TCS Morning 10: We coulda had a good weekend

1. We shouldn't be talking about this.  I certainly don't try to shoehorn Robin Ventura into everything. Hindsight sniping at a manager who's job and motivations are mostly invisible is not fun or compelling writing. Melky is alive again, Adam Eaton is a star, the Sox offense touched up David Price with Jose Abreu hitting out of the No. 2 hole and were all about to take two out of three from the Tigers in convincing fashion.

But instead we're on this crud; where the merits of leaving your starter in for the eighth inning and letting him face enough guys to blow an entire 4-0 lead is a managerial decision that both needs to be debated in the year 2015, and then argued again that it's a significant blunder, and only then before getting dragged into the stalling argument of whether any action that is not a complete solution is worth doing.

I wouldn't have thought that such an incident would need to still get worked through after the initial horror, but outlets with far more reach than this one have been pumping out more confusion than Samardzija being left in an amazing four batters too long to ruin his own brilliant outing. So let's clear things up.

2. Being capable of seven shutout innings but not eight, is not a significant shortcoming. He's not even being paid "all that money" to do much more, since he's being paid like an solid No. 3, and with how awful the Sox defense has looked, Robin Ventura trashing his ERA, and every White Sox starter happening to have a worse ERA than their peripherals, I'm really getting on board with the idea that Samardzija has been a solid No. 3 starter ruined by the doomed circumstances of this team. Maybe the right-hander who slurps up innings to the degree that it sends his manager into a fugue state and never walks anyone is actually fine.

Even if he's fine, the fourth time through the order is not where you really want to trust anyone (even Sale) with unless it remains low-leverage. And about that.

3. It stopped being a low-leverage situation pretty quickly, and since it was a four-run game, Ventura should have been ready for that, if not having someone warming by the start of the inning, then certainly after the first runner reached. Even if Samardzija went 1-2-3, he would have started his fourth time through the order. Once the first two reached, he was due to face Miguel Cabrera for the fourth time on the day. "Pitch count isn't everything" is not just a crutch for old school types who miss complete games, Samardzija being comfortably under 100 entering the eighth undersold how much we should have been ready for his performance to wane.

Maybe once things started going straight to hell and the lead was at stake, you wanted David Robertson ready rather than Zach Putnam, but anyone who isn't capable of outperforming a starter on his fourth trip through the order, shouldn't be warming up in the eighth inning in the first place. No one warms up instantly, but there are stall tactics to use to avoid something like a flagging starter face the heart of the order with bases loaded--and the Sox even employed one!--but Ventura ignored their options. It was a singularly inexplicable stretch that would be better thought to be an aberration, caused by outside circumstances we can't see, except...

4. Robin has done this before. This is both in history and a microcosm of his issues with managing pitchers. As many brought up, Chris Sale in Los Angeles last year was an even more extreme example of this--a more dominant pitcher, a stronger outing, a bigger lead--and Robin seemingly took no lessons from it. We're not simply reacting to a bad season and a bad team and demanding a head, there are negative patterns that don't seem to be improving.

5. That doesn't make Ventura what's wrong with the Sox or make removing him now, or eventually--since the season is tanked and you might as well actually take time to find a replacement this time--but this is not a binary question (the players or the manager). A baseball team is big with a lot of elements, and even big-name trades and acquisitions are only shifting the needle so much. You have to just improve and optimize every bit you can and hope it all eventually adds up to a quality total product. Neither Carlos Sanchez, Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Flowers nor John Danks are singularly killing the Sox anyway, but if you have enough guys around that aren't helping, it obviously adds up. Total inaction is as poisonous as overreaction, even if it's painted as even-keeled wisdom in contrast to the ignorant wailing of fans that all and any criticism is categorized as.

6. How the hell did Adam Eaton become the whipping boy in all of this? The guy with an .855 OPS this month, who is fourth on the team in home runs despite being barely over five-and-a-half feet tall? Better yet, he's being cast as lazy, despite being such a reckless try-hard that he was specifically instructed to tone it down last season. It just goes to show that if you stink in the first month of the year, or don't run hard that one time during a day game where general Chicago sports media actually have nothing better to do than pretend to watch, it doesn't matter what else you do.

7. This all comes after Kenny Williams gave Ventura the dreaded public vote of confidence before the start of the weekend, and providing assurance that everyone is in regular contact with him. It was a keen response to the notion that Ventura's strategic foibles are just something the front office grins and bears in light of his other strengths.

‘It falls on my desk,’ Williams said. ‘I hired the manager. I hired the general manager.’
— Scott Merkin

Well, gee, Kenny, when you put it that way...

8. Melky Cabrera's numbers in June after clocking a real, live, major league home run over the weekend:

BA: .286

OBP: .331

SLG: .396


Cabrera's a big reason why the Sox have had a terrible start, but this just makes offloading the blame for things Ventura is doing in the here and now on players trending upward more comical.

9. Besides the fact that a rainout and two off-days this week made it that they could, I've yet to see a reason for Danks getting skipped in the rotation other than that he's been getting trashed on the regular, which feels like it would be sliding toward a larger admission. If he's someone you're just ducking because it's in your best interest to have him pitch less, maybe start exploring your internal alternatives.

10. Chris Sale starts Tuesday night in St. Louis, where he will presumably be trying to extend his streak of games with 10 or more strikeouts to eight in a row. St. Louis will provide a sobering example of an overpowering colossus helmed by a young, handsome, possibly tactically deficient manager.

Let us take a lesson from this. That lesson being, do not write a "The Sox could learn something from the Cardinal Way," article because we will all hate-read it.