1. Death is Curt Casali at home plate with the ball. Absurdly well-prepared for our arrival, unavoidable. Alexei's leap, are our efforts to endure, survive, even transcend the irresistible forces of our way out. Alexei's leap is life itself. It's noble, but ultimately doomed, and perhaps how doomed it was from the start adds to its nobility.
2. Otherwise...ugggghh what a trip to the dumpster that Monday night 5-4 loss to the Rays was. Wasted was:
--A good start by Jose Quintana
--A go-ahead bomb by Carlos Sanchez of all people
--An offensive rally in the ninth keyed by Alexei Ramirez and Adam LaRoche
--Dying in the bottom of the ninth with a potential runners on the corners with no one out situation
Now the Sox have six teams between them and a playoff spot, need to win both games coming up to finish this series ahead of the Rays, and are behind teams that blatantly sold at the deadline. Good thing we didn't let them suck us back in?
3. There were others things that took down the Sox Monday night, but Joe McEwing sending Alexei Ramirez home on a little LaRoche broken-bat looper into short center field that caused Ramirez to freeze on contact, was a mistake that doesn't need to be examined any farther beyond the 30 feet he was thrown out by. When you miss by that much, there's not any way to defend it. That there was no one out, or that Ramirez wound up doing a swan dive into home plate trying to duck a tag--which both looked like it should have killed but somehow didn't injure him because he's Alexei Ramirez--only add to the problem.
To his credit, Joe McEwing took full responsibility immediately after the game, both explaining deftly why Ramirez froze on contact and owning his mistake.
That quote is telling. McEwing has always shaded aggressive under the notion that he would win in the long run challenging defenses to execute perfect relays on 50/50 plays. He looked like a genius in 2012, when the offense was good enough to make the longview of his strategy visible within the same game, but since the offense has gone into the tank for three years, every mistake has a potential to be a blown last chance. That doesn't make the Ramirez send better, or excuse him from other blunders this year, but it's hard to think of someone who is more directly affected by trying to factor in dwindling opportunities to snap decisions.
4. Perhaps it would be better to focus long-term discontent on Avisail Garcia, who followed up McEwing's error by blowing a still fairly promising situation of Leury Garcia on second with one out in the ninth, only to strikeout on three-straight 93 mph letter-high fastballs. It was his third whiff of a night that was only adorned with a looping double and a run scored at the plate, and was dragged down with an ugly throwing error in the outfield, where he seemed to be playing some bizarre alignment where he stood on the lip of the warning track for much of the night. Perhaps his recent success with robbing home runs has driven him to specialize in only that.
So far Garcia's split two months of looking pretty good with two months of looking really awful. The awful months were worse and more recent, but in terms of pure months count: breaking even on the months!
5. Quintana came out of the gate pitching like hot garbage Monday. As someone who makes his living being within an inch of his target, he spent the first inning missing by a foot, gave up three-straight hits, plunked a batter, threw 30 pitches, escaped with one run allowed by the skin of his teeth...and then went on to throw six strong innings, completing his 12th quality start in his last 13 times to the bump.
The starts where Quintana is dominant and I would tell the baseball world to stop and look at his majesty are rather rare, but no one spins C stuff into B+ results as reliably as this man. What a gem.
6. Remember to always listen to James Fegan and the TCS Crew when it comes to armchair analysis of Jose Abreu's health! Since I begged for them to DL the big man at the All-Star Break, and bemoaned the torture that was watching him try to tough it out for a team without real playoff hopes, he's hit .313/.410/.597 and hit five home runs in 18 games (two that needed review, oddly enough, one of which was total BS). This stretch was punctuated with six total bases Monday night against Tampa.
And just a reminder, Abreu fouled a ball directly off his shin Sunday, took two minutes to be looked at trainers, staggered back in the box, then hit a 395-foot laser beam over Jacoby Ellsbury's head in center. And that was probably one of his worst games since the All-Star break. Analyzing baseball is great once you'll realize you will always be wrong.
7. Probably the most far-reaching element of news from Monday was the scouting department shuffle the White Sox pulled off by promoting Assistant Scouting Director Nick Hostetler to Director of Amateur Scouting, and pushing Doug Laumann up to a newly created role of Senior Advisor to Scouting Operations. Laumann had been in his previous role since 2007, whereas Hostetler has been the No. 2 man since 2012.
This jostling reminds of the Rick Hahn-Kenny Williams switch, where a younger company man gets promoted to the top seat, and his superior gets retained in a nebulous, advisory role in the front office. Every loyal White Sox man gets a soft landing if they want it. That combined with internal promotion doesn't suggest a major overhaul, but Hostetler didn't exactly hide where change should be expected.
That certainly seems like a welcome change, provided the Sox developmental luck grows alongside their adventurousness.
8. Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu both earned AL Player of the Week honors. We already cheered Abreu's wrath of God spurt that was seemingly spurred by him breaking all of his limbs at once, but Eaton also apparently was getting on base at a .600 clip that I must admit to barely paying attention to, since he only golfed one measly dinger during that stretch. We've spent so much energy rationalizing that Eaton's performance this year is "still just fine," but he's rapidly closing on exceeding his breakout 2014. His raw OPS is alredy higher than his finish in 2015, thanks to his power outburst.
Both Eaton and Abreu were mostly shocked that they won over Melky Cabrera, who hit .483/.516/.828 over this same stretch, and really who can debate that this man is the victor?
9. Discussing Alexei Ramirez's defense is mostly a disaster-in-waiting, with his average-or-worse tendency for errors usually distracting from the larger effect of what was--at his peak--elite range and arm strength. That his errors often take the form of lazy throws doesn't help this phenomenon.
For the first half, the demise of Ramirez was two-pronged; his bat was terrible, and his defense was slipping to 'unremarkable' and failing to compensate. Now, as his bat has returned in the second half, he's looked newly alive in the field as well, and our overlords at the SweetSpot say those dreaded defensive metrics are backing that up. ESPN's Mark Simon named Ramirez the Defensive Player of the Month for July, crediting him with a MLB-leading 22 "Good Fielding Plays," and playing the key role in a mid-season revival of the Sox groundball defense. Nick Schaefer's call that Ramirez just might play out his contract is looking prophetic.
10. It's Chris Sale vs. Chris Archer tonight at U.S. Cellular Field. It's not a big deal or anything. It does not matter. It's whatever.
Orrrrrrrrrr it's so great that I wouldn't care if both these teams were 20-80, I would feel blessed that such a wondrous spectacle was being held in my hometown. How great is the MLB season where incredible duels of hyper-talented pitchers are happening multiple times per week? Life is a trip.