Rick, I Think I Hate This.
The Sox re-signed Carlos Rodón to a one year deal worth $3 million. He represents another candidate for the backend of the rotation, and hear tell that he might be a swing guy even though his wife adamantly disagrees with Carlos as a pensman. I’ve run the gamut of emotions, from my initial negative response to trying to figure out if I’m missing something to trying to find the positive. Here’s where that journey took me:
KNEE JERK NEGATIVES – I found out when my Sox in the Basement cohort Chris Lanuti sent me a text. “Rodon is back. What the F**k.” He spelled the word out, but this is a family blog so we’ll assume he could have meant funk instead of fuck. My response, paraphrased, was that a minor league deal was ok, but when I saw it was a guaranteed major league contract it was infuriating. And I was furious. Why spend precious dollars on this guy? I don’t really care that $3 million is less than the $4.5 he was estimated to get in arbitration before he was non-tendered. If the Sox wanted him here, that $1.5 million is nothing. But we hear they’re broke, so why spend it on this guy at all?
Look, I understand his draft status and what he was supposed to be. But objectively, he’s not the second coming of Chris Sale or John Danks. He’s not Jon Garland or Tommy John. He’s not even Damaso Marté. Rodón has put together a 97 game MLB résumé and has a 4.14 ERA, a 1.379 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9 and 8.8 K/9. His ERA+? Average, dead on average at 100. Factor in that he’s 5 years on from his career high in starts, 28 made in 2016, and you have, at best, an average pitcher who can’t stay healthy. His best weapon is a slider, but the eye test over his 97 games is that his fastball is hittable and lack of a third legit pitch makes his slider too easy to sit on. Per Fangraphs, generally his career K/9 is above average bordering on great for a starter, but his BB/9 is 0.1 away from awful. He’s a project. He’s been a project since he was drafted in 2014 and made his Sox debut in 2015. So what’s infuriating about giving that project guaranteed money? He does not improve the 2021 White Sox over the 2020 White Sox. There are free agents with better histories that would give the Sox rotation a guy to take the pressure off the young starters. That means letting Kopech work his way back in actual games. That means letting Cease or whoever act as a 5th starter, with less pressure because the veterans in front of him are steadier and less taxing on the pen than a guy who needs to be possibly protected against a third trip through the lineup. Rodón is not such a veteran, because he couldn’t do that when he was given five years of chances to do it. If guys like Brett Anderson, Anibal Sanchez, James Paxton, Rick Porcello or Mike Leake, all of whom are veterans that can at least eat innings and/or have ample past success (and all better career WAR) sign for around $3 million, then Rodón is a waste of precious resources on a team with a self-claimed tight budget.
TRY AND SPIN IT POSITIVELY – After the deal was announced, Steve Stone pointed out that Ethan Katz is a potential difference maker for Rodón. And I can accept that Katz, having the same access to video and info on Rodón that allowed him to make tweaks to Cease and Lopez this off-season, might have seen something in Rodón that makes him think he can change him for the better. Maybe Katz can help him take stress off his arm to stay healthy, or fix his mechanics to give him better action on a third pitch, or has Codify-type info that suggests Rodón’s arsenal has been misused by previous coaches. Ok. It’s like getting a change of scenery without leaving town. The “change of scenery” move has worked well for many a player, like Sonny Gray leaving the Yankees or DJ LaMahieu going to the Yankees. I also saw a suggestion that Rodón is the best pitcher available that fits the budget, meaning the guys I listed above and others are too pricey. Considering the Sox might try to sign Lance Lynn’s caddy Jeff Mathis and a DH type, not overspending makes sense. Sure it does, we don’t need Jake Odirizzi for 3 years $36 million. Plus, below Rodón it gets pretty ugly, even the rumored signing of Mike Foltynewicz is a shaky dart throw. If $3 million is the pitcher budget, teams would take Rodón as an average guy for a 4th starter. Fine. Ok, in that light it’s a move that at least provides competition for Kopech, Cease, Stiever and others. A devil you know instead of trying to solve someone else. It’s at least not much different than a Yankees team pinning hopes on rebuilding Jameson Taillon into a starter on a competing team, except that Taillon has been an above-average pitcher when healthy. *Sigh*.
