1. The 2015 White Sox are done for the year. Thank goodness. What an atrocity, what a complete bungling, what an across-the-board disappointment, what a nihilistic disaster. I took in the finale in person because--well, a friend offered me tickets, and I got to spend time with my mother--but mostly to make sure they were dead.
Save for Frankie Montas, Trayce Thompson, and incurable try-hard Tyler Saladino, the task was already complete upon arrival.
Briefly threatening to be no-hit by Daniel Norris again, while three guys buried in the depths of the org at the beginning of the year provided the only pulse to a 6-0 loss was a fitting ending to a year that saw the Sox:
--Have their huge offseason trade rental provide them with one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball.
--Get disappointing performances from every single one of their free agent acquisitions that they offered a multi-year deal to. J.B. Shuck and Geo Soto were serviceable reserves, though!
--Witness a historically great but oddly disappointing Chris Sale campaign
--Come to grips with Jose Abreu as merely an above-average and reliable lineup anchor, rather than an irresistible ball of flame who makes up for the incompetence of, like, two other positions.
--Have their big, developmental project of a right fielder revealed to be not a major leaguer
--Push themselves into an offseason debate of "Is our shortstop so over the hill that we should play someone we know is terrible just to save money?"
--Play Mike Olt. Like, regularly. For a month. On purpose.
--Give up on their Spring Training success story that they never should have talked themselves into, Micah Johnson, in mid-May.
--Lead the league in outs on the bases, finish near the bottom in Ultimate Baserunning, and slag it up in terms of defensive efficiency and come in at dead last in UZR too.
--After three-straight years of unforgivably sloppy play, take it upon themselves to...fire the bench coach whose contract was expiring, and bring their maligned and consistently unsuccessful manager back for the last year of his deal.
--Get a protected first-round draft pick and narrowly avoid finishing last in the AL Central.
2. Let us not forget the real heroes of 2015. J.B. Shuck and his eight pinch-hits. And five pinch-hit RBI. And his .273/.370/.409 line in high-leverage plate appearances, capped off by his ninth-inning rally to clinch fourth place in the AL Central Saturday night, and Seth Smith, who unwittingly clocked the go-ahead eighth inning home run Sunday afternoon that knocked the Mariners out of protected pick territory. Thank you, Seth. Thank you, Jack Burdett. The combination of true desolation while salvaging a shred of dignity is beautiful, beautiful.
3. Well, they finally fired Mark Parent, that lightning rod for criticism, that widely identified problem source and poisonous element in the White Sox universe.
Firing the bench coach achieves the twin purpose of providing a refutation of the Robin Ventura regime while stopping short of substantively addressing it. Rick Hahn expressed full confidence in Ventura's ability to manage a championship team, while confirming that he would be the first White Sox manager to turn in three-straight 85+ loss seasons and keep his job, and now has the unenviable task of finding a bench coach with the requisite experience--and bilingualism!*--to actually upgrade the metrics-friendliness of the Sox tactical decisions, without simply being the more qualified elephant in the room during the Sox dogged dedication to a manager who lacks the experience, results and regard around the league to merit the commitment he enjoys.
There's never been a bad team whose manager's job status hasn't been challenged, but between the absurd tunnel vision of Ventura's hiring process and the Sox already notorious reputation of loyalty to a fault, there's never been a sense that he was being assessed on an objective basis, and the churn of all Ventura's non-Cooper assistants seems like the compromise this organization has made between being hungry for results, but only on their ownership's terms.
4. In other dishearteningly awful news, the Blue Jays tried to give Mark Buehrle two innings on Sunday, to give him 15-straight 200 inning seasons, only to see him mercilessly shelled until manager John Gibbons pulled the plug.
Despite a strong start to the season, Buehrle had an awful September and is expected to be left off the Jays' playoff roster, and according to Bruce Levine, will retire instead of joyously returning to the Sox and eating innings for another decade. You know, like we planned. Buehrle didn't confirm the reports after the game, but Levine hinted that after 15 years of unheard-of durability, his shoulder might be pushing him out the door.
Buehrle will not make the Hall of Fame. Despite being one of the most famously durable and indomitable players of his era, he needed to be an even more extreme longevity guy to have a chance. If he departs, baseball will be losing one of the most unique and fascinating figures in the sport; a player who's amazingness was enhanced by how ordinary he appeared and who lent credence to the romantic notion of this game being a special craft whose most learned purveyors can defy the brutal battle of the fittest that rules most sports.
He will truly be missed, because I truly doubt I will see him be replicated.
