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Conor Gillaspie is a postseason hero, given the chance

Giants show how White Sox wanted to use him, if the depth chart would have allowed

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v New York Mets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Conor Gillaspie, known during his White Sox days for an emotional spectrum that ranged from glum to stoic, finally found a reason for unbridled joy on Wednesday. Starting at third base in the postseason, Gillaspie hit a three-run homer ... in the ninth inning ... off Mets closer Jeurys Familia ... to produce the game’s only runs in San Francisco’s wild card winner over the Mets.

I enjoyed the hell out of this:

And this:

This, though ...

"I can't thank this organization enough," Gillaspie said. "There's plenty of guys who could have gone out there and played when we have a man down, and the reality is they chose me and they gave me the opportunity. I'll be forever grateful for that because obviously it worked out. Just to be able to play in a postseason game is something I'll never forget."

... not so much.

It reminded me of last year, when the Royals made it to the postseason despite receiving awful production from Alex Rios over the course of the season, which gave Rios his first-ever taste of October baseball. He corrected course somewhat in the postseason, but even when he made blunders like forgetting the number of outs, it didn’t matter. The Royals were good enough to win no matter whether Rios was worth anything.

When Gillaspie homered, I saw White Sox fans griping that it was another example of their front office being unable to evaluate or harness talent. That isn’t really the case, because his numbers with the Giants can’t be much closer:

  • White Sox: .260/.314/.397, 98 OPS+
  • Giants: .251/.300/.413, 91 OPS+

There’s just one key difference:

  • White Sox: 322 games, 279 starts, 1,143 plate appearances.
  • Giants: 101 games, 37 starts, 205 plate appearances.

When the White Sox acquired him for Jeff Soptic -- who still hasn’t made it out of A-ball — Gillapsie profiled better as a bench bat who made occasional starts due to his left-handedness and short, quick swing. Rick Hahn said it, Hawk Harrelson said it, and yet Gillaspie still had to start most of the games because every attempt to put talent above him at third base -- Jeff Keppinger and Matt Davidson, chiefly — failed spectacularly.

Gillaspie compounded problems by playing a little too well in 2014. He hit .282/.336/.416 and carried a .300 average into late August, which made the Sox more comfortable with him than they should have been. When it comes to pleasant surprises, the White Sox have a habit of wringing out the talent until only the husk remains due to a lack of playable alternatives (hi, Matt Albers).

Ideally, the Giants wouldn’t have started Gillaspie in the wild card game, but Eduardo Nunez was injured. “Decent short-term stopgap at third” is one role Gillaspie can play. “Late-inning option against right-handed heat” is another. Look what happens when he’s not being demoralized by the Peter principle:

Gillaspie stands as the most compelling former-Sox interest in the postseason, and he doesn’t have much in the way of competition. The list:

San Francisco Giants

  • Conor.
  • Jeff Samardzija, who didn’t win a ton of fans during his one year with the White Sox before going on to have a more typical Samardzija season with the Giants (12-11, 3.81 ERA over 203 innings).
  • Beckham is ineligible for the postseason roster since San Francisco acquired him after Sept. 1, but he’s still hovering.

Chicago Cubs

  • None.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • With Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill healthy — or healthy enough -- Brandon McCarthy isn’t on the postseason roster, at least for the NLDS.

Washington Nationals

  • Adam LaRoche and Drake LaRoche are throwing out the first pitch before Game 2 at Nationals Park. LaRoche was popular in Washington, because he played well and the teams had success, and those are the ground rules for preferential treatment, usually.
  • Gio Gonzalez was drafted by the White Sox with a supplemental pick in 2004.

Boston Red Sox

  • Chris Young was drafted out of high school by the White Sox in the 16th round of the 2001 draft.

Cleveland Indians

  • None.

Texas Rangers

  • None

Toronto Blue Jays

  • After turning the White Sox’ catcher problem from somewhat imagined to very real, Dioner Navarro was sent back to Toronto at the end of August to resume his old role of backing up Russell Martin.
  • Francisco Liriano made 12 uneven starts for the White Sox after they acquired him from the Twins for Eduardo Escobar.
  • Jason Grilli made eight starts for the 2004 White Sox as part of the revolving cast of “Fifth Starter Hell.”