Jose Quintana's English is undoubtedly better in private than it is when he's cornered alone by a pack of beats to give some quotes after throwing seven innings. It's still a marvel considering he gave no interviews in English when he first arrived in Chicago, but he's still cautious. You can see him waiting on the big, blinking cues of whether to agree or elaborate on how he disagrees that adorn most questions about his place on the team. After he struck out 13 Twins last Septemeber, and looked even more like a long-term asset than usual, someone offered the softball of whether he wanted to be part of a 1-2 combo with Sale for the foreseeable future, Quintana simply affirmed, "Yeah, that's what I want."
It wasn't freely offered or emphatic, but Quintana knew his spot. Now he has a new one.
It's not like the writing hasn't been scrawled all over the wall for a while. When Samardzija was dealt for, he was another frontline starter to slide between Sale and "above-average innings-eater" Quintana. Pre-season coverage paired Sale and Samardzija as a duo, and just Wednesday leading up to the Opening Day, they announced a special "Shark Cage" section for Samardzija starts, much in the vein of Chris Sale's K-zone.
Every little item of hubbub for Samardzija makes sense on its own. Offseason acquisitions always get attention and overhyped. Samardzija's arrival brings a lot of local familiarity from his Cubs and college days, and his presence signals a new era of contention. Even just scouting him, he's more of a traditionally powerful and overwhelming top-line starter than Quintana, even if the performance record is inferior. Samardzija's contract situation also provides the Sox a reason to cater to him. Hell, he even should be in front of Quintana in the rotation just to split up lefties, since Sale seems healthy enough to make that April 12 projection a possibility and snap the rotation back to normalcy sooner than later.
All collected, though, it's jarring to see how much Quintana has been pushed aside for a new pitcher with no guarantee to stay in Chicago past this season. Samardzija's presence is a boon, but he came into his own elsewhere, he spent most of his career with the crosstown rival, is only years removed from kickstarting a testy exchange of purpose pitches between the Sox and Cubs after sidelining Paul Konerko with a mistake splitter to the face. Quintana, on the other hand, has been a bright spot through three trying seasons, overcame beyond humble beginnings and made his name in Chicago and inked a deal to be a foundational piece for the rest of the decade.
For innocuous or unfortunately sinister reasons, Samardzija has been deemed more ripe for marketing and promotion. Quintana after all, has been on the team for three years and people haven't been rushing to see him yet, but purely as a loyal fan, it's progressed from curious to downright grating. It's not enough for Quintana to just be overlooked around the league, it has to happen on his own team too.
It's all meaningless fan garble that doesn't probably hold any real weight to Quintana, who has at least $21 million reasons to feel supported by the franchise. Courting the new money and irking the regulars is always the safe way to shade things, and the Sox have every reason to lean heavy that way. And this is our little space to say that it feels forced and out of place.
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