5. What was the best part of Chris Sale breaking the strikeout record Friday night? The record-breaker being a backdoor slider two inches off the plate, just like his coup-de-gras punchout in his 15 K-demolition of the Cubs? Him sealing the season with an actually good start, with seven innings of one-run ball against a stripped-down Tigers lineup? Or perhaps Steve Stone opining that Sale would probably get enough time to seal the record, then taken out after five innings to take it easy on him, only for Robin to let him pitch into the eighth of a close game?
In seriousness, Chris Sale's mid-season stretch was absolutely unreal to witness, and it's gratifying that we'll have a constant reason to call back to it. Over a 12-start window from May 12-July 11, he had 12 starts, threw 92 innings, struck out 131 batters (12.8 K/9), allowed 72 baserunners total, for a 1.76 ERA and a .171/.209/.275 batting line from opposing hitters. Just like you may never see someone be as steady as Buehrle was for 15 years, you might never see someone vaporize major league hitters for six weeks like Sale did this summer.
6. It's not quite gasp-inducing like the laundry list of injuries revealed after the Stanley Cup Finals, but confirming that Adam Eaton's left shoulder will require arthroscopic surgery after he wrapped up a career year at the plate (.287/.361/.431, 118 wRC+), to deal with pain he's been suffering from since July. And then, it's alternately depressing since offseason maintenance surgeries, even minor ones, eventually have diminishing returns.
Tyler Flowers, also confirmed he's having knee surgery. Like his shoulder surgery after an awful 2013, Flowers refused to really acknowledge any way it limited him. Despite being the best defensive catcher on the club, he's not really the long-term cog that Sox fans sweat over wasting the prime of, even if he is 29 and help is not really on the way.
Adam LaRoche's efforts to end on a high note saw him get into one game over the final week and go 0-3. Things do not seem so great with that.
7. Rick Hahn spoke about Avisail Garcia's future, and mixed in the kind of optimism he pretty much has to express if he has any hopes of moving Garcia for value or maintaining positive relations, but did so while mixing in fairly straight talk about the total lack of plate discipline, and how his defense is mostly awful with some outfield assists and homer-robbings thrown in.
For many reasons, I am very down on the idea of seeing much more Garcia. He entire offensive season was an inability to adjust to or counter the diminishing returns of looking to shoot singles to right on every outer half, very brief and inconsistent moments where he tapped into his raw power, and lumbering defense that is nowhere near acceptable for someone who is likely to leave so much of his hitting potential on the table. He has the potential to both block Trayce Thompson, gum up the works for acquiring a corner OF bat, or 1B/DH upgrade, or someone who treads both territories, and is such a half-assed jack of all trades, master of none that it's hard to see a smooth transition to a bench role.
However, if we take Hahn's words at face value--which we should only do as a rhetorical exercise--I don't necessarily have a problem with what he said. Defeatism can't actually become part of the developmental strategy of the organization. They need to address the flaws in their position player development, not abandon them, and becoming a team that abandons players at the first sign of trouble. I'm way out on Avisail, but it would be an aggressive move to cut the cord at age 24 and one full year, and if they really believed in his bat, it would stand to reason that they still have some faith at this point.
8. Erik Johnson and Frankie Montas both finished their campaigns in for 2016 playing time strong, and in completely different ways. Johnson seems to be trying to slowly transition in Bartolo Colon, and erase all traces of off-speed offerings from his game. His outings are ugly, turgid affairs, his peripherals are terrible, and he gave the Sox a 3.34 ERA in six starts, none of which went shorter than five innings, and none of which allowed more than three runs. He looks ready to go give the Sox 180 innings of mediocrity in 2016, which is...alluring at least in its relative certainty.
Montas, on the other hand, is not stretched out to make full-length starts, and has had occasional stretches, even during Sunday's four-inning relative masterpiece, where he looked ready to walk himself out of the game all together. Frankie has far more upside and excitement, but is more a fun toy to dream on at this point, than someone who will need to make 30 starts next year like Johnson. That would seemingly make him the more likely trade candidate, though other teams need large amounts of mediocre innings too.
9. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to read our work this season, who listened to a podcast even for five minutes before being appalled by the lack of professionalism, who smirked at a ESPN power rankings comment, who tweeted at me about Mike Olt, or who tweeted at the TCS account and got radio silence because Collin and I combined probably check the mentions three times per week. Thanks to everyone who signal-boosted our stuff, who reached out to show respect to our work, and thanks to Dave Schoenfield who puts on this network in the first place. It's been truly a blessing to have people appreciate this labor of love.
10. And as the season ends, remember to never stop fighting for what you believe in, even if it's real dumb.