlos Quentin comes back, and less Rios when he does.
  6. Get A.J. Pierzynski to 1,000 innings behind the plate, and use Tyler Flowers as a DH when open to keep him in the loop.
  7. Let Zach Stewart or Dylan Axelrod get Jake Peavy's starts for the reps.
  8. Use Addison Reed when Jesse Crain or Jason Frasor would normally do, at least a few times.

There are a few other matters of courtesy, too -- will more playing time help or hurt Gordon Beckham, should Paul Konerko and his bad leg coast the rest of the way, does Omar Vizquel want a few audition starts for other teams at age 45, to name a few.

That would seem to be an effective blueprint to maintain a pulse in 2011 and get a head start on 2012 decisions. The only drawback is that it might turn a few W's into L's along the way, and that wouldn't be in Ozzie Guillen's best interest. Whatever his future is, it's probably best to hope that his current or next employer won't hold the next few weeks against him if he puts development at the forefront.


And speaking of balancing interests, Pierzynski finally responded to the Flowers-related adulation (here's another "Flowers blossoming" headline, by the way) in the way we knew he would react:

"I want to play, everyone knows that," Pierzynski said Wednesday on ESPN 1000's "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" show.

Pierzynski was asked how he would accept [a split-time] scenario.

"It depends; it would have to be the right situation," Pierzynski said. "They would have to approach me the right way with it, and we'd see. But I haven't thought about it. I haven't gone there yet, and I'm not really worried about it right now. I'm just worried about this year and staying as healthy as I can."

This has the potential to be a wholly unnecessary controversy. Pierzynski has played well this season, more so at the plate than behind it. Flowers has his flaws, and given that he's spent plenty of time at Charlotte, a full year as a traditional backup would probably help him more than hinder him, because it's time for that. Alas, of all the ways to pit a promising youngster against a veteran, Guillen has picked the weirdest.