Trades…man

Dodge… Tradesman?

Thoughts on trades as they cross the Mismatched Sox desk.

SOX TRADES!!!!

CRAIG KIMBREL!!!! FOR HEUER AND WHAT??????

Does it help or hurt the Sox? I mean, if Kimbrel is this version of himself and he and Liam get along, my sweet lord is that awesome. But down the road….

Should Rick have made the move? Yes. No. Yes. Noooo….yes!!! Damnit. It’s complicated.

Codi Heuer can go. Fair dinkum including him in a trade of this magnitude, and frankly Rick is fleecing the Cubs with Codi. Big arm, no clue how to use it.

Nick Madrigal???? On one hand he showed amazing bat skills, and he was the future at 2B. His loss was up there with losing Eloy and Luis. On the other, he wasn’t the amazing baseball savant as he’d get brain farts on the field. And, maybe the Sox have an idea about his future after this leg injury. If they have serious doubts that Madrigal will heal and regain his speed and foundation for batting, then he’s expendable. I don’t think that will be made public if that’s the case, but it could be Mike Sorotka again. The Cubs know Madrigal is hurt. So it’s not quite that level, but Nicky Two Strikes without decent wheels is, well, Willans Astudillo?

AHHH this is tough. For this year the Sox are insanely locked and loaded. But without a plan for second base beyond César Hernandez…Damn.

Ok. Bottom line, losing Madrigal sucks but Kimbrel makes the Sox ridiculously strong at the back of the bullpen and ups their chances in the playoffs in a ridiculous fashion. If this is about winning championships, then yes 100% Rick made the right move. Yes.

Should fans be frustrated? No. Go for it now. Screw tomorrow. Now is the chance and the time. This is what we wanted fans. Well, we got it.

CÉSAR HERNANDEZ FOR KONNOR PILKINGTON

Does it help or hurt the Sox? More help than hurt now.

Should Rick have made the move? Yes. Hernandez is a traditionally very reliable 2B, good defense (gold glove actually) with a solid bat but nothing spectacular. He’s only 31, but being around since 2013 gives him that well worn feel. His BA is down this year from career norms, .231 is a career low, but he was around his regular numbers last year and 2019. Career wise .272 with an OPS of .736 will get it done in the 9-hole, where Hernandez may reside. His BABIP is way down from prior years, so maybe there’s bad luck involved because his other stats are pretty much in line with the rest of his years in the bigs. He’s maybe due for regression in a positive way after leaving a bad Cleveland lineup.

Pilkington was the best Sox starter at AA Birmingham with a WHIP of .92 and an ERA of 3.48, better than his career numbers. He threw 71 strikeouts over his first 62 innings, not bad at all and a tick above his career 9.65 K/9. Though he had tumbled from the Top 30 prospects, based on performance it seemed possible he might get the call in case of injury to an MLB starter, especially since AAA isn’t flush with guys doing well. Not an ace in the making, but a guy that the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage can still turn into a thorn in the Sox’ side and right soon at that. Still, he’s not a guy that Sox fans should miss given that he may have not cracked the rotation anytime soon. Overall, a solid veteran to replace Madrigal is worth a decent starter prospect, and Pilkington was hardly the future of the rotation let alone a future member of it.

Should fans be frustrated? No!!! This is a good move!! Hernandez compares to other guys available and Rick didn’t give up Burger or any top prospects to get him. He can still get more done if needed.

RYAN TEPERA FOR BAILEY HORN

Does it help or hurt the Sox? Helps!!

Should Rick have made the move? Very much so. 2.91 ERA with 50 K’s and a 0.78 WHIP in 43 games? Sounds like a good plan!!! Tepera was a part of the Blue Jays bullpen from 2015-2019 with decent enough results, rebounded after a down 2019 for the 2020 Cubs and is having a really good year at age 33. He’s a rental, but he’s also a guy with experience and on a better roll than, say, Evan Marshall. Tony has another professional option.

Bailey Horn is a guy who probably doesn’t have the makings of starter, but could be a lefty reliever very easily. Primarily because he throws left-handed. His ERA of 5.53 and WHIP of 1.33 at Winston-Salem means there’s a way to go before he’s in the majors, and there’s a chance he never makes it. Exactly the type of player you send for a rental reliever.

Should fans be frustrated? Nah. Solid add. Not flashy, but solid.

O.T.T. (Other Teams Trades)

BRYANT IS A GIANT

Does it hurt the Sox? For a moment he was tired to the Sox, so a little.

Could Rick have made the same move? Yeah? Yoelqui Cespedes and maybe Jonathan Stiever could match the guys the Giants sent over. A toolsy OF and a starter.

Bryant would have been an OF or maybe give Yoan a blow now and then. Could have been cool. Meanwhile he’s a fit in SF for sure.

Should fans be frustrated? No. It would have been rubbing it in Cubs fan faces but not really worth it.

DODGERS GET…STUPID

Does it hurt the Sox? If they meet in the World Series, but that’s a good kinda hurt.

Could Rick have made the same move? No way. Not even close. The Dodgers sent two prospects from the top 50 of the entire MLB, where the Sox don’t have anyone in the top 100. This would be the Sox giving up Kopech and Vaughn, with two more from their top 30.

Max Scherzer is certainly a guy that would knock Dylan Cease or Dallas Keuchel out of the rotation. And Trea Turner would not only replace Nick Madrigal this year, but maybe one of the few guys you’d have to think about moving TA out of SS or Nick out of the lineup. He’s that good. For the Dodgers he’s probably their SS for a chunk of this year and then next year when they don’t resign Corey Seager. The Dodgers are just the rich getting richer.

Should fans be frustrated? Well, not so much as hopeful that years into the contention window line the Dodgers, that the farm system has this caliber of player to trade away for star help. It’s kinda sad that there’s no Sox prospects in the top 100 even though we know that’s because the big club had all that young bacon.

JAVY BÁEZ AND A PITCHER ARE METS

Does it hurt the Sox? Nah.

Could Rick have made the same move? Probably but neither Javy nor Trevor Williams is an upgrade. Bãez is a mess at the plate and a magician in the field. And the Cubs may have taken Micker Adolfo for him but Hernandez is probably better overall fit for the price they paid.

Should fans be frustrated? No. Pass.

GOMES AND HARRISON GET A’s

Does it hurt the Sox? Not especially. A’s get deeper.

Could Rick have made the same move? Not sure. The prospects going to the Nats are pretty good but not great, and this night be where Rick is handcuffed by what’s on the farm but being all that appealing. Meanwhile, Harrison and Gomes would have been great fits for the Sox given the injury situation. If Rick had overpaid a bit it would have been fine.

Should fans be frustrated? Harrison might have been the better get for 2B but Gomes would have just been Yas insurance. Minor frustration if Harrison is really your jam.

JAYS GET BERRIOS

Does it hurt the Sox? That’s a playoff problem. And a next year problem fire a few next years.

Could Rick have made the same move? No chance. The Twins are getting a possible front end starter and bat. The second and fourth prospects from the Jays, both in the MLB Pipeline 100. The Sox don’t have any of that to offer unless you gut the 26-man. Nope. Meanwhile Berrios would have been a nice back end starter but not needed at the price.

Should fans be frustrated? Only at the lack of ability to make this kind of deal and the fact the Twins may be better for it.

EDDIE ROSARIO IS BRAVE

Does it hurt the Sox? Would you believe that Cleveland giving up means the Sox might relax too much?

Could Rick have made the same move? Yeah actually. If Cleveland will take Pablo Sandoval in the trade they’d take anyone.

Should fans be frustrated? No. He’s not that good this year.

ADAM DUVALL IS ALSO BRAVE

Does it hurt the Sox? Really no outfielder trades are of consequence.

Could Rick have made the same move? Yes. Alex Jackson is Seby Zavala. But Duvall is just a part time power guy.

Should fans be frustrated? Nope.

PADRES GET ADAM FRAZIER

Does it hurt the Sox? Only to the extent that Frazier was a target to handle 2B in the absence of Nick Madrigal.

Could Rick have made the same move? No, not in the sense that the main prospect heading back was a young versatile shortstop, a power outfielder and a power arm. The Sox equivalent places the emphasis on the power guy, sixth best Sox prospect Micker Adolfo, and the SS would be a lesser guy off the pipeline list. Sounds like Ben Cherington wanted this one guy.

Should fans be frustrated? Probably not. If there’s a source of frustration it’s that a guy that would be an everyday player for the Sox is just a depth piece for San Diego. UPDATE: given that Madrigal is now a Cub, Frazier not being here is worth being annoyed by.

BREWERS GET EDUARDO ESCOBAR

Does it hurt the Sox? Only to the extent that Escobar was a target to handle 2B in the absence of Nick Madrigal.

Could Rick have made the same move? It feels that way. The return wasn’t all that huge, a very young athletic middle infielder and a catching prospect. Neither were pipeline guys for the Brewers, so conceivably the Sox would have some equivalents in their system. Rumbles are that the Diamondbacks simply didn’t like what they saw on the Sox’ farm.

Should fans be frustrated? Probably. In addition to the frustration that a guy that would be an everyday player for the Sox is just a depth piece for Milwaukee, its that a team as down as the DBacks can’t find two guys they like in your system. If that’s really true, that’s a huge problem.

ASTROS ACQUIRE RELIEVERS FROM MARINERS AND MARLINS

Does it hurt the Sox? Ask again in the playoffs.

Could Rick have made the same move? Probably. The Mariners took a reliever and 3B youngin’ Abraham Toro for two relievers including Mariners closer Kendall Graveman, and an organizational arm for Yimi Garcia of the Marlins. Toro and Jake Burger have some commonality while the arms that went out are just guys that are getting upgraded. But relief isn’t a priority right now, even though Graveman and Garcia works have been nice additions. Montero maybe, he’s been inconsistent.

Should fans be frustrated? Not really. The Sox pen could use another arm for sure, but they have bigger fish to fry and these are not the only arms out there.

A’s GET STARLIN MARTE

Does it hurt the Sox? Ask again in the playoffs? Probably not.

Could Rick have made the same move? Probably, but no need. Jesus Luzardo has a Reynaldo thing going on where he was really good then fell apart. But Marte doesn’t help the Sox as he’s not really better than what they have on hand or are getting back from injury.

Should fans be frustrated? No.

MARINERS GET SP TYLER ANDERSON

Does it hurt the Sox? Not a bit. The Mariners are in the hunt for a wildcard spot, but Anderson isn’t a guy the Sox would worry about in a playoff game.

Could Rick have made the same move? Probably, but not worth it. Nothing special went back to Pittsburgh but Anderson isn’t an upgrade for the Sox. He’s competent, and for the Mariners helpful since they’re down several starters. No need for him on the Southside.

Should fans be frustrated? No. The only team that should be frustrated is the Phillies who thought they had a deal for him.

REDS GET RP HELP FROM YANKEES AND ROCKIES

Does it hurt the Sox? Nope. The Reds aren’t likely to be seen by the Sox.

Could Rick have made the same move? Hard to say. The Yankees sent Luis Cessa, not bad, and Justin Wilson, meh, for a player to be named. That likely means the Reds have a few guys the Yankees like and the Reds are just going to wait and see whether they need someone from that group in a different trade. They sent two arms from their top 30 for Mychal Givens, who is having a great year but isn’t a lockdown closer. Might be an overpay. Again, if the scuttlebutt that the Sox farm system isn’t impressing teams is true, top-30 prospects are needed elsewhere and the Yankees might not have found anyone worth taking back for two relievers.

Should fans be frustrated? Not for these particular players going to other teams. But if the deadline passes without moves because of lack of interest in Sox farmhands, that’s something to get mad at.

YANKEES GET JOEY GALLO

Does it hurt the Sox? The Yankees aren’t a given to get into the playoffs, but Gallo was a popular target for the Sox RF job.

Could Rick have made the same move? Doubt it. Gallo and a pitcher to the Yankees for 4 prospects. A couple from the Yankees top 30. To give up those many bodies to basically replace Gavin Sheets would be short-sighted. For 4 prospects the Sox need a second baseman and a pitcher. Gallo is versatile and signed into next year, but he’s not a 2B.

Should fans be frustrated? Nah. Gallo was a guy that needed to be here in March. At the moment he’s not a dire need.

JAYS GET BRAD HAND

Does it hurt the Sox? Probably not. Hand isn’t what he was and the Jays aren’t a given to make the playoffs.

Could Rick have made the same move? Doubt it. Riley Adams had some time in the majors this year and looks to be a serviceable backup catcher. Seby Zavala looks…yeah. Also he’s needed here until Yas returns. Trading Yermin Mercedes for a fading Brad Hand would be a wild overpay.

Should fans be frustrated? Nope.

RIZZO IS A YANKEE

Does it hurt the Sox? Maybe if the Yankees get in.

Could Rick have made the same move? Without much more effort to ID the prospects involved, yeah. It’s a teenager (a 6-6 one at that) in the OF and a 24 year old arm in rookie ball/high A. For Sox purposes, Rizzo is Gavin Sheets with a bad back and more personality. Your mileage may vary.

