1. What was that? What on earth was that? What in blue damn blazes was that?!!
Well, this is Jered Weaver throwing slop--mid-60s curveballs and a fastball so slow that Gameday reads it as a changeup--and still filleting through White Sox hitting for an eventual 1-0 victory. It was like watching a knuckleballer ace your team without ever throwing his knuckleball. Obviously Weaver has always had great command and pitchability, but not even he's been able to make this junk successful this year. Slow, slower and slowest can be hard to adapt to at first, but that's what the multiple trips through the order are supposed to be for.
Mike Scioscia removed Weaver after 6.1 innings at just 86 pitches, and it was inexplicable. He could have pitched another five hours. Jose Abreu hadn't even hit the ball out of the infield when he was pulled. The only person who touched up Weaver at all was Carlos Sanchez, which means Sanchez should lead off if the Sox have to play a slow-pitch softball team at some point this year to avoid relegation.
2. This joke is only but so funny, Adam LaRoche. The disappointing first baseman did not start Wednesday despite a right-hander who can barely break 85 mph starting for the Angels, so he was forced to acknowledge that he was being benched super-duper on purpose before the game.
LaRoche is refreshingly honest, but also doesn't sound like someone who sees the light at the end of the tunnel at this point. The question is whether this is a quick mental health break, or if LaRoche will be reduced to more part-time duty for the rest of the year. That LaRoche was brought in to pinch-hit against Joe Smith with two runners on in the ninth--where he botched the task of sitting there and taking four-straight balls, opting instead to ground into a game-ending double play--indicates we'll get plenty more attempts at rehabilitation. High-leverage rehabilitation, even.
Last season they were giving these plate appearances to Andy Wilkins, so just think about how much the situation has improved!
3. Adding to the comedy of LaRoche'e game-ending snafu was that the Angels defense--particularly Smith--froze at the call at first to argue with the umpire, and rather than sprint home, pinch-runner Trayce Thompson...kinda chilled out, eventually tying his shoes. It wound up being meaningless, since LaRoche was ruled out and his advance would have been overturned, but Ventura is always so aggressive in chasing marginal immediate added value with faster runners--frequently removing his few hitters who can actually reach base, and with a willingness that far outstrips his aggressiveness in pinch-hitting matchups--it's ironic to see his entry be so unprepared. Trayce is a raw rookie, and LaRoche is a diminished veteran the Sox keep trying to jump start, and Ventura got them both at the center of the action of a game-deciding moment, and got a fittingly humiliating result.
4. Jeff Samardzija was bizarrely good Wednesday night. He somehow stretched out an extremely high-stress beginning to his night to last seven innings, with a solo home run to backup catcher Carlos Perez being the only mark against him. Samardzija walked two, hucked a wild pitch, deflected a pair of balls for infield singles, and allowed leadoff hits in three-straight innings at one point, so while he put out a lot of fires, we also all watched him whip lighter fluid everywhere. I'm sure old-school types loved seeing Weaver win with 82 mph fastballs while Samardzija made mistakes in the zone with 96 mph heat with intense armside run, but morality lessons generally aren't that fun to watch.
Wednesday did represent a switch away from Samardzija's partnership with Geovany Soto as his regular receiver. Surprise, surprise, a pitcher paired with Tyler Flowers immediately ended a series of disastrous starts, and also got a catcher who...contributed a successful sacrifice bunt at the plate (seriously, Flowers is having an awful stretch at the plate even by his own standards). If even Samardzija is decidedly better off with Flowers, on top of himb being Sale's personal catcher and the stabilizing presence for Carlos Rodon, the opportunities for Geo Soto are narrowing. John Danks is already hanging by a thread every time out, and who wants to doom Jose Quintana? Doesn't the poor guy have enough to deal with? The Sox have a bad offense and a plus-hitting backup catcher who is apparently unusable. This has not been my favorite season of roster construction and usage, personally.
5. USA Today's Bob Nightengale has a column on GM turnover throughout the league, and just kind of mentions without qualification that he expects Kenny Williams to replace Jack Zduriencik in Seattle, or go to Toronto to become the team president.
My first instinct to snark, because that's what we do in response to every single element of baseball news, and because Seattle is in a bad position that we don't typically associate Williams with flipping. But it would actually be fascinating to see him in a new situation, 15 years removed from his first opportunity to be a GM, and removed from an ownership situation that likely was a large influence on his approach, or relative neglect, to amateur and developing talent. Also, maybe his international scouting guru won't blowtorch their entire IFA operation this time.
More than anything, I'm interested in what he says about Sox business removed from life as a company man. Since I'm not privy to what scouting connections would actually erode with his departure, I'm just in it for the stories, man.
6. Oh, Tim Anderson was cooking Wednesday night: 3-5 with a double and a home run where he turned around a 98 mph fastball for a bomb. Anderson is now hitting .314/.350/.422 in Double-A. He recently talked with the Future Sox guys along with Tyler Danish and a few other Birmingham Barons. It's worth a read but here's the money quote from Anderson:
Q: Most challenging pitcher in the Southern League?
A: “I don’t know. Can’t even remember. None of them [laughs], I’m hitting .300."
7. Chase Utley traveled west to the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night, placing a tangible price tag on what slapping an injury-prone veteran band-aid onto the White Sox infield would have cost if they ever sought it. Jeff Samardzija has had a terrible year, Melky Cabrera had to do backflips to get to league-average, and half the lineup is a huge disappointment, so the Sox getting a brief hot streak from a 36-year-old second baseman who was worse than Carlos Sanchez during the first half probably would not have saved them.
But, it's instructive. This could have been us, conjuring bullpen scraps to send west for another past-his-prime big name veteran. The Dodgers gave up a fringy PCL outfielder with some speed (Darnell Sweeney) and John Richy, a big (6'4", 215-pounds) right-handed pitcher who was former third-round pick but lacks a plus secondary offering as a 22-year-old in High-A. The Sox had that, but then they would have had injured Chase Utley and a still-bad team.
8. Just...still so very upsetting.
We're being silly here, but the more I watch this ad, the more it bothers me. The most memorable element of this moment "REDDICKDUDNMOO" is washed away so this dude can botch it. The other details aren't well retold by an all-is-rosy ad that ignores all negatives. Danks homered mostly because A's manager Bob Melvin thought too little of him to pull right-handed sidearmer Pat Neshek out of what wound up being a very bad matchup, and he was optioned back down to the minors less than two days later so the Sox could ride the dying embers of Dewayne Wise into the ground, and because Danks was a vestigial presence on the roster.
It was perhaps the 26th or 27th best player in the organization running into a hero moment, and the type of random occurence in time that's fun to memorialize, well, more when it's a kooky detail of a season that actually ended in something meaningful. Otherwise, you know, we could remember something cool that Paul Konerko, Chris Sale, or something someone on that team who was actually good. Geoff Blum hitting one home run in a 13-inning game isn't that cool if it doesn't win the World Series, you know?
9. Jose Quintana goes in the series finale Thursday night against Angels org-filler Nick Tropeano, who has made two starts this season separated by a couple months each. He is here because the Sox dinging up Matt Shoemaker last week was enough of a warning siren to get him sent down, opening a spot in the rotation. Quintana has for some reason issued 12 walks in 16 innings at Angels stadium, just in case you were lacking for bad vibes in this series.
10. Good morning.