Rick Hahn had to talk fans and media off a ledge last week. Or maybe he had to do the opposite. What are you doing when you’re stressing that your team might not be as good as it looks?
“I saw an article recently about whether we’d stick to our (rebuilding) plan if, in fact, we continued to win,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “I think we were 6-5 at the time. We were 23-10 last year, remember? Let’s give this thing a little time to unfold.”
Three straight losses, two straight three-hitters and 23 scoreless innings later, there’s far less confusion about the direction.
Saturday was the rebuildingest game yet, and that was before Carlos Carrasco and Zach McAllister teamed up for the shutout. The Sox had Mike Pelfrey making an emergency start, hoping to throw five innings in Chicago when he hadn’t even completed four in Charlotte. His support? A lineup featuring four guys batting below the Mendoza Line, and two of them failing to clear .100.
Three hits, no runs and two potentially scary injuries later, there’s a better sense of how low this team can go. And it could’ve been lower, because the White Sox maintain that Zach Putnam truly is day-to-day, even if we’re now going to be watching him pitch-to-pitch.
That’s how you get to a point where Jacob May provided the game’s only redeeming quality because he’s now batting .036 instead of .000.
“Thank God…Yeah, it was kind of like having Harambe on my back. I was in a chokehold, because I couldn’t breathe as well. Now that he’s gone, hopefully I can have a lot of success and help this team win. That’s the ultimate goal: to help this team win. Anything I can do to help that out.
“I kind of soaked it all in. It was probably one of the most surreal, best experiences of my life.”
This is their immediate future, and this is ours watching them — hoping for fun, settling for funbad, and taking advantage of free stuff along the way.
(Unless you miss out on the free stuff.)
If you hadn’t seen it this article from asinwreck’s Fanpost on the matter, let me eliminate another reason you hadn’t yet read it. He’s an optimistic guy who seems to see the best in his position, but Marly Rivera’s questions give a sense of the burden.
It’s getting increasingly difficult for teams to lock up their young superstars, at least on the position-player side. Tom Verducci said Francisco Lindor turned down a $100 million extension from the Indians, and the Cubs aren’t getting anywhere with their young players. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are apparently refreshing memories about how lucrative free agency can be.
Said one club executive, “Right now it’s only mid-level players and players with some of the smaller, boutique agencies who are saying yes to extensions.”
The Cubs are wasting no time hurtling across the lovable spectrum, this time dropping not-so-subtle suggestions out Eric Thames — batting .373/.479/.881 after returning from Korean stardom — as if Jake Arrieta hadn’t been the subject of the same results-based speculation.
Bradford Doolittle looks for an approach-based reason into Thames’ resurgence, and starts by drawing a comparison I don’t care for:
[Tim] Anderson, meanwhile, has struggled mightily out the gate, showing little at the plate other than a lot of wild swings at pitches out of the zone. Through Tuesday's action, he was hitting .157/.173/. 216. His wOBA rank? It's 185th of 192 qualifying batters.
We certainly can't read too much into two weeks of results. But the disparate paths of these hitters is worth exploring because of the larger implications. In Anderson's case, if the results don't improve markedly, can he really learn the modicum of discipline he needs to turn the corner? Is there a minimum threshold that even a free swinger cannot cross to remain a viable big leaguer? The answers to these questions about Tim Anderson might lie in the long, strange trip of Eric Thames.
I have two takeaways from the brief flurry of activity in the Twins-Tigers game. One is that bench-clearings in baseball are usually hard to describe in a way that implies valor (“I saw him wag his finger at my pitcher and, as far as I'm concerned, you're not going to do that while I'm catching,” said James McCann). The other is that Miguel Sano is really strong, based on the way McCann recoiled from a shoulder shove after McCann put his glove in Sano’s face. Somehow, Sano was the only one ejected.