Should fans be frustrated? No, but that’s a kinda meager haul for the face of the franchise so feel free to laugh at Cubs fans.

DODGERS GET DUFFY

Does it hurt the Sox? They don’t have to face him…so…No.

Could Rick have made the same move? Player to be named, seems the Sox aren’t flush enough with interesting guys for that move. So, we’ll see. Duffy might have been a useful pickup, except he’s hurt.

Should fans be frustrated? No, but dream of a day when the Sox can trade for what amounts to a fantasy baseball bench stash.

DIEGO CASTILLO TO MARINERS

Does it hurt the Sox? They traded a closer and this guy is his replacement. So probably not.

Could Rick have made the same move? Two prospects, maybe he could have. Castillo is the closer in that he has saves, but it’s usually a committee and Nick Anderson is nearly back. Castillo might have fit.

Should fans be frustrated? Maybe. Castillo could be better than Tepera. But as a closer he’d cost more.

RED SOX NAB SCHWARBER

Does it hurt the Sox? A likely playoff foe just added a big bat, so yeah it could hurt.

Could Rick have made the same move? Yes. In the off-season instead of signing Adam Eaton. But that’s neither here nor there. Yes, had the Sox of White needed a lefty thumper at DH they could have had him. He’s hurt anyway.

Should fans be frustrated? No, he’s injured and doesn’t fit in. But if he has a good playoff run again and the White Sox scuffle on offense, the woulda coulda shoulda.

PADRES GET DANIEL HUDSON

Does it hurt the Sox? Nope, other than being a possible trade target.

Could Rick have made the same move? Maybe, the compensation is in the eye of the beholder. But assuming there’s something the Nats want from the Sox in the fire sale Hudson was getting moved. Hudson would have been a nice fit seeing up Liam Hendriks.

Should fans be frustrated? He’s a guy the Sox could have used but Tepera serves the same role.

BREWERS GET DANIEL NORRIS

Does it hurt the Sox? Nope, other than being a useful lefty reliever he’s not really a guy the Sox were after.

Could Rick have made the same move? Maybe, but he wouldn’t have. Norris is a LOOGY in a three batter minimum world.

Should fans be frustrated? No, he might have been useful but there are similar in house options.

GIBSON AND KENNEDY TO PHILLY

Does it hurt the Sox? No. Oddly a lot of fans seemed to want Kennedy.

Could Rick have made the same deal? Not really. The Phillies sent a top prospect and other decent guys for these two, and even though Spencer Howard had been dog meat in the show, he’s still their Kopech. Meanwhile, Kennedy is a good reliever in the end stages of his career and Gibson is a good starter, but not sure he’s an upgrade. Kimbrel and Tepera were better grabs even at the steep cost.

Should fans be frustrated? Some might be over Kennedy but overall not worth thinking about.

RICH RODRIGUEZ IS ALSO BRAVE

Does it hurt the Sox? Actually no, even though his name was bandied about as a target.

Could Rick have made the same deal? It’s a Reynaldo type starter and an A ball pitcher, so yeah on paper. But really that’s eye of the beholder stuff and two guys for Rodriguez is a decent price if they aren’t guys you want to keep. I’m guessing this is yet again Ben Cherington having some targets in mind.

Should fans be frustrated? He’d be a nice get so a little, especially if you’re sour about Madrigal.

DEALS NOT WORTH DISCUSSING:

Happ to Cards: meh guy for other guys

Phil Maton for Myles Straw: Cleveland gets a new bad CF, Astros get an arm.

Andrew Heaney to Yankees: a frustrating lefty starter, Sox don’t need a project.

Jake Marisnick to Padres: bench bat OF who isn’t as awesome as Billy Hamilton.

Joakim Soria to the Jays: he’s not what you think you remember him as.

Jon Lester to the Cards for Lane Thomas: Sure.

Hansel Robles to Boston: a Kimbrel consolation prize.

Freddie Galvis heads to Philly: another guy the Sox could have gone after. Meh.

Jorge Soler is Brave: interesting, how many guys does it take to replace Ronald Acuña Jr.?

RP Austin Davis to Boston for Michael Chavis: for a second Chavis replacing Madrigal seemed like a thought but he’s been bad this year.

To quote a cartoon pig: Th-th-thats all folks!

RANKIN’ THE CHIPS

Ok, ok, not these guys again, but at least I get to link the theme song. And for fun here’s Sanford and Son.

Trade deadline’ll be here in a week or so, and questions loom at the front offices on 35th and Shields. For one, will the Sox make a trade? For two, who will be coming here? For three, will they be here to stay beyond this year? Four for, wait…reverse that…will the rumors be true or will it be a surprise? For five, six, seven eight (cue music). Ok. No more TV theme songs. Well, one more underrated one.

The real question is what the Sox have left in the cupboards to pull off a trade. There are certainly talented guys in the minors, and trades often involve a player that you’ve never heard of as a casual fan (or business casual, maybe even semi-formal). As a point of reference, for every Dane Dunning traded to the Rangers, there’s an Austin Weems and the player to be named later, Martin Tadlo. You needed to be very well versed on Sox minor leaguers to know the name Austin Weems. If you claim to know who Martin Tadlo is, you’re that kind of jerk because he was made up mid-sentence and you need to stop pretending to know things.

Seriously though, it is absolutely fine as a fan to not have a grasp on the ID and value of every asset in the Sox farm system. But assuming that at the deadline a team would look for someone off the AA, AAA or MLB rosters there are certain guys that are untouchable, certain guys that it would take a major return to consider, and then there are just the guys that are dangling out there for the taking. So as fans we know that, for example, Liam Hendriks is not getting traded. It would make no sense to trade him, and even if the return was amazing it would be damn near impossible to think of what that would be. We can be reasonably sure that Dylan Cease isn’t getting traded unless it is for a top player under team control. Even then, probably not. But can you be sure that every guy on the roster is untouchable? No, you cannot. Let’s rank the guys that are touchable, then, limited to the 40-man/MLB Pipeline top 30.

UNTOUCHABLES

Eloy Jiminez, Luis Robert, Billy Hamilton, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Nick Madrigal, Yoan Moncada, Liam Hendriks, Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito.

None of these guys would make sense to move because of their standing with the team and/or how few guys are out there that would replace their production. Someone like TA, Pito or Billy Hamilton are on here mainly because of their intangibles; there are shortstops that would be an upgrade, 1B/DH types a plenty at Jose’s level and Billy is a 4th/5th OF, but as fan favorites and guys that have become part of the heart of the team there’s really no way that Rick is trading them. These are guys that mean more to the Sox than anything they could get in return.

THE RETURN WOULD HAVE TO BE SOMETHING INSANE

Andrew Vaughn, Zack Collins, Dylan Cease, Aaron Bummer.

If the Pirates offered Adam Frazier, Rich Rodriguez and Brian Reynolds for one of these guys and a couple of guys you would need to look up, it would at least be a conversation. Collins is here mainly because he is going to be a bigger part of the lineup going forward and there isn’t much else ready to go behind the plate right now. Cease, Bummer and Vaughn are key guys but not quite at the next tier, though Cease and Vaughn are right on the edge. They are too integral to the plans to be actual trade bait, but if there was a Godfather offer that made the team significantly better now and for the next 3-5 years…just maybe you do it.

RIGHT CHIP, WRONG DIP

Gavin Sheets, Yermin Mercedes

Mercedes was a great story, then his image but it took a hit when he was sent down, but he was raking again at AAA, and now there’s the weird retirement talk. If he’s able to adjust to MLB pitching like he should, he’s a valuable asset. Given that the scuttlebutt is that he lost his mojo when Tony failed to back him up after the 3-0 dinger, maybe another team wants to roll the dice that his swag will come rushing back under a new manager. If he had waited until after the deadline, he’s intriguing. He could have been a callup anytime now through September 1. Then again, maybe this is forcing a trade, which could backfire or benefit. It is a weird situation.

Much more conventionally, Gavin Sheets is showing himself as that lefty power bat the lineup needs, but he’s unproven yet so you wonder if he’s the answer for 2021 and beyond. To give up on now him might ransom the future. He has to be held onto unless the right situation is presented, but then he’s not established enough to be untouchable and not on the level of Andrew Vaughn as a prospect. Just a tweener, where if he gets moved for fair value you’d understand but if they don’t have that lefty bat anywhere else you’d wonder what they’re thinking.

THE BAD CHIPS

Danny Mendick, Seby Zavala, Evan Marshall, Matt Foster, Dallas Keuchel, Luis Gonzalez, Reynaldo Lopez, Zack Burdi, Codi Heuer, Jose Ruiz.

These players have very limited to no trade value based on performance. Keuchel isn’t living up to the dollars he’s owed and that makes him a tough trade, though he’s useful and can hopefully get it going better. The rest of these guys just aren’t going to bring back much. Better to try and get them back to what they were for Heuer, Marshall and Foster, and the rest can just chill at AAA if not needed.

MIDDLIN’ VALUE CHIPS

Brian Goodwin, Jake Lamb, Jace Fry, Leury Garcia, Blake Rutherford, Jonathan Stiever, Tyler Johnson, Norge Vera, Ryan Burr, really most of the Charlotte Knights.

Goodwin and Lamb might have some trade value and if the Sox don’t need them, in Lamb’s case because of Gavin Sheets and in Goodwin’s case because Eloy and Luis coming back makes for a crowded OF situation. And yes, I think Eloy will be in the field. But You also have Vaughn, Engel, Hamilton and possibly Sheets in the mix.

But these are guys that someone could use, like a fringe contender (Reds) needing a SS/2B (Leury) and giving back a reliever (Sean Doolittle). Or an actual contender (Brewers) needing a lefty 3B option (Lamb) and reliever (Fry) and sending back a 2B (Luis Urias) for those two and a prospect sweetener. Not saying the teams would make those trades, but the idea is there.

In Goodwin’s case, he is both looking at being out of an OF rotation spot and Rick could be doing the guy a solid and getting something in return for a couple months of rebuilding the guy’s image across the league. Imagine the Braves or Yankees wanting Goodwin to try and salvage a decimated outfield and sending back a pitcher, even an organizational arm that maybe Ethan Katz can work over. Why not?

The Knights are generally populated this year by has-beens and prospects that are suspect, like Seby Zavala. Rutherford, notably, continues to underwhelm at the plate in spite of his pedigree as a prospect and both Stiever and Johnson have been bad.

Vera is in the Sox top-30 prospects but has not done anything yet here and would be just the same amount of intrigue as he had on the international market. Hahn might not say no, but his value is probably not well enough set.

INTRIGUING CHIPS

Jake Burger, Jimmy Lambert, Garrett Crochet, Micker Adolfo, Jared Kelly, Andrew Dalquist, Matthew Thompson, Yoelqui Cespedes.

There’s definitely more prospects that fit this, but these are the name guys with potential that aren’t going to fetch a huge return on their own, but can be a possible centerpiece in a deal too. It depends on taste, really, and whether these guys can fill a need. Case in point, Jake Burger has certainly opened eyes even in a small sample size, but to the Pirates he’s not a big prize because Ke’Bryan Hayes is on the rise. But flip the page to the Diamondbacks’ stage where they don’t have a 3B who is all the rage and maybe everyone is on the same page.

Dalquist, Kelly and Thompson are struggling in A-Ball but you can’t ignore the potential. Cespedes is early in the career but hitting, and Adolfo was hitting as well as Birmingham allows before heading to Charlotte. Those guys are the top prospects to trade.

Lambert and Crochet are big-league ready pitching, and while Crochet would damage the bullpen Lambert would damage the SP depth. Both would need to bring back a pitcher to replace them.

THE TOP CHIP

It’s Adam Engel.

He’s a legit starting CF in the majors at this point, as he’s shown power, speed and defense. He’s a lot like Aaron Rowand in that regard, and Rowand was traded for a legit Hall Of Fame baseball person in the form of Jim Thome. Engel hasn’t sustained it to the level that Rowand had when he was traded, so he’s probably not bringing back a superstar. But don’t think for a second that teams haven’t taken notice that the Sox outfield has a fourth guy that would fit nicely in their top three. You can make the case today, right now, that Engel should play RF with Robert in CF and Vaughn in LF down the stretch and keep Eloy at DH, with Sheets rotating in. But ultimately, what makes him attractive is that the Sox can live without him. Billy Hamilton and Brian Goodwin are here as reserves. Even if Eloy is primarily a DH for the rest of the year, going forward the starters seem to be Robert with Vaughn/Jimenez/Sheets and other guys rotating around. Even if Sheets isn’t the answer, isn’t right field destined to be Vaughn or a lefty power bat? You betcha.

So how to maximize his value is the question. When Engel’s name surfaced in the Mike Clevinger rumors last year, that made sense. Thankfully the trigger remained unpulled there, but Engel as a main, if not the main piece in a trade makes sense. Engel for Adam Frazier? Pirates are going to extort for more at the deadline, but in March they’d have done that in a heartbeat. Engel for Josh Harrison? That would be a waste for the Sox, but the Nats wouldn’t mind giving Juan Soto a running buddy like Engel.

