Lost among the plaudits the White Sox received over their hire of Dave Duncan as a pitching consultant was an explanation of how the dynamics of decision-making will play out in the Pale Hose front office.
GM Rick Hahn is a smart dude, so doubtlessly he’s thought it all out. But if there’s even the slightest ghost in the machine? Uh-oh.
Don’t kid yourself, pitching coach Don Cooper is no mere field guru. Of course, he’s expected to mend the lame (Jake Peavy), lost (Edwin Jackson) and unrealized (Matt Thornton), all the while keeping the hot side hot—Mark Buehrle, don’t you dare miss a beat!
Duncan ostensibly fills in with heavy video work (Hahn plotting to wrangle Duncan into some amateur draft work as well) and possible supplemental coaching with White Sox prospects. Meanwhile, Cooper has always seemed content in leading his dozen pitchers on staff, period.
These worlds—Duncan in suite, Cooper on field—will collide.
Imagine a scenario where the White Sox, likely very high up on the waiver claim board from wire to wire, get a crack at a former blue-chip arm. Duncan has one take on the guy: dead meat.
Coop looks at the tape, like Jeff Spicoli assessing the sports car he joyrode to demolition in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and says with utter conviction: “I can fix him!”
Obviously, Hahn and the brain trust are going to take in all the relevant info and make their own decision. But if the team passes on the arm, Coop’s gonna wonder why. Ditto Duncan, who may be puzzled at the White Sox bringing him in and then ignoring his advice if the White Sox end up biting on the guy.
Cooper is at his most miraculous when he cracks the code, as he did with Jackson. The pitching coach spoke at the time of seeing a flaw in Jackson he was supremely confident he could correct. And Coop did heal Edwin, who had the best stretch of his checkered career with the Pale Hose.
So what happens if Cooper is equally convinced of his ability to heal another flaw in another blue-chip arm, hopping excited over the possibility of getting him on staff, stat?
Ideally, Duncan will be seeing the same thing, and the White Sox make the trade or waiver claim quicker than you can say Philip Humber.
But if the White Sox pass on a “Don Cooper Guarantee” not because of finances or a deal collapsing, but because of the new guru on the block, the team drama that has been happily lacking on the South Side for seven years A.O (After Ozzie) could start anew.
DulcetTones is debating whether to change her username to Year of the Monkey.