1. First of all, get these Cleveland clowns up out of here. In a four-game sweep of their division rivals, the White Sox got a long look at their spiritual twins. The Indians came into the year with a brawny rotation that prompted many--including most all of the TCS staff--to pick them to win the AL Central, only for them to be undermined by awful defense and abandoned by several black holes on offense. Just like the Sox, higher early ERAs than expected for big-time starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar offered some optimism for a recovery, but this team looks like it's on the express train to nowhere, or stranded in the lost city of Brohio, or whatever expression you want to deploy for a 75-win season.
2. Carlos Sanchez may be the first Chicago athlete in over a decade to openly enjoy Cleveland. He entered the the series with a .254 in almost 200 plate appearances on the year, and proceeded to go 7-14 with two bombs and a double for the weekend. It wasn't like he Mickey Mantled these balls, but they weren't cheapies either, Sanchez knocked both his homers out to the deep part of the right-center gap of Progressive Field, on a clearly very lively weekend for the ballpark. He's now on a nine-game hitting streak on what's quickly turning into an actually good July performance at the plate.
At this point, Carlos Sanchez at his most molten-hot is good for a ~.750 OPS month, so let's not switch our feelings on him too drastically, but this has least sufficed to hold off the Micah train for now, while offering a tantalizing look at how many games a not grossly incompetent offense would would have won.
3. Speaking of which, Melky Cabrera hitting in the middle of the order has not been Robin Ventura's joke on the world for a while now. He's dragged his season line right around the very depressing league average with a .346/.371/.593 surge in July. His 2-4 Sunday performance actually dragged down his slugging total for the month.
I still can't put myself to declare the beginning of the season as just a slump, and not indicative of real decline that he had to adjust to, but South Side Sox' Jim Margalus declared this weekend, he's climbed out of the pile of problems to worry about. Melky should be thought about more as a plugged hole for the next two-plus seasons. Which is good, since there's still plenty that isn't working.
4. Any other team with any other season history would be spending this weekend drooling over the starting pitching. A perfectly typical Chris Sale outing (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) was easily the worst showing of a weekend that saw Jeff Samardzija further burnish his trade value and wrap up his ninth-straight outing of seven innings or more and days that rank among the career-best for Jose Quintana (first career shutout) and Carlos Rodon (No walks or runs allowed in 6.2 innings Sunday).
The Sox starters become more interesting to follow if they bow out of the race. Chris Sale is a given and isn't going anywhere, but Samardzija and Quintana are the Sox primary trade chips to play with, and Carlos Rodon looking more like he'll be a plus contributor in 2016 than someone with an Edwin Jackson period to rumble through could dictate the team's direction.
Also, please let us see what Erik Johnson has.
5. Carlos Rodon asked "Why not us?" after Sunday's game, and with four games against the Actually Even Worse Red Sox coming up, the Sox have a real shot of getting within two games of .500 before their schedule gets competitive again right in front of the trade deadline. The Sox likely will not get the blindingly obvious indicators on their decision on whether they need to sell, and will have to actually make a bold insight on their current status and future. Gulp.
Then again, Buster Olney also reported that the Sox were holding out for "four players" for Samardzija (quantity is not all that matters, but that's a lot of bodies), so perhaps the Astros package for Scott Kazmir wasn't their move to make.
6. Any notion that the AL Central does not belong to the Royals got washed away this weekend. They acquired Reds ace Johnny Cueto for the 2015 stretch run in exchange for lefties Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb and Cody Reed. It's a trip to see the Royals in win-now mode, but this is a very needed boost to their starting rotation: the weakness of the team.
From a White Sox perspective, it's nice to see the Royals theoretically shortening their window by dealing from prospect depth, but I'm not sure they really did much on that end with this trade. There are no top-half of the rotation starters headed to Cincy in this package.
7. SHOULDA BEEN YOU, LAROCHE
Since walking 22 times in the month of May en route to a .420 OBP, LaRoche has collected 10 walks in his last 167 plate appearances and slapped up a .538 OPS, no thanks to the Sox not being able to provide him with anything resembling a platoon partner. Not only have his struggles submarined the Sox, they're taking him out of obvious trade opportunities.
8. Alexei Ramirez is citing a "friendly meeting" as the reason for his July turnaround Nick championed on Sunday. I can't see what a friendly meeting would be anything other than saying "We know you can do the job, but we both know you stink right now and it can't go on," but--and this is blind speculation--the number of times Ventura has referred to Ramirez needing to "block stuff out" or alluded to his personal life, coupled with the reminder that the after-the-fact revelation in 2013 was that he was playing in the wake of one his family members was murdered, is really worrying.
9. Untested theory alert: I would love to see a leaderboard on the average lead every closer walks in with for their save opportunities. David Robertson has a sparkling 2.48 ERA with even better peripherals, but the only reliever with at least 20 save opportunities and a lower conversion percentage than his 81% mark is Fernando Rodney, who has been legitimately awful. Tyler Clippard also has a 81% mark (17 out of 21) with a similarly low ERA but hasn't been blowing people away with nearly the efficiency of Robertson. Without the time to look it up today, I'm betting the margin of error Robertson gets pales in comparison to those of his counterparts.
10. What good reason would there be to not revisit Ivan Calderon's 1987 catch where he scaled the wall of Tiger Stadium to rob a home run from Alan Tramell?
Gone too soon, Ivan.