There's a funny moment during the media session Rick Hahn held on Tuesday to announce the White Sox' impending DFA of John Danks. He began with a 2½-minute opening statement about the decision, wrapping up with:
"We're going to use this as an opportunity again to try to get improved production out of this spot, and also to get our guys an extra day of rest here and there if possible. So it's going to be, again, a fluid situation here going forward with Erik Johnson starting on Thursday to start us off."
Then, after a pause and one of his guttural "uhs," he said the following, which I've punctuated in an attempt to capture the inflection.
"As for the team! Performance. Which I'm guessing was what you guys initially showed up to discuss before we gave you this news..."
As somebody who received Danks questions for the majority of a mailbag about a first-place team, I think that order is the only fitting way to wrap up the end of the Danks era.
Just like his salary exceeded his talent, the hand-wringing about Danks exceeded his actual harm. He was the highest-paid player on the team, but severely underpaid players like Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and now Carlos Rodon made such inefficiencies tolerable. From 2013 to 2015, if you pooled together the pitchers and their salaries and reallocated the money and responsibilities accordingly, you'd still have Danks getting the bulk of the fifth-starter spots, and you'd still have a rotation that was a bargain. Sale would just be making way more, and he'd still be working cheap. It wasn't an ideal situation, but Danks fought his way off the albatross list.
Alas, an egrocious amount of time and space were consumed complaining about him. A lot of Sox fans couldn't separate Danks from his salary, probably because a lot of them hated seeing the Sox pay him instead of Mark Buehrle, especially after his shoulder came apart (never mind that he outperformed other pitchers who had capsule surgery). Fans wanted him gone, so blinded by familiarity fatigue that they effectively demanded worse pitchers in his place.
(They're kinda doing it now. I've seen more than a score of inquiries about Tim Lincecum, who's been a worse pitcher than Danks since 2012. If his velocity isn't back during his showcase, we have a pretty good idea how that turns out.)
Obviously Danks wasn't a good MLB pitcher after the surgery. He was among the worst qualifying pitchers, in fact. However, it takes a certain amount of talent to qualify. Worse pitchers are chewed up and spit out well before they can start amassing the necessary innings. That ended up being Danks' chief task, protecting Sox fans from getting (un)healthier doses of Hector Noesi, Andre Rienzo and Scott Carroll, even if few appreciated it. I'd call it a thankless job -- pitching well enough to allow people to forget worse pitchers, but pitching poorly enough to make them hate you instead -- but $65 million makes that cross a little lighter.
Now it's a Danks-less job. After losing two more miles per hour from his fastball, he became one of those cannon-fodder starters the Sox need to keep out of the rotation, and the hope is that Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez or Jacob Turner can fit Danks' old role until outside help arrives.
The circle is complete, and so Danks can go home.
While the public will likely count itself in the toll, the only victim of Danks' presence might be Johnson, who spent five months of 2015 dominating the International League while Danks barely cleared the replacement-level bar in Chicago.
Then Johnson showed up spring training looking like his old self, not showing his good fastball (velocity or command) and laboring through innings. His subsequent performance in Charlotte isn't much of an encore, although repeating his award-winning season wouldn't have changed the math all that much.
Based on what we've seen, chances are that Johnson is a Quadruple-A starter whose bullpen potential has yet to be explored, and I don't know if the Sox will or can ever bank on his stuff hanging around beyond the next start. But I'm allowing for the possibility of performance-hindering effects from professional frustration, and while he won't get a particularly long leash, he at least gets a shot at controlling his major-league destiny. If he doesn't come close to panning out, then the White Sox' decision to carry Danks as long as they did might have resulted in no casualties.
The Sox left themselves open to a few extra days of Danks complaints, as they had informed him well before making the news public.
In between Danks looking done and the announcement of the DFA, Robin Ventura put him on the schedule for tonight's start and said they "need him to battle." Between this and Micah Johnson's "sudden" demotion last year, it's clear the Sox aren't going to drop the ax publicly in these situations when they can help it. If we can read the writing on the wall, chances are they can, too.