Certainly fans are worried that Sheets or Burger are headed out, that there’s going to be some unbelievable trade of Kopech or shopping off Crochet. But don’t sleep on the idea that teams view The Man of Steal as an actual steal. Hopefully Rick understands what he has.

YOU DIDN’T REALLY YERMIN IT?

The saga of the man who thundered into the season as an old rookie, had a burger named for him, broke an unwritten rule, rankled his old school manager, lost confidence, couldn’t adjust to pitchers adjusting to him, got sent down, got his stroke back, called it quits cryptically on social media only to reverse course and come back days later is a baseball tale as old as time. I mean, probably happens 2-3 times a season.

If you sensed sarcasm there, it’s because I was laying it on thick. Yermin reminds me of the person with a trim figure who constantly complains about being fat just to get a compliment. Maybe there’s a real crisis of confidence in his future, but it just feels like a guy just making sure he is still wanted. He is, but the fragile psyche reputation he’s fostering isn’t good. Hopefully he’s just having a moment, and isn’t only going to succeed if everything and everyone is going his way.

Cleveland Guardians

Sure. Sounds great.

Actually, it doesn’t.

It’s fine.

Meh.

DRAFTS AND WINDOWS AND THINGS THAT BLOW

Original “Window of Opportunity” found on the American Bar Association website. Clever, them lawyers.

Duncan Keith is not a guy that you’d normally associate with trades that the White Sox need to be mindful of in July 2021. But Keith, possibly the best defenseman to ever skate a shift for the Blackhawks, was traded to Edmonton for a blueliner who isn’t as good and a prospect. He wanted to be closer to his son. He now has a better chance at a winner. This wasn’t a blockbuster, this was a quiet thank you to a core member of a team with which the word “Dynasty” was once associated. Keith was, to mix some borrowed Blue Brothers dialogue, the backbone of a hockey team powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline. But by 2021, the Hawks are a shell of their glory years, holding onto Patrick Kane as a reminder of what was, while fans sit and ponder the health of Jonathan Toews and look at a roster that reminds them far more of 2008 than 2010, 2013 or 2015. Young guys who may never be anything mixed with young guys who seem to be something mixed with whatever fits under the salary cap. Might be fun to watch, but come playoff time they won’t be there, or at least not for long.

On the North side of Chicago, a very wealthy family might be secretly pleased that the team skidded into the All-Star break so they can dump salary. It started with a mildly curious trade of Yu Darvish, where the team brought back players who won’t be in Wrigley until a year or three and a perennial fourth starter for a Cy Young candidate who was shipped to a team that would stand in the Cubs’ way of the NL Pennant. They also non-tendered World Series folk hero Kyle Schwarber, didn’t re-sign stalwart ace Jon Lester, and talked about trading Javy Baez, Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant. While Darvish was not on the team that finally broke a dead goats’ curse, the rest of the names were the core young’uns that came close “a year early” in 2015 and finally did it in 2016. Bryant, Baez, Contreras, and Anthony Rizzo are just reminders of what very briefly was…and even bringing back the shell of Jake Arrieta is just adding to the haunting feeling that the Cubs are back where they were in 2014…just wait ’til next year.

It happens over and over. A team suddenly arrives and opens a window to compete for the to prize and suddenly that bright future is just the same murky past. Somewhere the ’85 and ’06 Bears are all nodding in disgust. Like the Cubs, the window was there but the team couldn’t take advantage or keep the success rolling.

The 2021 White Sox are not that; at this point they could be a dynastic team or another coulda been. Unlike t other teams mentioned, the Sox are in a weird situation. The championship window is wide open, but the team was immediately hit by a tree branch when they tried to breathe it in. Eloy, Luis, the Good Adam, Yas and Little Nicky Two Strikes were all struck down. The starting rotation comes together, but tainted by the knowledge that the two all-stars are free agents after this season. The bullpen that was so tough last year gets the toughest closer in the game but then has key guys regress and fall flat. Instead of a team of bright shiny young stars barnstorming the league, the team has been a revolving door of who’s next, grabbing rookies and scrap heap free agents to fill in hole after hole.

Yet here they sit, the cream of the AL crop, staring at their toughest stretch and waiting for the wounded to return. It’s tempting to just say bring on the playoffs, when Eloy will be launching bombs as the primary DH and Luis will be joined by Andrew Vaughn and Adam Engel in not letting a flyball ever hit the ground. With eager anticipation fans await tense playoff games with Lance Lynn bulldogging and Giolito baffling and Rodon blowing guys away until Liam ends the game with a scream. Right? Can’t you just taste the World Series again? Can’t you see it and hear Joe Buck declare the Sox the winners again after 16 years away?

Sure. But nothing is ever a given. In 2006 the Sox were largely the same team, with Jim Thome a massive addition and Brian Anderson a massive disappointment, but the same group of pitchers for the most part and the same core hitters in Crede, Dye, Pierzynski and Konerko. The team played well. They won games. They were a contender, until they weren’t and missed the playoffs. In 2007 guys were going away more rapidly from the ’05 team. By their playoff return in ’08 the team scarecly resembled the champs from just three years earlier. By 2010 only AJ and Paulie remained from the ’05 lineup, with Mark Buerhle, Freddie Garcia and Bobby Jenks left from the pitching staff that rifled through the 2005 playoffs at an 11-1 clip.

What the Sox lacked in ’05, and what doomed other contending Chicago teams was the lack of sustainability. For the Blackhawks and Bulls, the core was constantly getting new blood in important roles. But the core stars stayed the same, and if there was one guy that left, it was easy to replace that key guy. Primarily the turnover was in the situational guys…for the Hawks that meant third line guys or maybe the center to pair with Kane. The Bulls would get new bench players. The guys brought in brought something needed to the party and usually something that didn’t alter the dynamic or the strategy of the team. By contrast, the Cubs would lose a key contributor like Ben Zobrist or Dexter Fowler, and replace them with young guys like Ian Happ and David Bote. Neither guy is anything like the guys that left and the Cubs repeatedly traded youth for short term gains. The Bears inability to draft with any consistency has been well documented. And in ’05…The Sox were assembled by trade and free agency, and in the following years fans were treated to rookies like Brian Anderson and Josh Fields, who couldn’t perform, or veteran acquisitions that didn’t fit like Nick Swisher, who was effectively inserted into Aaron Rowand’s role but wasn’t that type of player. Even the addition of Jim Thome, as great as he was, changed the lineup from a team that clawed in every at bat to a team that relied increasingly on the long ball. Thome was better than Carl Everett in a number of ways, but that also allowed the team to grow to rely on heroics by a star slugger. Two grinders became one star and a hole in CF. It wasn’t sustaining success, it was reinvention.

So what’s hard about these Sox is that the identity is still in flux. They are resilient. They can score without the long ball but at times seem to need it. They lean on pitching. Everyone contributes on the roster, and if they can’t or don’t there’s no room for them. They have fun but they’re there for business. But the identity and strategy could change with Eloy and Luis returning, But is Eloy just early season Yermin? Luis was here.

That’ll take care of itself. By the end of the season and what is anticipated to be a playoff run, we’ll know this team’s M.O. and strategy. And Rick will be able to sustain it if he can avoid meddling and can understand a few things:

  1. Stars can’t be replaced. Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and maybe Nick Madrigal are talents that bring something special and unique. It might be an intangible or just a singular skill, or just a talent package overall.
  2. Those unique talents are surrounded by certain archetypes that make their talents work best. Jose Abreu at this point, Andrew Vaughn and Yoan Moncada are balanced hitters with some power and situational awareness. Yas Grandal is a high walk power hitter, Zack Collins maybe following in his footsteps. Tim Anderson is a prototypical leadoff hitter, Adam Engel has that possibility too.
  3. Pitching keeps the window open. Again, sometimes it’s a transcendent talent, mostly it’s having a type. Take the Dodgers…they maintain a premium on pitching. Clayton Kershaw and maybe Walker Buehler are the talents, but they usually have at least one other lefty, a veteran who goes high innings, and then they try out young guys. Their pen is generally strike throwers who aren’t shy about pitching to contact. They’ve had that for years now. The Yankees in their best years typically had an ace starter, a lefty and righty reliable innings eater, a crafty vet in the way out, and a new talent to see if they are anything. They’d collect closers like baseball cards and assemble a bullpen of guys who would get saves if not for the guy who actually was getting them.
  4. The minors have to have clones of who is on the 26 man roster. The 2005 White Sox were a team of baseball players. They weren’t the best athletes…but they understood the game and what they needed to do to win. Meanwhile the Sox minors were full of athletes learning the game, because Kenny Williams drafted on tools rather than look for certain types of player. Same with pitchers. Tall and throw hard? Great, we’ll draft you. But the champs had tall and throw hard, three crafty innings guys, and a funky “stuff” guy. By 2008 Williams had gone for all strikeout guys, but had only Mark Buehrle as a guy who could get outs by contact. So in the playoffs a Rays team that didn’t strike out much were only stymied by an on-fire John Danks. Gavin Floyd, Javier Vasquez and a fading Jose Contreras were too similar in profile and late in the year with a little less on the heater they were vulnerable. But in ’05, where sinkers from Jon Garland were different from Freddie Garcia’s curve which was different from Jose’s heat and splitter, and Mark and El Duque were just on their own plane of existence.

The encouraging thing is that Rick Hahn seems to understand that if something works you try and repeat and enhance. Andrew Vaughn is in the mold of Jose Abreu. Nick Madrigal and Tim Anderson ate cut from similar cloth. The transformation this year of Zack Collins into a Grandal clone is almost jarring. Lynn, Giolito and Cease have different stuff from each other, as do Kuechel and Rodón.

What hampers the Sox right now is depth. If a starting pitcher goes down, there’s not much working in the minors. There isn’t much left as far as hitters that haven’t been up yet. There’s diversity though. Gavin Sheets is a true power guy who needs to be hitting bombs to be of full value, like Yermin before him. Jake Burger is more of that Abreu mold. Further down, Micker Adolfo is a poor man’s Eloy. Konner Pilkington is a Dallas Keuchel type while Jimmy Lambert is closer in profile to Dylan Cease. Gone are the days when every Sox prospect had the same profile.

You can build teams by free agency and trade, but sustaining the team is all about filling roles from within. For baseball, international signing can be an option. The Sox have had success with the Cuban pipeline. But that’s not enough.

If they are to be the start of something big, like Duncan Keith’s Blackhawks, it’ll be sure to Rick Hahn drafting well. And while that means landing future stars, it also means landing future role players. Middle relievers. Utility guys. Fourth outfielders. Fifth starters. Backup catchers. A leadoff type hitter. A balanced guy that has some situational smarts but isn’t a superstar. A starter that eats innings even if the other numbers aren’t great. Because those useful pieces will let the team retain the core stars until time grabs them too.

When the championship window opens, it starts to close. Blackhawk fans have had a few years getting an occasional waft of cool breeze from the window and only now realize it’s truly shut when the team gives a star a quiet chance to win and see his family more. Far too often, though, the window bursts open and before too long is slammed shut. And that is an ill wind that blows, and a disappointment that really blows.

All-star thoughts

So following the all-star game, the four reps for the White Sox had very different feelings to them. For Lance Lynn, headlines emerged that he had never really wanted to leave St. Louis. He was viewed as a long-standing good pitcher who deserved the honor…and sorta happened to be a White Sox. For Carlos Rodón, it was an arrival. He seemed like a guy that could get used to this, a debutante of sorts that will definitely have a number of willing and attractive suitors.

But two guys seemed to be the faces of your 2021 White Sox. Tim Anderson has become a nationally known guy and while he’s having a good season, it isn’t what he’s been the past two years but he’s earned the reputation as a star. Liam Hendriks is a guy that everyone wants to see and hear (except the FCC perhaps). Hendriks and Anderson are the national faces of the White Sox, and should be for the next few years (even if joined by others….Eloy for one).

Meanwhile, the reigning AL MVP? He certainly still seems to be the man in the clubhouse. But get used to the Sox identity being TA and Liam. Coming soon, hopefully, to a playoff near you, and even more hopefully as a buddy cop movie in the offseason.

Requiem for Spanky

Down the hole, Mr. Eaton. Hole picture from Picture Dictionary, Eaton by Abbie Parr/Getty.

A CURIOUS CHOICE BECOMES CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER

Adam Eaton was the only major bat signed in an offseason where fans expected a DH and a right fielder to replace the departed Edwin Encarnacion and Nomar Mazara. Eaton came somewhat cheap, he was familiar to the Southside faithful for both his on-field play and his off-field mouth, and was at least revered for being the player traded for Lucas Giolito. Eaton had been a fine RF before being traded, with a solid but not great bat and good with occasionally great defense. His odd choice of words in defending the LaRoches and later as a National his feuds with Ozzie Guillen and Todd Frazier made the second Spanky in recent Sox lore (Michael Eugene LaValliere is the other) someone who was polarizing, but at least not boring.

