After dragging his feet -- perhaps for his own amusement -- Robin Ventura finally announced his Opening Day starter: Jeff Samardzija.
It's not a terribly big surprise, considering Jose Quintana tipped it off by saying he was preparing to pitch the second game of the season, and Hector Noesi and John Danks weren't going to get the nod.
So what was behind Ventura's decision?
Ventura said as he got to know his new pitcher, he realized he was the right guy to replace left-hander Chris Sale, who will miss the opener as he recovers from a fractured right foot and sprained ankle.
"Attitude-wise and everything, it suits up well for him to be able to have an opening day," Ventura said. "I think guys will be excited with him to be able to do it. Personality-wise he likes to go after it, and it’s a perfect time to do it."
Waiting to make the announcement made some sense as Chris Sale's return date -- projected for April 12 -- is becoming gradually more certain. Rick Hahn told us that Sale's passed every checkpoint thus far, and he added another one to the list with his first bullpen session Wednesday afternoon. Although if the plan is to go Sale-Samardzija-Quintana, then the Sox would need a non-Sale fifth starter that first week.
Or maybe Ventura waited in order to yank around the media, much like he did with the Mystery Closer in 2012 (a preoccupation with an honorary designation connects them).
Or maybe he timed the announcement with the marketing push for the new "Shark Cage," a Samardzija-oriented cheering section a la Chris Sale's K Zone (which we all agree should really be the Condor Nest).
NEW THIS SEASON: Samardzija's Shark Cage (in Sections 154 and 155)! pic.twitter.com/vQjxgVJXDt— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 25, 2015
Fans in the #SharkCage Zone will get a free cap & strikeout card with ticket ($20 for most games w/ some exceptions). pic.twitter.com/0bdrbTUvy7— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) March 25, 2015
While I'm a big proponent of the Nest, this one seems to have diminishing returns for me, and for a few reasons.
Poor Quintana: First, he doesn't get the Opening Day start. Now, he's overshadowed by the new guy after two years of pitching excellently in the face of terrible support. In fact, looking at their performances the last two years, Samardzija holds an edge in innings and strikeouts, but that's about it.
Sign me up for Matt's idea:
@JRFegan For fans that can't decide where they want to buy seats, we announce the No Decision Zone.— Matt Adams (@2015WhiteSox) March 25, 2015
The color: Back in January, I offered a case for the Sox to add a color to their primary scheme, even if in a subtle fashion. One reason:
The black-and-white base frees one up to use pretty much anything, and you can claim it's Sox-centric if you use one of the colors of the scoreboard pinwheels, but there isn't a third color that is reliably a Sox thing (they wear a lighter green one day a year; the seats are a deeper green; the Chris Sale 'K' cards are a bold red). It does limit the amount of authenticity in creativity, and vice versa. Even using a color as an accent a la the 1950s uniforms would provide a hint.
The shark cap is kinda what I'm getting at. That blue (Carolina? Moonstone? #5A7888?) might be somewhat close to zoologically accurate, but I'm trying to think of colors that are less suitable for rallying around -- especially with the team's absence of color -- and I'm only coming up with beige.
The suddenness: Samardzija hasn't pitched an official game for the Sox yet, and he's only under contract through the year. He has the local ties, sure, but based on the business aspect of the game, having a Shark Cage for him could be as equally questionable as a (David) Wells Cell or a (Bartolo) Colon Zone would've been.
Given how badly they wanted to retain Colon, maybe they would've done the same thing if they'd thought of it back then. They have the knowledge now, and it appears that they're really trying to turn Samardzija starts into an incredibly geocentric experience, both for the fans, and maybe for their chances of signing him before he hits the open market.
It's kind of a gamble, I suppose. They're coming on strong, and if Samardzija has a Wells-type stay, those hats will turn into quite the conversation pieces. But hey, maybe it's better to have loved and lost then to not have created a cheering section at all.