While many are already conceding the AL Central to the Tigers, the standings show there's just one game separating the teams. The race between the teams' general managers is equally tight.
Kenny Williams patched two holes (third base and established reliever) with a couple of plus-plus trades. In one day, Dave Dombrowski matched him, acquiring Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from Miami for top prospect Jacob Turner, top catching prospect Rob Brantly, and Double-A lefty Brian Flynn.
(Both teams also exchanged draft picks awarded in the competitive balance lottery, which is the first in history. Somehow, the Tigers were awarded an extra pick for being a "small-market team and/or revenue-sharing recipient," and somehow, they traded their No. 73 pick for the No. 37 pick.)
The trade itself isn't a shocker. The Tigers have financial flexibility, a few interesting prospects and a few holes, so there wasn't any point in pretending they might sit on their hands. Dombrowski acted, and the Tigers improved. Infante isn't awesome, but we know from last season how much even an average position player can improve a lineup, and Sanchez improves the rotation as long as he doesn't crap the bed going from the NL to the AL.
Basically, this move was the earthquake. It definitely shook the landscape, but everybody knew about the fault lines. Sometimes the aftershocks inflict greater damage, and since the Tigers still have the resources to add, that's what needs to be monitored.
Really, the biggest bummer about the deal is that I can't fully enjoy the heaping helping of Marlinfreude.
By ditching Sanchez and Infante, the Miami Marlins are officially thinking of years down the road after loading up for 2012. This isn't a White Flag Trade, because at the time of the trade, the Marlins:
- Were a season-worst seven games under .500.
- Were outscored by 71 runs.
- Trailed the Nationals by 11 1/2 games, and the wild card by 7 1/2.
Larry Beinfest summed up their situation rather soberly:
"Let's face it, the current group that’s here isn’t winning so we could stay put and just hope, but I think there's enough sample size of the season to say, ‘Wow, these problems are real, we’re not winning what we need, we lost contact with the division...so we better think about doing something else,' and that’s where we are.’’
It's the second year Ozzie Guillen has guided a team with high expectations into the ground, and the vibe surrounding the disappointment sounds awfully familiar. The Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi, to put it ineloquently, wondered what was up after they closed out a 1-5 road trip on Sunday:
And there are some who are ticked off about how much the team has underachieved, even if they are not willing to say so publicly.
It’s fair to point fingers at owner Jeffrey Loria and the front office. They built the team.
But Ozzie Guillen was hired to manage it. He spends most of the time around the players.
Guillen says the right things in his media sessions. But if he’s angry about how badly the team in under-performing, he’s not showing it publicly at least.
"I expect my club to come tomorrow hungry and play hard and hopefully we can score some runs. That’s all I can expect from them," he said Sunday after the Marlins capped a 1-5 road trip by getting shut out for the 10th time this year.
Otherwise, Guillen doesn't seem to be getting much heat, as far as I can tell. More of the blame is falling on Hanley Ramirez, who is underachieving, throwing temper tantrums and getting infections from them, as well as hitting coach Eduardo Perez, who is engineering the third-worst offense in the NL. One commenter did object to how often Guillen picks his nose during interviews, so there's that.
But it's interesting to see another hitting coach under Guillen on the hot seat while Greg Walker is quite comfortable with the Atlanta Braves. Although I couldn't tell you whether it's Walker making an impact, change of scenery, lucky timing, etc., it's good to see. The Sox's failures weren't for a lack of trying, by all accounts.
One notion is gaining strength in my head, though, when compiling all the anecdotes about Guillen's laissez-faire management and the deja vu in Miami: As ardently as Guillen defended his coaches, he might have hurt them more than any individual player. We've heard and read that he overloads Joey Cora's plate, but is he doing the same for his hitting coaches with his inattention to preparation?
It's great that we don't have to wrestle with these questions anymore, and it's equally satisfying that all evidence continues to identify Guillen as the toxic variable in the organizational disarray from the last two seasons.
It's also great to see Alex Rios' swing regain its majesty.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kenny Williams held court before Monday's game, expressing fear and anxiety over the Tigers-Marlins trade, and then listing specific players he had talked about acquiring, or still hoped to trade for.
Of course he downplayed the idea of getting another "impact" player, suggesting Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers were his big moves. But if there's anything we can glean from his vague terminology, it's that he's not interested in acquiring a pitcher who can merely hold the fifth spot down -- it's either go big, or wait for John Danks, whose health reports are more encouraging than the time we heard from him.
There's also this:
GM Kenny Williams on any way Sox potentially become sellers at trade deadline instead of buyers: "Oh hell no."— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 23, 2012
Which reminded me of this:
Former player: "Credit to Kenny Williams, when in position he always tries to get better." #WhiteSox— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 21, 2012
I'd been getting the occasional tweet about the Sox jumping to sell-mode after the road trip, and it's nice to have something to point to.
Williams was as surprised as anybody when hearing the Mariners traded Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees, which led the beat guys to wonder if Williams had called Jack Zduriencik about him. Dan Hayes' source confirms that inkling, and that Williams was told he was unavailable.
That makes sense, when reading how the Seattle front office and Suzuki agreed on a course of action:
"Once he came to us and talked about how he saw the future unfolding and where we were and what he wanted to do and the remainder of his career, we tried to accommodate his request," Armstrong said. "I only talked to the teams he asked me to talk with."
Suzuki hasn't been on a playoff team since his rookie season. The Yankees lead the AL East by seven games. It's pretty clear what his request centered on.
I like that Williams inquired, even if I can't quite figure out where he would fit, because I've long appreciated the Ichiro Experience from afar. If you'd like to read more about the Ichiro trade, please visit the following links.
Jeff Sullivan has to do what we did for Mark Buehrle, except with zero time to prepare and a whole cultural/statistical divide to reconcile. He does an admirable job.
Shannon Drayer shares a terrific story about her introduction to covering Ichiro.
I'd never heard Niehaus' call of Ichiro gunning down Terence Long in 2001. It's pretty good.