When it was later revealed that Joc Pederson had turned down more money and Eaton was kind of the fallback, there was some shrugging involved but largely no one seemed to buy in that Eaton was the answer to the question of who would bring a lefty bat to the lineup and patrol RF. Eddie Rosario and Kyle Schwarber had been out there. There were seemingly options in the trade market, notably 2B/OF Adam Frazier of the Pirates. But Schwarber was a guy that hadn’t lived up to the hype. Rosario was a guy with questionable defense. Frazier and Adam Eaton had similar profiles as batters, though Eaton was coming off a bad 2020. In reality, Eaton was cheap and well-known to the Sox brass. Contextualized in the framework of a front office that has a lot of voices in the free agency war room and a hard budget by Jerry Reinsdorf, there was reason to be skeptical that Eaton wasn’t just the only guy that the Sox could get internal agreement on.

But being jaded and looking at reality aren’t always the same thing. Pederson has been what he has been, a guy that does better against righties (all 11 of his HR are against RHP); and he’s only mustered a .703 OPS this year. Schwarber was on a tear before he got hurt, but was his typical hot/cold streaky self. Rosario has been less than what he was as a Twin but he’s been in the middle of a terrible lineup and is also hurt. Both of those guys, current injuries notwithstanding, would have been better signings both in hindsight and at the time Eaton came on board. The only thing that really comes to mind in trying to figure out the Eaton signing is his hustle and defense is better than Schwarber or Rosario, who both try hard but aren’t as good in the field or on the basepaths as Eaton has been in the past.

Was Eaton viewed as a leader? He was vocal in his first go around for sure. But this was not a team lacking for locker room voices or veteran leaders. And Eaton wore clown shoes for calling Drake LaRoche a leader after Adam LaRoche retired over his son’s removal from the locker room. But then you get word that he was showing Gavin Sheets some tips on playing outfield and TLR called Eaton a leader in spring training, and largely the guy’s been quiet this year.

Why he failed is a bigger curiosity. 2020 was his first really down year since establishing himself as an everyday player in the bigs. And 2020 was not kind to number of veterans, some who often start slow but hadn’t enough runway to take off over the short season, and some who just appeared to not get going. Some players benefited from not having enough time to get into a slump. 2019 was a typical Eaton year. Signs seemed to point to a rebound that never emerged.

Eaton appeared to be dogging it or at least unable to give 100% in the field this year. His K rate was at 25%, far higher than even the 18% he put up in a very down 2020. His barrel rate and hard hit rate were in line with his career (barrels actually up a tick), but his BABIP is down from his career norms. Those fangraph-sourced stats suggest that when he hits, he hits same as he ever was. But they also paint a very basic picture. Basically, the guy stopped making contact and was whiffing where he used to hit. He also started pulling the ball more. Add those up and Eaton profiles like a guy that has to put way more effort into his swing just to swing. Then watch him the field make some brilliant looking plays and miss easy ones, and what you have is a guy who appears to be losing the battle with time and breaking down.

Which is weird because he’s 32…not that old. By contrast, Billy Hamilton is actually in line with his better years at the plate (which were never all that good), has been great in the field and is 30. Jose Abreu is 34 and just this year looks like he’s declining, so Eaton could be aging less gracefully than Jose or 30 could just be still prime enough that age isn’t a factor. There’s the old adage that it isn’t the years but the miles that count, so maybe Adam Eaton has too many miles on him. He hasn’t played a lot in the past four years. 2019 was his only full season since he was traded to the Nats, losing time in 2017 and 2018 to injury, losing 2020 to the shortened season. While that would suggest that there should be less wear and tear, injuries and playing style matter.

Or maybe the MLB is getting back to the days when most players fell off after 30 because they were humans and not, shall we say, enhanced. In 2018-2019, at ages 29 and 30, Eaton was most similar to Randy Winn historically, and Winn reached only 35 years old before decline really hit. At age 28, Eaton was historically comparable to the Flyin’ Hawaiian Shane Victorino, who didn’t play a full season after age 32, when he played 122 for the Red Sox and then fell way off. Other comps? Steve Henderson, who was a part-timer in the 70’s and 80’s for the Mets, Cubs, Mariners and A’s, and Angel Pagan, who had his best year at 30 for the Giants before having two lost years and then rebounding to be serviceable at ages 33 and 34. By contrast, at 29, Pederson, Rosario and Schwarber all still seem to be capable of their career numbers. Eaton just seems…like a worn out version of himself. So Eaton reaching age 32, having had an injury history and being noted as a max effort guy in his career, seems to just have reached the point where he needs reinvention or will simply fade into benchhood. His failure on this level seemed unlikely, but then looking at 32-year-old players around the league there are guys underperforming their careers all over the place or getting hurt. Yas Grandal, for one. DJ LeMaheiu is another that fell back to Earth this year. It looks like it isn’t so curious after all…just a matter of time.

But this was all known in the offseason. Adam Eaton could have spent parts of 2020 traveling with Doctor Who, aging whilst not staying congruent with our established timeline, but in reality Rick Hahn knew he was 32 and had an injury history. That Rosario and Schwarber were younger and known more for power and Eaton more as a leadoff type was well established.

So why was he here? Was he a gamble that was going to pay off? No more than Pederson, Schwarber or Rosario, who were better fits as OF/DH lefty bats. Was it for his defense? Well, no one foresaw Adam Engel being hurt and his D is far better. His basestealing? Eaton hasn’t been really that prolific on the bases in his career, but double digits I guess is something. His intangibles? Meh.

And why is he gone? Well, poor performance is first and foremost. If he was hitting in the area code of his career stats maybe he’s still here…but I doubt it. Did he piss off his teammates? Not openly, but certainly you watch how Billy Hamilton and Brian Goodwin interact with their teammates and it is clear that they are very well-liked, while Eaton seemed to be just sorta there. Maybe there was some disconnect but maybe not. That probably doesn’t matter enough to cause the DFA. Was it money? Only if the Sox can generate a trade market for him or he goes to another team. The Yankees seem to be short on OF help but Eaton isn’t much of an upgrade; he could return to the Nats or the Braves where injuries have hit but again, is he better than what they have? So the money isn’t the answer.

Weirdly the answer seems to be that Adam Eaton was signed here to be expendable. He was enough of a signing that from a PR standpoint fans could accept him as the starting RF, but Hahn knew he was still disliked by enough fans that they wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t last the season. If he hit, he hit, and if he played D and stole bases and hustled like it was 2016, great. He would be a 1-year stopgap and if there were no injuries or opportunities for young guys, Eaton at his normal self would have been acceptable. But if he was a bum…don’t sleep on the idea that Hahn wanted to give Gavin Sheets time in AAA to play the field and that the team had an idea that Andrew Vaughn could be a good OF or that Adam Engel, Yermin Mercedes or Jake Burger could hit their way into the lineup at some point. If Eloy, Luis and Engel stay healthy all year, why wouldn’t they have been the starters? Vaughn at DH, maybe using Eloy more with Eaton getting semi-regular time? That makes sense and in the event that Vaughn emerges with Engel, and Eaton’s time diminishes, no one would care. If the team assumes that at least one of those guys could get hurt (ugh), Vaughn or Sheets taking over their spot melds better with the long-term plans of those guys being part of the DH, 1B and/or OF rotations. And the idea that a scrap heaper like Jake Lamb, Brian Goodwin or Billy Hamilton could better assume a part-time role is certainly always true in the MLB. So Eaton, curious a signing as he was, and somewhat curious that he’s gone, really was brought in with the idea that he could just as quickly be shown the door.

So do we not mourn Adam Eaton? He was delivered unto us to be the first head to roll if youth was served, and thus it has become so. Fare thee well, Spanky. Your purpose here is complete.

ELOY IS COMING!!! HE’S COMING!!!!

He is Santa Claus!!!!

Well, he isn’t, but he is the DH that Rick would need to acquire at the deadline otherwise. Eloy will play in the field, but shouldn’t nearly as much as he thinks he should. Vaughn is too good in the field and the OF rotation of Vaughn, Engel, Goodwin, Hamilton, Garcia, Sheets and maybe Lamb is enough until Robert returns too.

So if Eloy is back after the All-Star break, maybe he does bring the Sox a gift: he narrows the deadline needs way down. They need a 2B. I’ll accept a veteran catcher but nothing crazy (like Yadier Molina or Willson Contreras), and another RP or SP is always welcome. The Sox, at the deadline, were looking at holes in right, DH and 2B. Grandal getting hurt makes Collins the starter at catcher and getting a better backup bat than Seby Zevala is important, but a low bar to meet. Eloy at DH makes it so that Tony can play matchups in the outfield, but if Sheets keeps hitting and Vaughn keeps getting better, or Goodwin and Hamilton keep it up, the Sox are fine in the outfield. Eloy in LF scares everyone but his doctor’s financial advisor, but that means DH time for Jose and Yas when he gets back.

Meanwhile, Jake Burger has a lot to like about him but until he shows that he can play 2B and sustain himself in the majors, there’s your hole. Mendick and Garcia are not everyday players.

So if Eloy Claus is listening…can you bring Adam Frazier and leave him under the tree?

HALFWAY TO SOMEWHERE

It’s an 80’s Band. And now it’s a visual representation of the crossroads at which the Sox find themselves presently.

Eloy is close. Luis is cleared to ramp up activity. The Adams Engel and Eaton are still hurt, and now Jake Lamb has a hurt shank. Yoan Moncada has a shoulder barking. Jose Abreu is beat up. Billy is back, but being limited somewhat. Nicky…poor little Nicky.

Following a very short season with a start/stop ramp up for those who played and no real baseball for those who weren’t in the MLB, the Sox and a lot of teams are seeing what happens when athletes are take off their routine. The season is also around the halfway point, with 81 games in the bag for some teams. It isn’t unheard of that after 81 games, guys are sore and hurt. Hell, a naked Lou Brown told us that in Major League.

But for a team with championship aspirations and a championship caliber team, the injuries are getting in the way. The offense is now hinging on three rookies (Mercedes, Vaughn and Sheets), a scrap-heap pickup in spring training (Hamilton), two utility guys (Mendick and Garcia), and really two regulars who are having lesser seasons than hoped (Anderson and Grandal). Everyone else is either out or fighting through pain. The Sox have been lucky that Andrew Vaughn is a good outfielder, but he’s hitting like a guy who never played above A-Ball. The Sox were lucky that Yermin started out hot, but he needs to adjust to a league that quickly adjusted to him. Gavin Sheets had a nice first game with the bat, but badly misplayed a ball at the wall and then battled but lost in his last AB against a Twins lefty (in keeping with Gavin’s AAA splits). It’s being pieced together, and the name Eduardo Escobar is the only rumored reinforcement. And the Diamondbacks are making the juice not worth the squeeze on him.

So can the Sox win without hitting homers and destroying pitchers as was intended? Can they fake it until Luis and Eloy come back to help them make it? Probably. You have to go back to 1989, but Tony LaRussa won the World Series with a team that had a good on base percentage but a mediocre slugging percentage. They were 10th in the AL in SLG, but 4th in OBP. The Sox entering play on Wednesday? 3rd in the AL in OBP, 9th in SLG. Does that mean anything? It isn’t a guarantee but you have a manager who won with a team that didn’t crush the ball so he has seen this before. And, if Eloy and Luis return to normal, and Abreu and Moncada get over injuries, then there will be some crushing down the stretch.

But homers help. The 2005 Sox hit a lot of them, and statistically they were below average overall offensively. In both scenarios, 1989 and 2005, pitching was the saving grace. In ’89, the A’s were 4th in WHIP and 2nd in ERA in the majors. In 2005, the Sox were 2nd in ERA and 4th in WHIP. In 2021, the Sox…are 7th in ERA and 10th in WHIP. But the margins are thin, .09 back in WHIP and .38 in ERA. If the pitching holds, the offense can get by without having big power.

Aye but there’s the rub. Will the pitching hold? As discussed on Wednesday’s show, at this point the starters have basically met or started exceeding their innings totals from last year. in 2020 Lance Lynn lead all of baseball with 84 innings. He’s at 78 as of Wednesday. Lucas Giolito only had 72.1 innings last year, already he’s pitched 93.2. But that’s every pitcher everywhere. It could explain some of the falloff of pitching around the league and the rise in offense. Or pitchers were using everything from spider tack to vagisil on the ball and the crackdown is working. Either way.

That aside, the bigger issue for the Sox is that Giolito, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón have never topped 200 innings in a season. Rodón has a career high of 165 in 2016; Cease threw 124 in 2018 between A and AA; Giolito threw 176.2 in 2019 and 173.1 in 2018. If Giolito has 16 more starts in him at his current rate, he’ll top 180 at least. Not a far cry from 2018-2019, then he’ll have the playoffs. Cease averages about 5 innings a start, so if he hits 32 starts he’ll be adding 85 innings to his current 75.2 for a new high of 161 innings. That’s 40 more than he’s ever thrown, and he’s three seasons removed from that. Rodón is 5 years removed from throwing 165 innings, and he’s on pace for at least 180.1 innings.

Hopefully, Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn have it in them somewhere to get to at least 180 innings this year. Even though Keuchel only threw 112 in 2019, he’s hit 200 innings a few times in the past. Lynn as well. 180 would be a lower number than usual.

