1. In the soon-to-be seven year drought between White Sox playoff berths, and in the nine years out of the last 10 where they have missed the playoffs, the Sox have finished within five games of first place in their division just once. That year, 2012, is probably more remembered as a gut-wrenching collapse than a spirited playoff bid that finished just short. Their next-most impressive season, 2010, saw 88 victories, but was dead on its feet after Jim Thome walked-off the Sox with a 450-foot blast of irony out of Target Field in mid-August. In gunning for the playoffs with annual thirst, the Sox have not only failed to deliver anything to hang a banner about, but they failed to deliver us from the doldrums of expanded roster September goof-off sessions.
The past week has provided us a good preview of what kind of ball this month will offer: the Sox grappling to a draw or worse with teams using Jean Machi as closer, whatever on Earth Seattle was doing with their bullpen, and Brad Miller chucking a would-be game-ending routine throw to first into right field. We mostly enter this month trying to figure out what players will be factors for next season, but this is a level of play that's given us in the past: Zach Stewart's near-perfect game, 2012 AL MVP Candidate Alejandro De Aza, Dan Johnson hits three home runs in a single game, random Dayan Viciedo outbursts, serviceable-looking Dylan Axelrod, and way back when, Joe Crede OPS'ing .911 in September of 2002.
2. Hard information on September call-ups has been hard to find so far. None of the names will be as fun as watching Tim Anderson slice up Double-A competition and finishing a homer short of the cycle. My favorite part of the video is the guy letting the ball bounce off his face, but that's just me. Anderson is wrapping up an age-22 season hitting .312/.351/.429 with 12 triples in 550 PA.
3. This seems to be as well-grounded as anything
It's three-catcher season. Rob Brantly is the sensible, game-managing depth option, and Kevan Smith is the non-prospect sorta prospect who could OPS .800 against garbage pitching and garner undue excitement. Such choices! I would prefer Brantly, since I just want a backup option for Flowers that would allow for Soto to freely hit more, but why do I care about Soto hitting? The season's over and he's a free agent veteran whose game management is akin to whipping acid on the game's starter pitcher before the first pitch. Brantly showed hints of being a serviceable MLB backup before, so maybe he could do that again.
4. Speaking of which, Tyler Flowers fueled a ton of misguided optimism for his bat by slugging .683 in September in limited time vs. garbage pitching. Do it again, Tyler. Fool us again. Slap on some nightvision goggles and drag that season line toward a .700 OPS and keep the romance alive. I'm ready to believe lies about your bat being competent just so I don't have to see Jose Quintana take two hours to pitch four innings again.
5. The man who knows things, Scott Merkin, predicts Frankie Montas, Erik Johnson, Leury Garcia and Micah Johnson. Not a single new face. Montas, was called up earlier this season as an extra relief arm for a doubleheader, but has not actually made his major league debut yet.
Montas, a burly 22-year-old right-hander who is comically listed as six-foot, two-inches and weighing 185 pounds, has been starting exclusively since he came over from Boston in the Jake Peavy trade, but can touch 100 mph with a promising slider. That, along with fringy command and a below-average change, and just a huge, hulking frame that makes repeating his delivery a challenge, has made his development a waiting game on when the Sox will cut bait and just embrace his ability to help right away in the bullpen. They certainly will this September.
The White Sox drew David Robertson back off waivers Monday after the Yankees claimed him, but a real thing Montas could be is so lights out that he places himself in the mix for next year's pen, making someone expendable. Even Robertson? Probably not directly, no. That's foolish. Bad question.
6. Erik Johnson will do...I donno. He should be theoretically be in the mix to be a starter next season, given that Jeff Samardzija is a free agent, but there hasn't been much work on looking ahead, since Shark dive-bombing the season for all of August was done in the name of 'win-now.' Not done in the name of 'win-now' was anything truly aggressive, like giving John Danks' starts to Johnson, who is presumably his superior if we have any hope for Johnson at all.
So now he could, slide into the middle of a six-man rotation? Giving time off to Rodon seemed like an option earlier, but he's on his best roll of the season with a ton of momentum. They haven't treated this situation in a way that convinces that they care about it a lot, but watching Johnson do sorta maybe ok I donno against September competition is how they decided to give him the job at the start of 2014. His bizarre disaster of a season took some prospect shine off him, but he's overwhelmed Triple-A hitters with a four-pitch mix all season. He's ready for more.
7. Leury Garcia is here! What's Leury gonna do?
Micah Johnson is here! What's Micah gonna do?
There's only so much time in the middle infield to go around. The Sox have never given the slightest damn about Leury Garcia's max potential, so I can't imagine they're going to get curious now, even if he did slice his K-rate nearly in half at Triple-A this year. Their incuriousness is probably well-founded, but just make claims that he was actually a legit return for a year and a half of Alex Rios, and not just window dressing on a salary dump, even more jokey.
Carlos Sanchez is not an entrenched uber-prospect, but he's been a decent player for nearly two months. His bat treading water seems like a better bet than Johnson suddenly getting MLB-quality defensive footwork, but Micah has been an offensive powerhouse in Charlotte, and will likely earn close to split time. In related news, maybe Gordon Beckham never plays again. Which, ok.
8. Avisail Garcia likely won't be splitting much time other than leaching DH at-bats from Adam LaRoche, as he tries to build off a mildly promising month of August. Garcia hit .278/.331/.435 in August with a season-high four home runs, but hit his last bomb on Aug. 10 and has slugged .329 since that point. In starting his power drought immediately after a multi-HR game, Avi did teach us a good lesson about the Hot Hand Theory. As much as I like the alignment to get Trayce Thompson in the game and DH Garcia, that the Sox are desperately trying to get this guy to hit while simultaneously being forced to acknowledge that he's their worst defensive outfielder is the sad state of the project.
9. Robertson got taken off of waivers after the Yankees claimed him, because the waiver period is not a good time to deal a big money closer to a contender, but it's not an absurd concept to explore. He's not a "bad value," as an elite closer, but with Nate Jones re-emerging, good years for Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam, and hope for Frankie Montas, you can imagine again a decent right-handed relief corps without him, and the Sox are so naturally bad at developing hitters, it's not hard to see them having to badly overpay to not be awful at multiple spots in their lineup. That could be more important than paying Robertson to be great, rather than being merely 'good' for less money.
10. We're joking, right? We're all in on the joke about curses in baseball games? It's tongue-in-cheek when national baseball reporters get into hourlong Twitter wars with the commentariat about jinxing a no-hitter? It's just a stupid joke when a construction worker, on a city contract and making so, so much more money than me, tosses a Sox hat into the concrete mix for construction at Wrigley Field, and just kind of riffing on the joke when FOX32 goes out for man-on-the-street interviews and gets a half-dozen comments about the curse implications of putting a hat in concrete. We're all just kidding, I'm sure, and none of us are really this stupid.
At least today is Chris Sale Day.