SPUN INTO TOTAL POSITIVITY? – Well I guess…I mean it is a, ummm, thing where he, uhh…I can’t. I can’t pretend that there is a fully good take on this, because it isn’t a good move on its own. Compared to the other moves the Sox made, Adam Eaton was a controversial signing, but when he’s healthy he’s a good all-around RF. One year of Lance Lynn costing Dane Dunning and a prospect raises eyebrows, but at least comes with a guy who received 2020 Cy Young votes and is the innings-eating, bulldog starter the Sox need in the middle of the rotation. Hendriks is expensive but the best at his job right now and market priced. Conversely, Rodón is a draft bust who wasn’t the answer a year ago when he was needed. You can’t spin this to make it a good signing at that point. Even a polished turd (and Mythbusters proved you can do it) is still a turd.
FINAL TAKE – Incomplete, but more leaning more bad than good. If other veterans sign for less, or if Rodón remains hopelessly average and doesn’t bring anything new to the table, or is left at AAA, or if this $3 million is all the Sox have left to spend and it costs them a bat, or any combo thereof, this is a really bad move. Then again, if Katz has a key to get more from Rodón, and/or if spending only $3 million on a 4th starter candidate means money for other help, and if the remaining free agents sign for more, it’s fine. Not great, but…fine that the Sox settled on familiar mediocrity. What has me skeptical about the budget savings being spent elsewhere is that the same day Rodón comes back, seemingly good DH/OF fit Eddie Rosario signs with the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage for a reasonable $8 million and one year. I’m also skeptical about the best at budget; Rodón didn’t seem to have many other suitors, making a major league contract seem like the Sox bid against themselves a bit, with other guys still out there. It is also becoming a concern that 40% of a supposed championship rotation is based on Ethan Katz fixing somewhat obvious mechanical issues that Don Cooper didn’t see or couldn’t communicate. I know the game had maybe passed Coop by, but Lopez’ arm slot and Cease flying open seem like rudimentary issues and Cease could still have control problems while Lopez’ still-diminished velocity causes him to serve up more meatballs than a cheap Italian restaurant. His ability to rescue Rodón is not a given. Overall, using money on Rodón is more bad than good for a team with supposed championship aspirations, because this isn’t a move that clearly pushes the Sox closer to the trophy. They need moves that elevate them, not keep them the same.
Whither the Bandwagon
Just a thought or many as we approach what will certainly be a bandwagon season.
For years, White Sox fans have been treated as an afterthought. The 2005 World Series is scarcely mentioned even though the team went 11-1. The Cubs are beloved for losing and getting sloppy seconds on Harry Carey singing the 7th inning stretch. Manny Machado is a Padre even though Kenny swears the Sox had the best offer, and Zack Wheeler is a Philly even though the Sox really did have a better offer. Carlton Fisk spends more of his various Sox careers in White but the Cooperstown cap is Red. In 3rd Grade a friend of mine suggested I wear my jacket all day since I was wearing a Sox shirt in a Northside school, lest I get beat up. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield: ‘No respect, I tell ya…’, and it would be easy to resort to very sour grapes. Resist! Resist I say! Resist the grapes as though you were a 3 year old demanding chicken nuggets and chocolate sauce with no time for fruit!
