I spent the last week mostly in Sweden (with a brief stop in Iceland), keeping the lightest of tabs on the White Sox. Thanks to Josh, Steve and Larry for allowing me to do so with their good work. And also thanks to SSSer jokkeholmberg for meeting me for dinner in Stockholm while I was out there. As is the case with the scores of other members of this community I've met, he's good people.
That said, there wasn't the kind of major news that would demand greater attention from overseas, along the lines of the Andrelton Simmons or Craig Kimbrel trades. The Sox' moves were largely procedural, and/or taking care of unfinished business, so I was free to look around the Vasa Museum without trying to torture more baseball connections out of it.
Still, let me put some thoughts on the record before looking ahead. If the White Sox were waiting for their Best Friend Jim to get back before turning up the juice on their offseason, they're now free to do so.
As far as anybody can tell about a bench coach who is months away from making any kind of presence known, this was about as good a hire as the White Sox could make for the position they were in. He gives the Sox a Spanish-speaking coach. He has experience both as a major league manager, and in player development. He was hired to manage an analytically oriented operation, and received positive reviews despite his unseemly ouster.
The combination also accentuates the awkwardness of being a fine manager-in-waiting candidate to replace Robin Ventura if the Sox again recuse themselves from a postseason spot before they start, but Rick Hahn tried to defuse that notion:
"There had to be that comfort level between Robin and the hire, which he and Rick certainly have," Hahn said. " And in the end, I think the most important thing is having the coaching staff all pulling in the same direction and that’s toward making us better and making us as strong as we possibly can be, which is what Rick expressed was his desire as well. So internally we don’t get too hung up on contract status or what’s going to happen in the future. It’s more about trying to win that next ballgame and putting us in the best position to win. We feel like we have made the organization stronger with these two additions today."
"That doesn’t bother me; we are going into this as 2016," Ventura said. "I don’t expect any rift or anything else with Rick. I’m excited to have him come in. He’s excited to be here. We are trying to do things to win games. For me, the quality of person you are bringing in is the key thing, not any of the other issues people might try to create."
I'm of two minds when reading these responses. Ventura doesn't have grounds to complain about hirings given the record and step backwards in decision-making last year. On the other hand, Ventura has been subject to all sorts of criticism for years due to a mishmash of circumstances both in and beyond his control, and he still doesn't have anybody leaking discontent, which is kinda impressive. It'd undermine his own career prospects if he did, but that doesn't stop others in the same situation from doing it.
White Sox hire Greg Sparks
This can be seen as doubling down on Todd Steverson, as Sparks worked with Steverson back in their Oakland days. But Steverson is Ventura's second hitting coach, and losing managers usually don't get a third. Besides, the Sox hired Steverson from outside the organization after a proper process. He seemed like a good hire at the time, he hasn't represented himself poorly during the struggles, and he's not devoid of feathers in his cap, so the Sox may as well hold off on an exhaustive search for a top-down hitting coach until they determine Ventura's fate.
I have a hard time drawing concrete thoughts about hitting coaches, so good luck assessing assistants. To me, it's merely a confirmation that two hitting coaches is the new normal. Granted, Harold Baines had occupied that role for several years already, but his low profile and reduced travel schedule indicated it was closer to an honorary title than a vital position.
If the White Sox offense does turn it around, I look forward to the vicious, retroactive smear campaign aimed at Baines.
Ignoring the "minor teardown"
Problem is, there's nothing else corroborating it. Hahn's quotes in the story suggest they're continuing to build, but they don't see solutions in the larger free-agent market this time around. The same goes for the other quotes and the other stories. Basically, the frame on the story was lacking, but the original version of the story tipped off the rigor of the editorial process on The Score's site, or lack thereof:
To connect the end to the beginning, it seems like his White Sox career is closer to David Wells' than Freddy Garcia's, and Shark Cage hats will only be worn in irony.
We know the push-and-pull with Samardzija's case for future dollars. His velocity remains above average, especially for the above-average amount of innings he throws, but he also missed fewer bats. His defense was terrible, but he also became more dependent on them, which is a problem since he gave up more fly balls (and home runs). It looks like he threw too many cutters, which is a Don Cooper signature, but since he seemed to have a professional-at-best relationship with his pitching coach through a good chunk of the season, one would think he wouldn't have adhered to the instruction so closely. He got more whiffs with his fastball, but left more hittable splitters.
At FanGraphs, Tony Blengino said Samardzija is still worth investing in:
Jeff Samardzija, a modestly above average starting pitcher who can be relied upon for 200 innings per season, might be the one sub-Greinke/Price level free agent pitcher who projects as some combination of athletic/durable/dominant/precise enough to pay off a four-plus year, $18 million per year contract.
Look at the far right column and then consider that LaRoche does most of his damage to right field. If he stays healthy, he'll not only exceed 30 home runs, but I'll stick my neck out and say that he'll out-homer 2014 AL homer king Nelson Cruz and maybe even battle teammate Jose Abreu for the 2015 crown.
That doesn't discredit Blengino's future opinions, of course. I'll just probably need to connect him to a positive anecdote that affects me in order to stop wincing when seeing him refer to his own data. Besides, I wouldn't be surprised if the White Sox saw the worst from him for at least a couple years, but the water in that well is no longer potable.