So assuming the Sox don’t overtax three of their starters, then the bullpen has to pick up the slack. Michael Kopech will help when he gets back. Ryan Burr will give up runs eventually, but if he can stick around he’ll help too. But the minors are thin with good performances, so other than a Jace Fry here or maybe a too-early promotion for Konnor Pilkington there, you’ll see more Evan Marshall blowups.

So try and outscore them? Out-pitch them? What are the 2021 White Sox going forward? Welcome to the fork in the road.

THE ROAD THEY OUGHT NOT TRAVEL

The simple truth about standing pat is that the pitching can’t do this all season. It feels like all the other teams have all had injuries to starters and the Sox have largely avoided that. Michael Kopech’s hammy is the biggest hurt for the pitching staff, and it may be a blessing because his innings would have been monitored more harshly down the stretch without this break. Rodón has a bad injury history, Giolito and Lynn are guys that are adjusting to new ways to up their spin rates, Cease relies on a lot of breaking stuff and somehow Keuchel seems safe. There’s real risk.

Offensively, standing pat is less terrifying but the bottom of the lineup will be weak. One more key injury and the team won’t be able to hang against a good pitcher. Two more and the Sox are more like the 2017 team than the 2020 version.

This fork is a forking bad idea. It is a dark path that smells weird and has torn underwear bands at the start of it. So ignore this one.

TWO ROADS TO GET TO THE PROMISED LAND

Fork 1: Bash ’em: Offensively the Sox need to add either two home run hitters (besides the injured guys) or add a higher on-base guy. Eddie Escobar has 17 homers thus far but isn’t getting on at a stellar rate. If the Sox can get him, they need to target Adam Duvall (17 HR), Mitch Haniger (17 HR), Joey Gallo (18 HR), or someone of that nature to go with Escobar. All are low-average power guys. Added to Eloy, Luis, Jose, Yas and Yoan, the power would be scary again even if Yoan’s shoulder, Eloy’s chest, and Jose’s multitudes are holding them back a bit. Or, stick with a high OBP base and target Jon Berti (2B-3B, Marlins), and then you get back to Joey Gallo, Adam Frazier and Brian Reynolds as other options. Really, if the Sox were to be able to splurge for Gallo they’d get the best of both worlds, but then if Escobar costs them too much what’ll the Rangers want?

Fork 2: Fool ’em: Pitching and more pitching. The Sox add a starter and go 6-man the rest of the way, and see who is fresh at the playoffs. The big target might be Jon Gray of the Rockies, and by big target that means every contender looking for a starter will come calling for the UFA toiling on a bad Rockies team. Kyle Gibson is under a reasonable $7 million for 2022, and the Rangers might be willing to part with him. Anyone want to know what the D-Backs want for Caleb Smith? Anyone want Merrill Kelly or MadBum? The Pirates and Orioles don’t have much in the rotation, and what they have makes sense for them to keep. Bullpen guys are mostly traded based on who is decent at the time of the deadline. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a plethora o’ pitchers present for the poaching.

The best investment might be to give in to a team to get more than a rental, and try and package to fill at least two holes. Of course, if teams are not interested in a struggling Jonathan Stiever, or a Blake Rutherford, or Micker Adolfo, the Sox need to weigh what they are losing for this year. A guy like Gallo, or Reynolds, or Frazier will be a high cost, but more worth it than Escobar if they can help during a longer window. Or if Escobar also yields Caleb Smith maybe that’s worth the cost. Trading, say, Jace Fry and Zack Collins leaves less bullpen depth and a hole behind Yas Grandal. If Yermin was a viable catcher, Collins wouldn’t be here, notwithstanding Yermin’s adventures in the 9th on Wednesday. Fry just came up, and will hopefully stick. To use that for Escobar and a starter might leave two more holes and make zero sense. Say the trade is Danny Mendick and Matt Foster as part of a package for Adam Frazier, Frazier obviates the need for Mendick but Foster could be missed even though he hasn’t been great. Now, make it Frazier and their closer Rich Rodriguez, add more prospects to the pile for Pittsburgh, and you have something because Frazier and Rodriguez could be upgrades in two areas. With so much talent for the Sox playing as rookies or hurt, trading position for position with sweeteners seems like common sense but isn’t always the path taken.

Part of the issue is whether there’s a team that can properly fill a 2B, OF/DH and pitching hole in one fell swoop. The Pirates have Frazier, Reynolds and Rodriguez. Their starting rotation is bad beyond J.T. Brubaker, who isn’t particularly great. The Rangers have Gallo, Gibson, Ian Kennedy (the closer), but their 2B brigade is the flailing Nick Solak and journeyman Brock Holt, with unproven Cuban Andy Ibanez. The Marlins have Duvall and Berti, but no starters that are obvious trade candidates and maybe an Anthony Bass as a reliever. The Rockies could send an OF, 2B and SP with names like Charlie Blackmon, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Jon Gray…but Blackmon isn’t what he used to be and is very expensive through 2023, McMahon is terrible away from Coors and Hampson lost both his starting 2B and OF jobs this year.

But let’s swing big and try and fill three needs with one trade.

The Rangers trade SP Kyle Gibson, RP Ian Kennedy and OF Joey Gallo. It would cost maybe two players from the 26-man, likely a pitcher who can start this year or next year, and multiple prospects. If the Sox only needed to trade Jake Burger, Jonathan Stiever, Jace Fry, Adam Engel and two players to be named later it would be probably too cheap for the Rangers. The Sox would get added power and OBP from RF, allow Gavin Sheets to not field and DH or spell Jose at 1B to get him some rest, add a veteran high-leverage arm to the ‘pen and add an ace to a 6-man rotation. Hell of a trade, but Danny Mendick is still your 2B. There’s not much left to trade for a 2B.

The Rockies trade 2B/OF Garrett Hampson, RP Daniel Bard, and SP Jon Gray. The Sox might have a better shot at getting away with just prospects for this group. It might still cost them the likes of Burger or Stiever, but maybe a package around a guy like Adolfo makes sense for Colorado. The Sox get another versatile IF/OF in Hampson who has better overall numbers than Mendick, a closer/late-inning arm in Bard, and Gray as an added starter. The pitching improves but the hitting is still more or less where it is now.

The Pirates trade Brian Reynolds, Adam Frazier, and Rich Rodriguez. The Pirates could ask for way more than what the Rangers scenario or the Rockies scenario would be. Reynolds is the best player on the Pirates and only in his third year. Frazier was shopped in the offseason but he’s having a career year and his value is higher now than it would have been in March. Rodriguez isn’t really a young guy, but has been the best reliever on the team and has some team control left. This group might cost actual MLB players that the Sox don’t want to part with. But let’s say an MLB reliever with future upside like Garret Crochet, and at least 4 prospects from the Sox top 30 including one guy who steps into the Bucs’ lineup immediately. The problem becomes who…Jake Burger maybe? Gavin Sheets? The Sox would have a different look to their bullpen and a better lineup now and for a couple years. It is a dream scenario, but the Pirates may just hold Reynolds and/or Rodriguez for a godfather offer in the offseason, and the Sox will have competition for Frazier.

Most likely, the Sox get two or three trades with a couple teams, adding a reliever and one bat. If they add a bat, it will likely be at 2B where there’s a bigger hole to fill. If Jake Burger comes up and takes over there, then an OF/DH will be next. The thing to watch over the next few weeks is whether the team finds an identity away from homers, or whether the team flattens for lack of the long ball. If they become more like the ’89 A’s, then clamor for more pitching. In either case, the Sox need to pick a lane and try and win this year.

WHO FEARS THE TWINS???

Photo credit WWE.com, though Bill’s Sox allegiance is faked.

Sox social media was afire with worries that the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage would catch the Sox as they scuffled…even though Cleveland is rubbing the bottom of the bottom of the barrel for starting pitching. The Twins had a nice little run, but the Sox put that to rest. The AL Central team that should start pissing fans off? The Tigers. 7-3 in their last ten. Some of their young guys like Akil Badoo and Tarik Skubal are figuring it out. The bullpen isn’t total trash. And to quote Goldberg, “They’re Next”.

R.I.P. MARTYL REINSDORF

Jerry and Martyl Reinsdorf were married in 1956. 65 years with someone is amazing. That type of loss is unimaginable. Condolences to the Chairman and his family.

KICKING TIRES AND FINDING KEYS

A metaphor. I think…?

The White Sox: A High Performance Car, Broken Down.

So after spending a few blogs outlining potential trade targets, the Sox Rumors from far more informed and official sources have the team checking in on lost son Eddie Escobar, who could also be Asdrubal Cabrera, as a rental from the rapidly sinking Diamondbacks to replace the injured Nick Madrigal. But Adam Engel just plopped back down to the IL easy chair to rest his bad hamstring, Adam Eaton is already on the IL, as is Billy Hamilton. Michael Kopech has been down. Eloy and Luis are down. The recent lineups have been underwhelming to look at and haven’t performed even close to what this team was supposed to be.

The White Sox entered 2021 as a finely tuned sports car, expected to show off an impressive throaty burble of an engine, spitting rubber and rubble behind them as they planted their foot on the gas and vanished towards the horizon with a high-decibel roar. Instead, like so many finely tuned cars, one thing went wrong after another, and now there’s duct tape holding hoses together, there’s more oil on the street than in the pan, two tires are low on air and the radio is stuck on an exceptionally pretentious college rock station where a freshman just “discovered” Peter Gabriel-era Genesis and thinks it’s a new band.

In other words, they need some time in the pits to get things back in order. And someone needs to get that kid a copy of “…And Then There Were Three…” and a link to Wikipedia. But I digress…

New parts will help, but there’s only so much out there on the market. Down your top four outfielders? Well you won’t find exact replacements in the warehouse at the parts store. Need a new second baseman? Sure, but they’ll be just a bit different fit and the best one available is going to be pricey. Pitching not what you thought? There’s some spare pitchers in the bargain bin or you’ll have to bid heavy for the good ones.

If the rumors are true, Eddie Escobar as a new part is maybe a fresh set of tires. He’s maybe a set of brake pads or a new set of shocks. He’ll help, and it won’t take much to get him or plug him in place. The White Sox Car will perform better with him, in theory, but it won’t be the same car that started the race and it won’t fix the bigger problems. His acquisition alone won’t get this thing back on the road and racing at top speed. Stats wise, he’s bolstered in his career by the happy fun ball in 2019, but generally as a starter he’s fine and his presence just gives more ability to play matchups. He’s not enough. Other broken parts will need to be replaced. Considering that the Sox are looking at replacing high-performance players with lesser parts, the car will need to be driven differently. Tony can’t just go fast like Ricky Bobby, he needs to evolve like Cole Trickle.

The key to getting this back on the track is how well the Sox can fabricate. Experienced wrenchers don’t rely solely on the auto parts stores to supply them, for some items they either build their own or are buddies with a guy who can build it for them. If the coaches are the guys doing the wrenching, Rick Hahn and Chris Getz are the fabricators. We know that OF, 2B, maybe DH and pitching are issues. We know that hitting righties needs to be addressed.

Let’s run some diagnostics and see what’s wrong with the car:

WELL, THERE’S YOUR PROBLEM

Ahhhh the refrain of the mechanic.

The issue: “Yer outfielders are all busted.”

The fix: You can’t afford to replace them with the high end versions, so you’ll need to change your driving habits for a bit and repair the broken ones. The new outfield of Andrew Vaughn, Brian Goodwin, Luis Gonzalez, Leury Garcia and Jake Lamb lacks the same expected output as Jimenez, Robert, Engel and Eaton. You can’t expect to overpower the field anymore. It’ll take hitting the right lines and taking the corners correctly. So Tony as the driver needs the coaches to install the spare OF in the right parts of the race. And they need to get it right. Watch the matchups. Don’t ask too much, just try and get them to contribute at least once a game. Assuming Eloy is back by August 1 and if Robert is not long after, even if Billy Hamilton gets back, things will straighten out to where maybe adding a bat will help if some combo of what’s on the team doesn’t emerge. That emergence still feels possible for Goodwin, Vaughn and Lamb, but doubtful they improve. Vaughn didn’t light up Kannapolis and Winston-Salem in 2019. He hit a combined .252 with a combined OPS of .778. His current xBA is .247 and combining his xOBP and wxSLG suggests a .777 OPS. So at .234 avg./.711 OPS Vaughn might just be what he is. At 23 and with gaudy NCAA stats, there’s likely room to grow, but that next step is not likely coming this year when his professional career has been so small. Lamb is at his career numbers, maybe under performing a touch on BA per Statcast, but he is what he has been when he’s been decent in his career. He feels like an emergent player because he’s been so bad for so long. Goodwin is much of a sameness as Lamb, hitting around his career stats which are closer to replacement level than star level. Gonzalez dominated A-ball before getting his soul sucked out in AA Birmingham like so many before him, and he’s been bad in spring and AAA this year so it is really hard to tell what he is. The guy who could help? Gonzalez has some pedigree behind him. Interestingly, the guy not called up, Gavin Sheets, is whacking righties to a .327/.927 rate at Charlotte (but meh against lefties). An OF of Sheets, Lamb and Goodwin against righties and Leury, Vaughn and, well, whoever against lefties is a starting point. There’s room to add a better piece in there too, even if and when Eloy, the Adams and Robert return to full strength. In the “White Sox as a car” metaphor, the “OF Def” light will be on this entire time, since only Gonzalez and Goodwin can play a decent CF and Vaughn is the only other good OF in the bunch.