Look, the Sox didn’t get much bandwagon action in 2005, their success being met with a “huh” instead of a “heyyyy”. The Sox of 2021 and perhaps beyond are different, as they are young, exciting, have a national face of the game in Tim Anderson and possibly guys like Lucas, Eloy and Luis as they continue to make waves. The game should also become less regional in order to keep its place in the national entertainment conversation, but that’s perhaps another topic. Nationally, though, is where the bandwagon is really filled while locally you’ll actually have the bulk of your bandwagon interaction. Here’s types to watch out for:
Fairweather Fans: Yup, the chief bandwagoneers. They loove a front runner and to be seen where they think it’ll get them the most points in social media. Often the best you can do is high five them and make them buy the next round for the aisle. In Covid restrictions that’ll be harder. Better, though, is to welcome them, educate them on why they should have shown up sooner, and realize that they are not going to be lifelong companions so use them as you can. After all, Jerry can spend their money too. He won’t, but he can.
Hardcore Baseball Fans: Kinfolk to the Fairweathers, these guys tend to hit teams when the team becomes interesting and entertaining. Welcome these for they are our brothers and sisters, come ’round because we’re henceforward the good party. Unlike the Fairweathers, who only do sports when its fashionable, Hardcore Baseballers will actually be conversant on topics like 2005 and 1983, and know the players on the current team. They’ll also know about the other contenders and be generally a good conversation, though a bit arrogant if they feel they know the game better than you. And they might.
Da Noobs: Never before fans of the sport, or perhaps no allegiance to a prior team, these are creatures to be suckled as they are wobbling into a new world. Offer a nurturing teat (virtual or real, I ain’t judgin’) and hand (virtual or real, I ain’t handy) to bring them along into full-fledged fandom. They will be the first to bail at a bad experience, be it a slog of a loss or having a drunk woman claim you threw a cup at her when your hands were full (true story). You need to be friendly and inclusive, protect them from the bad experiences, don’t condescend their lack of knowledge, and they will eventually stand on their own as full-fledged fans. Also, I’m 99% sure that woman who accused me of throwing the cup claims she stormed the capital, but just peed herself a little yelling in a Baltimore Arby’s and couldn’t tell the difference. Also, there is no punchline where it turns out that I threw the cup.
Trolls: Fans of other teams who are self-styled scouts for their teams and say “we” as though they have a role in the organization (ya know, idiots who blog and podcast about teams like they know stuff). They are trying to clandestinely get info on the Sox (in this case) and will try and blend in, but get really obviously blown out of shape if you say the Sox will beat their real team. So, a Cardinals Troll (trollieus redbirdius) will get openly agitated if you say TA is better than Paul DeJong (bonus if you pronounce it “Powell Dijon”); a Cubs Troll (trollieus annoyinus) will bristle if Dallas Keuchel is stated to be a more masterful artist on the mound than Prof. Kyle Hendricks; while a Yankees Troll (trollieus yankinhimselfalrightii) will simply yell at you if you suggest that any Sox are better than the Bombers, even if you said you like Hanes socks better than Bombas. Feel free to throw a cup at them and mock them like 10 years later in a blog.
With all of the above, newly purchased swag and a dead-eyed stare at the concessions are the most obvious signs that they are at the game straight from the Bandwagon. Online, they will misuse Hawkisms and not understand when you reference The President of the Drake LaRoche Fan Club manning RF. Treat them kindly until they reveal themselves, then act accordingly.
A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:
- Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing.
- That the Kaiju Rodan is real and mad that I referred to him as Gary T.K. Rodan, or that Australian academic Garry Rodan thinks I’m mocking him and simply can’t spell.
- Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing…?
- Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (Even in the shower, somehow).
- “The team is on the floor” meant 2020 team member Carlos Rodón too, so he is the last notable signing….
- Is Ethan Katz really this good?
- Carlos Rodón is the last notable signing, but his wife thinks he’s better as a Pirate.
- Tim Beckham, DH. Yeah that’s right, I didn’t forget he signed for $1.35 million too. I’m counting the damn dollars now Jerry, Kenny and Rick.
- Eddie Rosario gets to take his vengeance tour at-bats as a Cleveland Assemblager instead of putting the Twins out of our misery as a White Sox. Not that worried, though. Bet he’s a wee bit upset if he stayed in the division.
- And warming up in the pen: Carlos Rodón.