1. Thursday night, an obviously fluky and flimsy redeeming quality about the last few years of White Sox baseball fell to pieces. Hard-working but consistently outgunned fifth starter John Danks stopped dominating the AL Central champion Royals, and got the shelling that's probably been waiting for him for quite a while now. Bad defense and walks can turn into a six-run disaster quickly, but 11 hits in five innings means you were just getting resolutely hammered. Danks was hammered.
And so, in suffering his 15th loss of the season in a 6-4 defeat to the Royals, Danks added a disappointing coda to a season that was mostly about coming to terms to the disappointment that his return from surgery has been. He's still has a better ERA than Jeff Samardzija, and they can never take that away.
2. Thinking of Samardzija, the notes from Jon Heyman about the Sox holding off on a trade get more grating the more you go over it:
"Reluctant to repeat the White Flag trade."
First of all, why are we seriously hearing about trades from 18 years ago, from previous CBAs, in regard to precedent? Second, as Nick pointed out on Twitter all of Thursday, what is infamous about the White Flag Trade? Do we discuss the potential division-winner that got broken up? No. Was the prospect haul notoriously bad? It wasn't great, you wanted more than high-leverage relievers, Mike Caruso flamed out after a decent rookie season and Lorenzo Barcelo flamed out after accomplishing even less, but that carnage isn't regularly discussed either. The infamy of the White Flag Trade is in the name; the sense that the Sox were giving up.
Well, who cares? Public perception doesn't factor into whether or not it's the right thing to do. I loathe to take this sort of anti-consumer perspective, but being goaded into short-term thinking by the uninformed is never something that should be allowed to bleed over into the GM's office. There is too much long-term failure for band-aids anyway. The Sox have proven themselves too bad at gunning for the playoffs, for the perception that they are currently in the process gunning for the playoffs to provide much solace.
Finally, 18 years ago!!! In this rare instance, the Sox showed themselves to be ahead of the curve. The White Flag Trade would never be written about the way it was in 1997 today, not when praises for the fruits of blatant tanking are being sung across town. The Tigers, fresh off 75 playoff appearances in a row, with a roster full of franchise heroes still clutching to their prime, and closer to a playoff spot than the Sox were in 1997, just did this! Save for the objections of their clubhouse and their meddlesome and impatient owner, they were widely praised for their work across the league. Maybe take a lesson from the franchise that's kicked your ass up and down the street for half a decade.
3. I swear I don't roll out of bed thinking of how to trash all things White Sox. New videoboards for the stadium, of a style that apes the classic design of the scoreboard and pinwheels of Old Comiskey Park, seems like one of those stories that can only have a positive approach to it.
And to some degree, kvetching about how it was funded by the state is tortured post-mortem. The $7.3 million for these screens is part of an annual budget for the ISFA--the state agency that "manages" U.S. Cellular--that has already been allotted, and was enacted by a clause to keep The Cell in step with other MLB facilities, that was already agreed to, and is part of a larger framework of how the state of Illinois just provides the White Sox a stadium to play in, that was set in place before I started grade school. The politically sophisticated and well-informed can mock anyone who asks why the state government chose subsidizing a baseball park for Jerry Reinsdorf over funding pensions for public employees, or supporting their schools, and they would be very factually accurate to do so.
If that degree of separation of this announcement from the farcical alignment of priorities in our society is enough to allow you to enjoy the idea of watching highlights of the Sox on a massive, spanking new high-definition screen, and look up to center field and see exactly how badly Joe West screwed up in real time, that's fine. People have enough to deal with in their daily lives without this pet issue being rubbed in their face. I would say that I pass no judgment to anyone who dismisses this concern, and I will genuinely try to make that the truth.
But as someone who dedicates hours every day, dozens every week, and has to justify to himself why I provide essentially free promotion and attention to this private enterprise with which I have no real association, this is a painful reminder of the real damage the bloated sense of importance we lend to professional sports can do.
That the first spec photos of the boards had Conor Gillaspie on them, however, is a moment I will ALWAYS hold in my heart.
4. Credit for Daryl Van Schouwen writing a story on the momentum of the Sox manager situation that a beat writer is uniquely positioned to write, even without direct confirmation from the team. Van Schouwen wrote there's no apparent internal push to get rid of Ventura at the end of the year, and that generalized public quotes from Rick Hahn about "everyone being accountable," are the closest anyone has come to indicating that he is being blamed for how things have gone.
However, Van Schouwen does indicate that bench coach Mark Parent could be allowed to walk after the season as his contract expires, making way for the Sox to hire a Latino replacement. This both adds some context to Ventura's otherwise hyper-cryptic comment about his coaching staff, and now suggests that having a connection to Latino players on the team is another thing Ventura's reign was struggling with in addition to all the tactical crud and maintenance of young arms we already crow about.
5. I could however, watch Jose Abreu tear up after knocking in his 100 and 101st RBI on a loop for awhile. Counting stats like 30 home runs and 100 RBI are silly and imprecise as metrics for performance, but when they represent to a player the realization of six months of hard work and commitment, they don't seem as silly anymore.
Similarly, no one should use Abreu and Albert Pujols being the only two guys to have 30 homers and 100 RBI in their first two major league seasons as a jumping off point to say they're comparable; Pujols completed the feat at a younger age and in far more emphatic fashion, but who are we to denigrate how sincerely humbled and honored Abreu is by the association with a man he views as a mentor?
6. Meanwhile, WHAT?
9,000 plate appearances for Juan Pierre per year in front of Paul Konerko and he couldn't get home 100 times?
8. While we're running stats, I had the displeasure of coming across a table of the worst hitters in baseball for the second half. Two familiar faces makes the list that's topped by the Royals' frequent leadoff hitter: Tyler Saladino has had the sixth-worst second half at the plate of any qualified hitter, and Avisail Garcia has had the fourteenth-worst. Saladino's results are disappointing, but the work of a utility profile. His hit tool is below-average and he has gap power. As a result he's challenged in the zone far too often to walk much, he produces minimal power production yet still strikes out in one out of every fives times up. He looks like a professional up there, but when you don't have any standout components of your game at the MLB-level, nor limit the ways you can be attacked, the bad results pile up pretty fast.
Garcia is just the inverse of his hot start in the first two months. We asked if he could he prove himself as the sort of elite hitter-for-average who commands the outer half of the plate so well that he can carry a .350 BABIP all year. He's not. Take away his batted-ball luck and he's simply dreadful.
9. At least the final two games of the Royals series were tank-tastic. The White Sox are tied for the ninth-worst record in baseball, with the Mariners only a game behind in this race to be among the most pitiable.
10. Chris Sale needs three strikeouts Friday night to pass Ed Walsh's single-season franchise record, which has stood for 107 years. Sale already owns four of top six White Sox seasons for strikeout rate per nine innings, with only closers Keith Foulke and Terry Forster keeping him from owning all the top slots.
This is the last time we'll get to watch him this year.