The issue:Yer wearing out half your pitchers”

The fix: Fabricate new ones. There’s nothing out on the market that’s going to make a huge difference. History is littered with midseason pitching acquisitions that flopped hard. Injuries are abundant in the MLB and a trade for a guy could be a trade for an IL stint. So craft some replacements. Need a pen arm? Start using the SP arms in Charlotte and Birmingham as relievers on their side days. Have some relievers open and see if they can go 5 or more. Make someone like Reynaldo Lopez focus on two pitches to hone them for the stretch. Whatever needs to be done to prep the best arms available to come up and replace guys on the big club in any role needed. Right now, the Charlotte SP stats are garbage away from Mike Wright (Jr.). Konner Pilkington has been good in AA, no one else is distinguishing themselves. Jace Fry is waiting, but the remaining bullpen pieces aren’t doing much. Still, get these guys ready for anything. and find one starter and three relievers between AA and AAA.

The issue: “Yer 2Bs could be replaced.”

The fix: Replace them. You’ll need Danny Mendick anyway but he’s a guy that could be improved upon as an everyday player. Leury hit a target at Pittsburgh and has usefulness, but gets exposed as an everyday guy. Escobar or Cabrera might provide better value daily, and also some added versatility. After all, Yoan Moncada has been under the weather and under performing as a result. Tim Anderson could get hurt, since he owns hamstrings. Adding another infielder with an OPS north of .750 isn’t a bad idea. Escobar, Cabrera, Adam Frazier…these are all guys that would fit. Freddie Galvis is another guy that exists that could mix in like melted cheese. Among those names, Frazier has the ability to help the most long-term, but if the other guys come relatively cheap, take it. The best guys play.

The issue: “Yer DH is out of alignment.”

The fix: Honestly, Yermin can hit. He really can!!! Uhh…right? His history shows it, albeit in the minors, but over a lengthy time, but as a timeshare catcher. So there has to be some talent there, but is it everyday player talent? He might be bad. But he might be above average and just a little in his own head over the start he had, or a little in between as pitchers work him over, or something mental but not physical. A demotion is always a last resort, but with NL park games and no DH, sending him down to whack AAA pitching for a week or two might have been what the doctor ordered. The worry is that he has a tell, that the timing on his swing can be monkeyed with by timing alterations to a pitcher’s delivery. He could get over that as time goes on, but he needs to adjust and hasn’t yet. The same issue is true for Andrew Vaughn. It is possible that they will adjust to the league by going around again, and that’s the part of the season that we’re entering. In the meantime, if the legend of The Yerminator doesn’t get it together by the deadline and an experienced DH is available, that is a move that needs to happen.

The keys to this team are really the rookies. If Vaughn and Mercedes…wait this whole thing was about cars and just now gets around to even calling him Mercedes? Gahhh.

Anyway. If Vaughn and Mercedes drive like the latter’s name fresh from the AMG plant, the Sox wouldn’t be scrambling to cover up Leury Garcia, Danny Mendick or even whatever Adam Eaton had been before hitting the IL. Both guys just need to settle in at, say, .240-.275 avg., and a .750+ OPS. The same could be said for Gonzalez or Sheets, but Vaughn and Mercedes have been here and the league has seen them and adjusted, so to get going the Sox are better off having Vaughn and Yermin adjust to the league than restarting with two fresh rookies. Going forward if Mercedes is selling out to hit homers but whiffing more, that’s ok. His average was going to regress from April, but he’s pressing to be that guy hitting .389. Vaughn doesn’t appear to be a 30+ homer guy yet. He needs to just focus on getting the bat to the ball and letting it happen, basically a larger Nick Madrigal. There’s no harm in Vaughn being a doubles machine. In fact, maybe the way Tony needs to drive the car is just tell everyone that they are all Nicky Two Strikes. Put the ball in play, run like hell.

Eventually, Eloy will come back and bump Mercedes or one of these replacement OFs. Robert will come back and reclaim CF, and hopefully get hot quickly. Adams Engel and Eaton getting fully recharged and back to what Eaton was in 2019 and Engel continuing to be what he was last year would help too. A bat for the OF via trade or having one of the existing guys step up is needed. The reality is that Eloy may not have his full power back, Robert hasn’t been mentioned all that much as far as his progress, Engel’s leg could be a problem all year, and Eaton may just be falling off due to the age and the miles.

The years and miles also could be catching up to Jose Abreu, and factoring in that Moncada and Anderson are not their best selves right now, the Sox are less of a Mustang Shelby GT500 as planned, and more of a ’78 Mustang II (albeit with T-tops and a sweet wizard decal). Oddly, the duo of Grandal and Collins is providing the best value at their position compared to the league, and their numbers are kinda bad.

So can Rick Hahn Carroll Shelby this team back into something special? The pitching is too good to let this season die. The Indians have demoted or lost their entire opening day rotation, and couldn’t really hit to begin with. The division can be taken easily this year, but the Sox need to find a new OF, a new 2B, and get back to the expected production from everywhere else. In trades, they could need to add up to four hitters (OF, 2B, DH, maybe OF again). In trades they should also be looking for at least one reliever. To get 4-5 new players, they need way more than what they have available on the 40-man and in the minors. He’s going to have to get creative and take some chances, when really they need this to be a can’t-miss set of moves.

Even if the cupboard were less bare, there’s not enough talent out there at the deadline to keep this car in the race and bring it home to the finish line. They aren’t getting saved by adding new parts, they need too much. But the car is still running and the race is still going. Right now they need to limp around the track and just stay in the race. As they can get things patched up over some pit stops, they can go a little harder and faster. Hopefully at the end they are level with the rest of the field in terms of speed and handling, and it comes down to skill. For better or worse, the keys to the car are attached to rookie dice, and they’re in the hands of an old hall of fame driver and his pit crew. Long may they run.

FANTASY ISLAND

Rick Hahn needs this level of confidence. And we all need this swagger.

Three stars down, with only one tweeting that he’s close. Eloy is cleared for baseball activity, but Luis is on an uncertain timeline and Nick Madrigal is done for the year. In a year where the Sox are sitting so very, very pretty in the standings it is a source of both frustration and titillation that they could be better. Better!!! Imagine a world where Eloy, Luis, Yermin, Engel and Vaughn were rotating in the outfield and DH while Adam Eaton, Leury Garcia and Jake Lamb were used sparingly. Imagine Nicky Two Strikes the rest of the way instead of wondering if Danny Mendick is a real ballplayer or Jake Burger playing 2B won’t cause him to break apart like the Blues Mobile outside of City Hall. And if you didn’t just mentally see several statues and a thin, young Danny Akroyd looking at the wreckage I question your value.

So do we live with Ham(ilton) and Burger together? (Sorry.) Really, actually are we living with Engel and Mendick and way more Leury Garcia than you’d want? Keep trucking along until August when Eloy comes back, and hope there’s a Pantera lurking behind him? Or…dare we dream of an outsider riding in and bringing this season home for a parade? Mr. Hahn!!! De trades!! De Trades!!!

There’s always rental guys, for example as the Mariners slide down the standings Mitch Haniger becomes a nice target. I’ve mentioned plenty o’ rentals in recent weeks. But this is the start of a window, why not play fantasy GM and not just help the Sox this year, but for the next few?

Parameters are simple: a guy can’t be a bank breaker because that’s not the style here, and the present team must be out of it and rebuilding, or it must be to the mutual benefit of both teams for this year at least. So the Twins, who might rebuild after this, aren’t necessarily trading with the Sox for A-ball players but might trade for AAA guys like Jonathon Stiever. But screw the Twins anyway we don’t want them. The Reds, before Nicky Two Strikes became Nicky One Legs, might have taken Leury Garcia to fill their gaping SS/2B hole and given back Shogo Akiyama, who could be a good bench piece in the future but help now. Also, there’s likely to be some overpay optics here. But gotta crack eggs and slaughter a pig to make a decent omelet.

Right now the teams that are full on toast are the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Orioles, Twins, Tigers, Royals, and Rangers. The Reds, Marlins, Mariners, Angels, and Blue Jays are in trouble. Everyone else is at least in the hunt. Not all teams are dance partners though.

ADDING TO THEIR REBUILD:

Pirates

Needs: Anyone and everyone they can get. The Pirates will take flyers on prospects and failed MLB guys under control.

Bryan Reynolds, OF (.293 avg. .897 OPS) It’ll be harder to get Reynolds, who is under team control, without giving up some decent pieces but the Bucs have shown that they are willing to take on quantity. Reynolds would take someone who can play right away and some prospects. He would line up next year in right with Vaughn and Robert, Eloy to DH please just to be out of the field.

Adam Frazier, 2B/OF (.324 avg. .844 OPS) As I mentioned before Frazier is a good player but he’s having a career year so these stats aren’t representative of him typically. But he was shopped as he’s ending his run of team control after next year, and the Bucs have infielders waiting. He would be insurance against Madrigal not being ready for spring training and would also slot into RF alongside Vaughn and Robert.

Only downside with these trades is that Yermin gets left out, or Vaughn, and definitely Engel. At the end of the year, that may not matter if Yermin continues to fall or Vaughn or Engel fails to get better. But Reynolds would be an upgrade so it could be worth it.

Diamondbacks

Needs: The Diamondbacks need pitchers. You might have to toss a few their way, but Stiever is a good building block for a deal, or maybe Jimmy Lambert. Tyler Johnson could easily be included.

Pavin Smith, 1B/OF, Arizona, (.283 avg. .773 OPS). Smith can hit, and has hit his way into an everyday role on the D-Backs. The knock is that he lacks the power for them to commit to him over Christian Walker, David Peralta, or Kole Calhoun in the corners and he’s not as fast as Ketel Marte, Tim Locastro or Daulton Varsho in CF. But he can play the outfield, and he’s what the Sox thought they were getting from Adam Eaton. In the Sox lineup as it was intended, Smith’s bat would play nicely anywhere and maybe would be the answer at the 2-spot. Smith becomes another OF candidate but could be the heir apparent to Jose. Given his age and team control , he might take a few prospects but there’s a chance that adding in someone like Jake Burger could be closer to a straight trade.

Kole Calhoun, OF (injured until next week). Calhoun is a slightly above replacement level lefty OF (a career OPS+ of 106). He would literally be Adam Eaton, if Eaton cheated BA for power. he makes $9 million next year so he’s not cheap, but he’s no worse than picking up Eaton or signing another mid level free agent. Calhoun had a solid 2019 and 2020, and has been fairly steady except for a down year in 2018. He wouldn’t kill the Sox at the bottom of the lineup, and would help against righties. Given where the D-Backs are, Calhoun is a salary dump and one the Sox could take on with a minimal cost.

Downside? Smith may yet falter and Calhoun is a one-trick pony.

Rockies

Needs: Always pitching with these guys. For the right guy, Lopez might be an option but Stiever, Johnson or even Marshall could be more attractive. But also, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story are likely to cost too much, so ignore them.

Ryan McMahon IF (.257 avg. .824 OPS). This would be a gamble. McMahon, career-wise, has that nasty split where he’s a .287 hitter at Coors and .224 away this year, but mashes righties at a .270/.873 clip. He’s a bench piece here but maybe the best Rockies hitter in 2021 given injuries. So does the Southside play like a mile high? He’d be a stopgap and possible platoon with Mendick this year and a supersub for the next few years of team control.

Garrett Hampson IF/OF (.247 avg. .735 OPS). He’s been a 2B and a CF this year, but Brandon Rodgers is taking over 2B and Yonathan Daza has Hampson pushed from CF. His 12 steals would play well in Nicky’s 9-spot ahead of TA, and he could replace Leury next year.

Downside? Hampson is having his best year but isn’t a great year. McMahon might be a bum outside Denver. These are dart throws that might be much the same as what’s in house.

Orioles

Needs: a new owner and everything else but catcher. The Orioles could look to trade Austin Hays, who could be a decent RF if he stays healthy, or capitalize on Cedric Mullins’ emergence. Both are speculative that they will be better than what’s here. But any prospects should be on the table, much like with the Pirates. Reynaldo and/or Adolfo, with an A-ball sweetener?

Trey Mancini, 1B/OF (.277 avg. .838 OPS). Came back from cancer, so he should live for today and come here to win. Still under team control for another year, he’s not a great outfielder but he’s an equal opportunity hitter and would help against righties. Set it and forget it, assuming he’s truly healthy.

Downside? Cost. Mancini could cost the Sox players that they would rather keep but then, if he’s a key piece in at least two deep playoff runs or a championship, there’s no downside at all.

The rest:

The Tigers have not much beyond Jonathon Schoop to offer, but he would be in the way next year. The Twins could part with Max Kepler, who was great in 2019 and middlin’ in other years (.212/.727 this year). The Royals won’t part with Whit Merrifield, beyond that they are in a tryout mode. The Rangers have Joey Gallo who is back to being all HR or nothing and not worth the trade.

