For one, combined no-hitters feel like a novelty accomplishment rather than history. Even the Detroit broadcast really didn't get all that amped for it, and the decision to not cut to commercial in the middle of the ninth inning felt like a cursory acknowledgment, rather than a way to keep the audience captivated.
The other -- I feared that Gordon Beckham might pinch-hit for Saladino.
I haven't had much of a handle on Robin Ventura's bench hierarchy, or at least the reasoning behind it, but I'd come to expect these rules of thumb(s?):
- J.B. Shuck is the first choice (32 plate appearances)
- Geovany Soto is a surprisingly undesirable option (3 PA)
- Gordon Beckham, vice versa (18 PA)
And after watching Beckham go 0-for-5 with five strikeouts in the last three games he entered as a pinch hitter, it was just something I didn't need to see any more of. Sticking with Saladino might not have been a great choice, but at least he stands a chance of gaining something from it, since he stands a good chance of becoming the primary utility infielder for the White Sox next season.
Back to Beckham, on the most recent episode of the South Side Sox podcast, I wondered how Beckham might handle a minor league contract if that's the best he could get, since he never returned to the minors for anything more than a rehab assignment after his promotion his rookie season. He's always maintained his problems stem from too much effort and/or desire, and not the inability to square up average-or-better velocity, and the steady MLB employment offers quite a bit of validation.
If Scott Merkin's story is any indication, Beckham is heading into the offseason with that classic glass-half-full outlook, because his season was going as planned until -- wait for it -- he earned the starting job and then put too much pressure on himself.
"A big shock there, putting more pressure on myself. I just kind of pressed a little bit there when I didn't need to. I just needed to go out and play. So in terms of looking back on it, I clearly, for the role I was doing, I've done a good job.
There's also the dodge he introduced last year:
"When I started, I just kind of brought back all the demons that had been there for so long," Beckham said. "Maybe it takes me leaving Chicago to just get rid of that. Overall, I think I've done a good job of handling the situation, good or bad. I wish it had gone a little bit better when I had gotten the starting job every day, but in terms of going in and spot starting, I think I've done a pretty good job."
In other words:
OK, it's not nearly that bad, but this is what I was getting at when I bemoaned his return in January -- the likelihood of revisiting his perennial life cycle. Beckham enters the season saying he's figured it out. Beckham's decline continues. The beat writers paint over it. He explains it away. Press "loop."
Regarding the second part, this story has "Beckham stands as an asset to winning teams," and "Beckham also has become a clubhouse leader."
The White Sox haven't made the playoffs in any of Beckham's seven seasons in Chicago.
There's some truth in those isolated tout lines, because teams could use a good glove on the bench, and the Sox themselves needed one as Conor Gillaspie failed to generate offense. Beckham also seems to be well-liked, and those elements added up to his return. It's just clear that he can't come back to Chicago without the baggage, even if it really only serves as a scapegoat at season's end.
Seeing how long it took him to sign over the winter after a successful bench stint with the Angels last season, I can't really gauge how easily he'll be able to find a team this coming offseason. Now that Saladino has emerged with the same glove, the same bat, and the potential to improve, it seems like Beckham will be able to apply the scientific method and figure out how much Chicago really is responsible. Perhaps the bubble made him claustrophobic and he's set to thrive outside it. Perhaps it's the thing that's kept his MLB career alive.