TCS Morning 10: Openly bad

1. Despite all indications all-season long that the Sox are one of the least likely teams to sustain a great, redeeming second-half run (they can't score!), many looked for this now departed four-game series with the Royals for a telling assessment of their worth as a franchise. 

Which just goes to show that sometimes the destination is more important than the journey. Now, the Sox are a far less attainable-sounding seven games back of the last playoff spot, with an equal number of teams to leapfrog for making up such a deficit on the Astros to matter, and the worst run differential and offense in the league. They're either running out of time to sell their valuables, or, if they were actually buyers, import three-to-four impact bats somehow. So we'll either be relieved or incredibly fascinated.

2. Chris Sale really didn't have his best stuff Sunday. He couldn't grab strikes regularly with his slider, and was frequently overthrowing his changeup, which allowed the Royals to sit dead-red on fastball more than you would like, even if you can touch 97-mph with pretty angry two-seamer action. The results slowly deteriorated as the innings that the Sox needed him to eat wore on. Sale gets ridden until he threatens to fully implode during his good outings, so it's no surprise it took a home run from friggin' Paulo Orlando and four-straight hits to finally drive him out of the seventh. Maybe he needed more rest, or less, or maybe he just can't strike out 10 guys every time out for a full-season.

3. Jose Abreu is making me sad. After getting five days in a row off for his menagerie of nagging injuries, Jose came back this weekend and collected one single and two walks in 18 trips to the plate and was mercilessly jammed by the Royals, who knew he was at a disadvantage trying to turn around on velocity inside, or anywhere, really. I know the Sox are going to play him until they're officially sellers but this is getting grim. The sixth-inning strikeout where Danny Duffy took him down going high and hard was painful to watch.

He's got a day off coming to him, Monday, but unless one of his trademark about-faces is on the horizon, this looks like it needs a DL stint, and given how well he's hit as a DH this year, longer contemplation on how that role could maintain his health.

4. Ed Farmer is making friends. His distaste for really any kind of display of joy--I don't say emotion because anger seems welcome--on the ballfield manifested itself into calling for Lorenzo Cain to be plunked for looking and yelling at his own dugout after what would be a game-deciding 13th-inning home run Saturday. The linked-to post from Royals Review's theory that Farmer has some longstanding antipathy for the Royals franchise--beyond irritation at how often they've been kicking the Sox teeth in for the last few years--based on his times as a player seems far-fetched, though. His equally aggressive desire for pitchers to dissuade bunters by throwing at them is also a long-held position. Dude likes throwing at people and seeing guys thrown at.

I've never been a Farmer fan, but this is certainly par for the course, and it seems the increased tension of this series--which featured Royals announcers offering hilarious revisionist history of April's brawl--has brought more attention to the archaic approach to the game offered by the radio booth.

On a side note, the already overzealous enthusiasm for bunting by Farmer and Jackson becomes even more curious if you add in their view that the bunter should be regularly anticipating fastballs chucked at his head to dissuade his efforts. 

5. J.B. Shuck is a good bench player on a team full of bad starters, so it's only natural that a campaign to see him play more has emerged. I've never been opposed to punitive benching, especially given how many unfocused blunders Adam Eaton has been a part of this season, but starting Shuck for any prolonged period of time is a very low upside move. He could easily outplay Eaton--and certainly Avisail Garcia--over a short span, maybe even the rest of the year. But he's playing behind them because the ceiling for the team with Eaton and Garcia playing well is much higher than just hoping Shuck can keep maxing out as a league-average slap-hitting bat playing good corner, not-so-good center outfield defense. It'd be one thing if Eaton or Garcia's flaming out was hampering the Sox in the playoff race, but uh...they're kinda bad, you know?

6. Matt Albers arrived a day late to help the bullpen depth in a meaningful way, but finally returned to action Sunday after missing two-and-a-half months with a broken finger suffered in...that wonderful Royals-Sox brawl. Albers initiating another brawl Sunday in his first game back would have been poetry, but instead he pitched 2.2 scoreless innings at the end of Chris Sale's stinker to save a bullpen bombed out by Saturday's cluster job. The only hit he allowed on the day came on a Kendrys Morales infield single that was a wondrous display of two men who are in the majors for baseball skill rather than athleticism.

And thanks to Albers, David Robertson will now have three-straight days off. Thank goodness!

7. Tyler Saladino's first big league home run came in the ninth inning to save the Sox from a shutout, during what was essentially a heat check for Royals starter Danny Duffy, who already had a career-high for his longest start after breezing through eight shutout innings. The 26-year-old infielder (can't get more specific than that) has now collected a hit in every game he's appeared since his 0-3 debut, and is already 11th on Baseball Reference's list of the team's top contributors by WAR.

None of which is to say Saladino is good, but that flashing a pulse quickly puts him above half of the positional group. In contrast to Shuck, tossing plate appearances to him is both an opportunity for short-term improvement, and of more use for the future than poking at the luke-warm coals of Conor Gillaspie and Gordon Beckham.

8. The 2005 team really can't be honored enough, given how long the World Series drought they ended was and how positively and warmly the fanbase responds to any mention of it. The franchise can often seem like they'll never be able nor willing to pull out of this victory lap, but few teams romanticize their own mythology as well as a Reinsdorf-led clan. 10 years isn't a long time, but start waiting 20, 30 years and folks start dropping off the map and the mortal coil. Let the champs smell the roses while they can.

On a personal level, having never really forgotten that team--if you keep track of SoxFest or team promotional events, they're never not doing some kind of '05 remembrances--it's more just an excuse to hear our favorite stories again rather than a landmark I had been waiting on. Next year they can bring Buehrle back, or maybe have a game against wherever Juan Uribe and A.J. Pierzynski are, and until they create some new memories and moments there will always be a chance to dredge up 2005. It's going to take decades until his becomes a mind-blowing trip down memory lane.

9. 2014 compensational round pick Spencer Adams debuted in High-A Sunday with six scoreless innings, after running a 3.43 ERA in 76 innings in Low-A. Not bad for a 19-year-old. 2015 first-round pick Carson Fulmer made his professional debut this weekend in the AZL, allowing a hit (then picking the guy off) and recording a strikeout in a scoreless inning of work. He'll probably be lapping Adams pretty soon.

10. Here's a thought experiment. The Sox, true to their defiance of deadlines as a concept, hold on to Samardzija through the end of the season, and are faced with the prospect of re-signing him. How much is suitable? 4/70 would be a sweet deal, but in world where the Red Sox paid Rick Porcello over 20 million per to be godawful, 4/84, with the potential to bloom to 5/100 is a more likely end-result for someone determined to test the market. 

The problem with getting into a bidding war like this is that the Sox don't really need Samardzija going forward, it would just offer flexibility to deal the more valuable Jose Quintana for a bat.