MUTUAL BACKSCRATCHING

Here are guys on teams in trouble or contending where the Sox could send a ready-made assist for a ready-made assist.

Garrett Cooper, 1B/OF, Marlins (.248 avg. .720 OPS). A little like Pavin Smith in that Cooper can hit but his lesser power makes him not an ideal everyday 1B in a lineup where there’s less pop all around. Cooper has the advantage of being a guy that has been a bench guy as much as a starter, so he can move around a bit. The Marlins are hanging around the NL East and Cooper is something of a spare guy in their outfield and behind Jesus Aguilar at first. They have relied all season on youth at SS and 2B, so Leury would have been a trade piece but now might be needed. They could use bullpen help and maybe Evan Marshall or Zack Burdi are pieces to consider, with Jace Fry coming back there’s maybe room in the pen to move a guy. Marshall could close in Miami if he regains his form, but here he’s just struggling.

Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, Mets (.244 avg. .669 OPS). He’s underwhelming at a glance but his expected average, slugging and on-base are all much higher so Smith has been getting some bad luck in 2021. The Mets are about to get Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil back (with Albert Almora too, if that helps them) so shortly Smith will return to more of a bench role. He can hit lefties (actually better stats this year) as a lefty, and would be a guy that could take a DH platoon, and spell Jose at 1B or fill in the outfield this year and going forward. The Mets are actually in decent shape all around, but they have starter depth issues so a guy like Stiever could help them. But they may want more than that for a guy that is useful to them now.

The Rest:

The Jays need pitchers but have little to offer that is all that attractive in a 2B/OF beyond a guy like Randal Grichuk. The Angels aren’t flush with talent on the field right now with Mike Trout gone, and Justin Upton is pricey. The main contenders are probably not going to trade starters for guys like Evan Marshall, so you’d need bench pieces that are blocked and no one is that deep. Even the usually deep Dodgers could only offer up Matt Beaty or Zach McKinistry, who are the west coast versions of Jake Lamb and Danny Mendick.

MEATBALL TRADES

Ok, let’s get Stoopid.

Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees, (.289 avg. .920 OPS). Yeah, right, the Yankees will trade Judge. He’s a star player, wouldn’t help beyond this year as he’s a free agent…it breaks the rules. But the Sox likely won’t be able to retain Carlos Rodon…and the Yankees seem like a destination for him anyway…maybe you snake out a prospect with Judge so the Yanks can rent a much-needed starter and the Sox rent a much-needed bat? Is that a thing that could happen? No, ya meatball.

Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (.340 avg. 1.036 OPS). It’ll only cost the Sox Adam Engel and Dylan Cease plus probably another AAA/AA prospect or two. Winker has turned a corner the past two years and is raking. He would be beautiful in the Sox OF and DH rotation. But he’s also a controllable and cheap asset for the Reds, who would need to reload their rotation, bullpen and bench to lose their best hitter. Not happening.

Kris Bryant, OF/IF, Cubs (.291 avg. .911 OPS). Aaaaaand the Cubs will totally trade Bryant, who could probably play 2B, but the ask would be, well, maybe Rodon? The Cubs could play Hoerner when he gets back, have Bote and their current guys cover 3B like they have been, maybe they swap over a pitcher and Jake Lamb or Adam Eaton goes to the Cubs. It. Could. WORK!!! (No. It won’t.)

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox season carries on, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Shower Fresh: The sticky stuff. Doesn’t seem to be an issue here as no one has had the downturns of a Trevor Bauer/Gerritt Cole.

‘Lil dampness: Kopech taking his time coming back. Consider this a management of his innings but a little concerning that he’s not back.

Glistening: Adam Engel not playing back-to-back games. He’s needed now and he’ll be needed in the playoffs.

Swampy Undies: Yermin is a real hitter, but it’ll be a bit before he readjusts and that’s now another hole in the lineup.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: The Sox definitely need another bat. They are one more key injury away from having only half a lineup, and the pitching is great but they need production from at least 8 lineup spots regularly to get at least 4 guys hitting on any given night.

HAMSTRUNG OUT

THIS STUFF CAN RUIN A SEASON

The shortened 2020 season was supposed to mess with pitchers. They were going to struggle to amass their usual innings, they would be out of sync, etc. We were told to temper expectations for rookies who only played at alternate sites and even told that war horses like Lance Lynn would be something less than his 2019 self. We were told that guys who had opted out would be rusty, but maybe healthier than they’d been in years. We were told that the change in routine would mess with players.

BUT SERIOUSLY WHAT IS WITH THE HAMSTRINGS IN THE MLB???? Michael Kopech and Adam Engel are the other Sox that were notable for hamstring injuries in 2021 before losing Nick Madrigal, possibly for the season. But it is an absolute plague in the MLB right now. Searching the word “hamstring” on the MLB transaction pages for April, May and June 2021 the word pops 67 times. Clearly, there will be an issue ongoing this season with injuries that either MLB couldn’t have anticipated or just can’t stop. Regardless, Nick Madrigal won’t be the last star (he is a star, dammit) to be lost for a long time over an injury like this.

Where does that leave the Sox? Leury Garcia and Danny Mendick. Frankly, AAA Charlotte has no middle infielders that are better. Tim Beckham and Marco Hernandez are there with Zach Remillard, and all three are journeymen sorts that are unlikely to be improvements on Garcia in particular. That the Sox opted to call up Brian Goodwin to relieve Leury of OF duties is telling. The guys at AA are also not ready for primetime, and rushing lower prospects to the majors this year has been ineffective. Ask the Mariners about Jared Kellenic, who was viewed as can’t-miss and then proceeded to miss in 37 straight at-bats. The short-term answer is already on the major league roster, unless there’s a Jake Burger miracle at Charlotte where it turns out he’s a natural 2B the way Andrew “Nuthin’ but a DH” Vaughn is a legitimately good OF. So we get Leury and Danny…adequate to good gloves with weak to adequate bats. It would maybe be better hitting wise but way worse defensively to insert Jake Lamb at 3B while Yoan moves back to 2B. And the fact that such a thought isn’t patently unthinkable is frightening and frankly a pat on the back to Jake Lamb.

The silver lining for Sox fans is that they also won’t be the only team to lose star players. But the flipside is that the Sox are running out of replacements and so will other teams. The Sox already need to fill a hole in the OF, now they will need a 2B before the deadline.

SPEAKING OF THE DEADLINE

This feature was going to run next week with some fun trades, fantasy baseball-style, for guys that could help the Sox now and in the future with Adam Eaton being sent out to pasture. But emergency blogging is required when injuries strike. So let’s look at rentals and useful guys to replace Nicky Two Strikes, or at least keep Leury and Danny out of the everyday lineup. Keeping in reality, the Sox aren’t trading a king’s ransom in prospects that they no longer have in abundance to rent a star, nor are they taking on a huge contract for the next couple years. So guys like Trevor Story and Ketel Marte aren’t real options.

True Rentals:

Starlin Castro, Washington (.248 avg. .615 OPS). Not his best year, but Castro has been durable and decent for the most part. He’s never been the star that the Cubs thought he’d be, but the Nats are headed nowhere and Castro was just a guy brought in to make sure they had replacement-level or better infield production with guys like Carter Kieboom flopping badly at the major-league level.

Josh Harrison, Washington (.251 avg. .705 OPS). Harrison spent last season and started this season surprisingly looking like his younger self, but his last heyday year was 2017. He’s maybe less valuable to the Nats than Castro, or possibly the same.

Freddie Galvis, Baltimore (.255 avg., .784 OPS). Galvis has never been all that great but he isn’t bad either. He hit 23 homers in 147 games in 2019 and has 9 this year. The Orioles are a mess, Galvis is a guy that you suspect the Orioles brought in just to maybe flip him at the deadline. The fact that he was passed over by the rest of the league is an indication that he isn’t going to save the Sox this season, but he may be just good enough to not hurt them.

Eduardo Escobar, Arizona (.237 avg., .738 OPS). Escobar has had some really good years since he was traded from the Southside to the Twins for Franciso Liriano at the 2012 deadline. He hasn’t spent much of his time at 2B, in fact he’s primarily played 3B in his career. But he has played at the keystone. He has 14 bombs this season which is kind of eye-popping considering he’s never been regarded as a power guy, but he had 35 in 2019. His versatility might also be useful as the Sox have only Jake Lamb as a backup at third, and he’s looked a little, ummm, shaky with a glove.

Asdrubal Cabrera, Arizona (.275 avg., .828 OPS). This is basically Eddie Escobar 2.0. At this stage it is questionable how much time he can handle at 2B, but he has played at the keystone. He has power but hasn’t been playing everyday or all that much this season, which is kind of where he’s at in his career. His versatility might also also be useful as the Sox have only Jake Lamb as a backup at third, and he’s looked a little, ummm, averse to catching balls.

GUYS WHO COULD FIT IN FOR NEXT YEAR (OR BEYOND)

Adam Frazier, Pittsburgh (.329 avg., .863 OPS). Don’t get excited by the stats, Frazier is good but not that good. He’s a career .280 hitter with a decent .763 OPS for the Pirates, but the key here is that those solid stats come from a lefty bat that has a carer .282 avg. against righties and a career .275 avg. against lefties. So he hits righties well, a glaring issue for the Sox this year, and he’s a guy that can play 2B or OF. In other words, he’s what the Sox wanted from Adam Eaton but he can replace Nick Madrigal more than adequately this year at 2B. Next year, he can replace Adam Eaton. He’s 29, arbitration eligible for 2022 and making only $4.3 million this year. In theory, he could be a rental but as he’s under club control the Sox would view him as a 2-year guy at a minimum. The Pirates have been rebuilding since Doug Drabek, Bobby Bonilla and Bobby Bonds’ son were playing there. Frazier isn’t exactly in the way of some younger guys, but the Pirates have prospects that can take over. He wouldn’t come as cheap as the rentals, but he could also be worth it and would be in the budget.

Garrett Hampson, Colorado (.244 avg., .719 OPS). Not sure the Rockies would part with Hampson given that he’s 26, under club control until 2025 and in the midst of his best season so far. He’s played OF and IF this year, has 12 steals in 14 attempts, and is a guy that the Rox might be building around. But they need help, and Hampson could be a guy that the Sox use in an OF or super utility capacity for the next few years and the juice could be worth the squeeze in that regard.

Ryan McMahon, Colorado (.257 avg., .793 OPS). McMahon is a power guy, but frankly he’s a Coors Field guy too. His home and road splits in his less-than great career would be a concern. But, he’s off to a decent start and maybe G-Rate is a friendly enough park to keep the home fires burning (and not spending so much time in unfriendly San Diego, San Francisco and Chavez Ravine would help the road splats).

Michael Chavis, Boston (.273 avg., .758 OPS). Chavis can play 2B. He can play 3B. He can play 1B. He can hit. He can’t play much in Boston right now because Bobby Dalbec, Rafael Devers, Christian Arroyo, Kike Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana are all in the way. Chavis would take some trade capital as the Red Sox are very much in the hunt and Chavis is a guy that they could rely on in case of an injury.

Keston Hiura/Luis Urias, Milwaukee (stats very, very MEH). These two were the Brewers’ middle infield of the future when they arrived in 2019. Both have fallen out of favor by underperforming, and have been replaced by Willy Adames and Kolton Wong. Hiura still is stated to have a future as the Brewers’ 1B, but he’s been scuffling at the MLB level and raking at AAA. Urias had a great MiLB track record but hasn’t been great at the MLB level. Still, both these players would be a boom or bust type of trade, looking to get them to recapture their talent level as the 8th/9th place hitter in a very effective Sox lineup. As to whether they fit in 2022, if Hiura is a 1B in waiting he may have chances down the road and both could be key bench pieces. The hope would be that the Brewers will just want to cut bait.

Come back next week for some OF options and fantasy baseball-style deadline upgrades…and check out the show every Saturday and Wednesday wherever podcasts are found.

REWIND AND RE-DO

This is a t-shirt (sans Sox logo) that is available at Cotton Bureau.

The Sox are in first place. They are in the conversation as the best team in the AL, and record-wise are up there with the best in the MLB. Not much to complain about, but being from Chicago, it’s a citywide pastime and one indulges in such things from time to time.

They could be better. Really. Had they made a couple of different decisions in the off-season the Sox could be even better. They’ll probably rectify some things at the deadline and guys like Jace Fry and Adam Engel returning (Eloy and Luis too) will help. Still, the Sox current state is tied to the Sox off-season in many ways. Let’s look at what they did and what they shoulda did. But note, this won’t involve spending more money or making moves for guys that didn’t move in the off-season. These are things that happened.

Trade they made: Dane Dunning and Austin Weems for Lance Lynn.

They should have: Made the trade and signed Lynn to an extension immediately.

Signing they made: Adam Eaton to play RF. His $8 million or so salary was reasonable.

They should have: Made the trade for Andrew Benintendi. The Royals gave up Franchy Cordero, Khalil Lee and two players to be named later to get Benintendi. That maybe equates to Adam Engel, who the Sox need now but have lived without, OF Luis Gonzalez, who is a better all around prospect than Lee, and maybe instead of Gonzalez the Sox have a pitcher equivalent to what the Mets sent Boston in the trade. Benintendi has rediscovered himself in KC, looking like his 2018 self. At 26 and costing all of $5 million each this year and next year, he would have been worth Engel. He’s absolutely mashing righties to a .319 avg. and .868 OPS, his overall .289/.762 is worlds better than what the creaky Eaton has done. Since Eaton hasn’t played any CF, to the extent that Benintendi might have slid over to CF (71 career games there) it would mean more Jake Lamb in LF with Andrew Vaughn in RF, where after this year he’ll probably take over.

Signing they made: Carlos Rodón (1 year $3 million).

They should have: Done everything the same. Maybe added an option year. Rodón has been one of their best in the early going, putting injuries and ineffectiveness behind him. His results were insane early and more “really good” as of late. Still, with Lynn and Rodón as free agents it’ll be rough if the Sox lose both next year.

Signing they made: Liam Hendriks.

They should have: Samesies. Hendriks has taken a couple of losses and blown a couple saves, but no one is perfect.

Signing they made: Evan Marshall (1 yr. $2 million).

They should have: Non-tendered him. No one knew he’d be as bad as he’s been and for a hot minute there was talk he would close. Instead they could have signed Yusmeiro Petit (1 yr. $2.55 million) or Ryne Stanek 1 yr. $1.1 million) or Mark Melancon (1 yr. $2 million base salary). Just to name a few guys.

Moves the Sox made that are keepers: Jake Lamb and Billy Hamilton signed during spring training. Re-signed Lucas Giolito to avoid arb.

Moves the Sox should have skipped: re-signed Reynaldo Lopez. That’s $2 million wasted when a non-tender would have been appropriate.

Let’s assume that they traded for Benintendi and signed Stanek. That’s $2.9 million-$6.275 million lower in payroll (assuming Engel and Lopez are gone) with better results overall from two players who have grossly underperformed in Eaton and Marshall. So what could the Sox have for $6.275 million?

The answer is one of the other relievers mentioned, a guy like Hunter Renfroe ($3.1 million) who is doing decent for the Red Sox but wouldn’t have had a role to start the season here, C Mike Zunino ($2 million)and his 12 HR (avg. is sub-Mendoza like Yas and Zack though), or Tyler Naquin ($1.5 million), who has 10 bombs and an .853 OPS against righties and might have been a Jake Lamb-type bench option to start the season.

Or, Rick would have that much more in the hopper to get a guy at the deadline.

SPEAKING OF THE DEADLINE

Here are four names to ponder, true rentals edition:

Relief – Ian Kennedy, Texas (2.35 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 12 saves). The former starter has been a pretty steady reliever for the Royals and Rangers, and is on a one-year deal with a Texas team that is rebuilding. He’s the ideal candidate for the trade deadline but there could be a decent market for him, especially if there’s a contender that has a closer issue.

Relief – Mychal Givens, Colorado (3.10 ERA, 1.28 WHIP). A one-time closer of the future for Baltimore, it would be charitable to let Givens pitch for a good team. He’s on a 1-year deal with the Rockies as a prove-it and he’s been better than Rockies closer Daniel Bard.

OF – Corey Dickerson, Miami (.264 avg. .704 OPS). Not his best year but better than Adam Eaton, Dickerson might be squeezed from the Marlins OF if Jesus Sanchez rises to join guys like Garrett Cooper, Starlin Marte, and Adam Duvall. But he’s a true rental and a pro bat that shouldn’t be as big a hole as the Sox have had.

OF – Josh Reddick, Arizona (.328 avg. .816 OPS). Honestly this guy was out there for the Sox but they passed, for decent reasons. Reddick’s heyday is in the past but he’s been on a heater for the D-Backs and the Sox could do worse. He’s cheap and has a World Series ring, and eventually Arizona will want to play Pavin Smith, Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Christian Walker and Josh Rojas together, not to mention Daulton Varsho waiting at AAA.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox season carries on, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Desert: Tony bunting. His explanation was sound and he’s earned the right to make that choice. If Mendick gets the sac done right, and the rally is successful, TLR’s a genius.

After shower, with a fan: Evan Marshall is still shaky but also seems exposed in certain matchups over others. Maybe a pattern emerges?

After shower, no fan: Oddly, Billy Hamilton is very important and his injury is an issue.

Chicago in Summer: They need a bat. Eaton is done.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: The Sox NEED another bat.

SELF-IMPOSED SECONDARY STATUS

Photo stolen from the Daily Excelsior. The Sox Logo was added later. The people are friendly but probably wish they had better seats.

Forty Years of Training is Hard to Shake

Very recently, Sox in the Basement noted that the afternoon drive of the White Sox own flagship station called them basically irrelevant. With the Cubs making a run at their division in spite of a sell off, and the forthcoming Bears season, Waddle and Silvy proclaimed those teams as the story until maybe the MLB playoffs. It’s appalling to Sox fans to hear. On the show Chris thundered at them and Sox Twitter went on the attack. The Chicago sports media has long favored the Cubs like they were Cicadas with a butt fungus, compelled to do things against their will even if it costs them their own ass (that’s a real thing). But are guys like Waddle and Silvy merely the latest to have an accute case of the disease, or are they actually the disease?

I’m not defending them. But this town has been conditioned since it’s two MLB franchises were sold months apart in 1981. That was the year William Wrigley sold the Cubs to Tribune Co. and Bill Veeck sold to Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.

Ownership of a sports team has basically two jobs: hire a knowledgeable front office and market the team.

Take the Bears. George Halas knew football as a coach and player, but his role in starting the NFL was as a marketer. Why are the Bears the most loved franchise in town? It isn’t because of the success of the team. Frankly, the Bears have sucked more than they’ve been good. The ’85 team is held up as the gods of Olympus because that’s all Bears fans have for proof the team is great. But Papa Bear taught us that the Bears are a reflection of Chicago: tough and gritty. We are the city of big shoulders, and guys like Nagurski, Ditka, Butkus, Payton, Hampton, Tillman, Urlacher and Mack are who the city is. One of the worst parts of living here isn’t bad winter weather, it’s Bear Weather. That’s not true of course. But marketing over decades has those ideas ingrained. Even today as we excite at the idea that the Halas/McCaskey family would ever sell, we still view the team as Virginia’s dad taught us.

Back to 1981. The Cubs are sold to a media company. The White Sox are sold to a tax attorney who turned a legal tax loophole into a real estate empire, and a broadcaster who had started and sold his own networks. Right off the bat, pun intended, the Sox were in a marketing hole.

Within years the Tribune Co. had taken Harry Carey, cast off from the Sox, and made him the voice and face of Cubs baseball. They broadcast games on their own station, WGN, and used WGN’s nationwide presence to their advantage. The Cubs were heavily promoted on WGN, Harry was cast as the host of a party. Bleacher Bums. Cubs best players becoming household names, whether they were really any good or not. Leaning into the Lovable Losers vibe. Wait until next year…but the party’s still here. Fun at the old ballpark. Why? Tribune was a marketing company, having worked for years to establish itself as the top of Chicago media. It had a marketing team that knew the city well. It knew what buttons to push…long before Tyrion Lannister, Chicago would drink and know things. If that doesn’t sum up the stereotype of Cubs fandom, what does?

Meanwhile, Jerry and Eddie are savvy businessmen. But they’re also from New York and New Jersey respectively. Jerry knows how to leverage an asset into legit levels of profit. Eddie is something of a marketer, but his heart is in creating TV networks. For Jerry, the Sox are a business. For Eddie, the Sox are programming. Within years, the Sox games are often scrambled unless you pay for Eddie’s Sportsvision. Their voice is Hawk Harrelson, a southerner who played in the majors but for a different set of Sox. They bring in superstar Carlton Fisk, but he and Harold Baines are great on the field and lousy in the media. The Sox are content to let their work on the field market the team. Even the players were just part of the asset. Ryno was a milquetoast guy who was a great 2B and was marketed as a star, Ozzie was a damn good SS who has personality to spare but was marketed as a damn good SS. Sammy was kisses, smiles and joy; Frank and Albert were calculated hitting machines. It took Mark Buerhle and Ozzie getting a daily show for the Sox clubhouse to be marketed as personalities. For much of the 80’s and 90’s, Sox players were marketed for their exploits on the diamond. Meanwhile the Cubs wanted you to like their players as people.

By now, long gone are the days of Sox fans being cast as a rowdy bunch who blow up things between games of a double header. Now they are cast as real baseball fans of a real baseball team. Serious fans. While Cub fan equaled Bud man, on the other side of town The Kids could play and Good Guys wore black.

After all, we had to be serious about baseball to love what we had on the Southside. Like Blackhawks fans, you had to pay to see the team. Skin in the fan game, so to speak. While Wrigley became surrounded with places to party, Comiskey remained in a quiet neighborhood. While Wrigley was the star of the show, Comiskey was demolished for a competent yet generic baseball facility. And that after fans were publically discarded while Jerry went to his roots and negotiated a real estate deal. It was all about the product on the field. Jerry ran a business, made a product and advertised it. The Tribune created a baseball fan lifestyle and sold it.

By the 90’s things got closer to level between the teams. Cable was more ubiquitous and Jerry used his leverage as Bulls owner to get the Sox on WGN. But they were by miles the third team behind the Tribune’s own Cubbies and the dynasty of the Bulls. Hawk and Wimpy became a fun and insightful duo, if an acquired taste. Unfortunately, Harry had the years and miles catch up to him and turn him into something of a self parody. The switch to silver and black uniforms brought Sox gear to the nation, but most upfront with rappers, who were polarizing to say the least. The Sox were the kind of fun you didn’t talk about in certain company; they were appreciated for their baseball quality and the image they gave their fans. The Cubs were the baseball equivalent of ABC’s TGIF lineup of sitcoms…it didn’t matter of they were any good but you could imitate Sammy Sosa’s homerun kiss thing as easily as you could do an impression of Urkel, Balky, or anyone on Full House.

That’s not intended as an insult to the Cubs or their fans. There are serious Cub fans who are serious and smart baseball fans. There are Sox fans who are a drunken parody of William H. Macy’s character on Shameless. The fact is that the actual fandom isn’t what drives the narrative about which baseball team is more important, it is the perception created by marketing to a couple of generations of fans. Sox fandom has become perceived as a club where you need to know the handshake and password, dress code and pass a test. Cubs fandom is far easier, you just need to show up and if you forget your shoes and shirt, that’s fine.

So back to Waddle and Silvy and the notion that the Sox aren’t the story until the playoffs. ESPN 1000, The Score, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, the Tribune, the Suntimes, all the major media in Chicago that covers sports and sells advertisements based on ratings are looking for the broadest audience. Perception is that the Bears and Cubs are a more universal fandom, while the Sox, Blackhawks and Bulls are a more select group. So to get ratings, you aim at the bigger pile of bodies. Waddle and Silvy might just have pulled back the curtain too far, but from the standpoint of programming ESPN 1000, the Bears and Cubs fans are the biggest piles in town.

But they are the ones that have to change the narrative. Jerry is still a businessman and that doesn’t make him a bad owner. The Ricketts family are trying to peddle and control the lifestyle the Tribune Co. made for Cubs fans, and the Ricketts family may not be good owners. But there are multiple generations of fans who have their fandom framed by Jerry’s business-first approach and the Tribune’s marketing-first approach. And that won’t change really, unless Jerry and the Ricketts change the approach. Or unless fans are given coverage to consume. TV coverage and newspaper coverage are too fleeting to make a difference. Guys like Waddle and Silvy, Kap & Co., Mully and Haugh, Bernstein and Rahimi, Parkins and Spiegel, and Laurence Holmes are the first line of defense to make the Sox a bigger story. They can make stars out of TA where the Sox are content to let TA just be a good brand rep, or make Lance Lynn a city-wide hero for his humorous profanity and attitude. They can make the inner workings of a team meeting high expectations more front and center than the Cubs attempt to recreate the plot of Major League. Look, the Cubs are a story. The Bears are a story. But the Sox, they are a story too.

Ultimately, the media are just reflecting the perception of the Chicago audience. And starting in 1981, the Cubs and Sox owners made conscious choices about how they wanted their brands to be sold to the fans. One team sold the idea of being a fan, the other sold a product. One wants you to identify your personality by their brand, the other appreciates your patronage. Sox fans, as a result, have to create their own identity and value to media outlets, while Cubs fans are just presumed to be out there en masse. But Sox fans shouldn’t be mad at Silvy…he’s just been programmed by 40 years of marketing.

In the meantime, the password next month will still be bacon, but the handshake now has a second low five after the third snap. Study the ’85 and ’98 teams for those re-certifying, and remember that the shoes and shirt donations for Cubs fans will take place in August to get them covered for the fall. Go Bears.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox season carries on, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Shower Fresh: Injuries to Vaughn and Eaton. Better now than later.

‘Lil dampness: Carlos getting hit a bit more and Cease regressing. They will have their moments of both high and low.

Glistening: Kopech getting hurt. IL for hamstrings ain’t nothing to mess with. No.

Swampy Undies: You know, things are pretty good.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: The Sox STILL need another bat.

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