1. Ok, they're done this time, right? The Sox are five games under .500 in August, with an awful -71 run differential, fresh off an 11-3 thrashing at home to the Rays, who now own a sizable lead on them in the Wild Card race, despite being fringe contenders at best themselves. The Sox hopes are done. This is what happens when your wrath of God winning streak only zips you into the very back of the pack.
We've buried this team before, multiple times already this year, but I'm going to start discussing them differently now, with an eye towards 2016 and beyond. I swear...right after I get through today.
2. What is this nonsense?!?!
Previously, the year-to-year wonder with Chris Sale, after he pulled off the trick of adjusting beautifully to the starting rotation, was how he kept raising his performance level: gaining endurance, adding elements to his arsenal, improving control, adding velocity, etc. This year, with a complete turnaround still entirely possibly, maybe even expected, we will wonder how he combined the most jaw-droppingly transcendent stretch of his career with some of the most emphatic thunder-kickings as he loses his fastball command.
Tuesday night he chucked it into one start, starting things off in the first unable to hit the broadside of...a US state, and got drilled for a two-run bomb by Logan Forsythe. At the drop of a hat, he not only cruised for the next three innings, striking out six of eight at one point, before the fact that he couldn't put any fastball where he wanted to overruled the elite change pieces he was throwing. Mostly awful Mikie Mahtook took him deep to left when he split the plate with a 96 mph heater in the fifth, and the Rays bled him dry in their third trip through the order in the sixth as his control abandoned him completely. His night ended with a gork shot single dropping in front of Adam Eaton, Eaton lollipopping a throw back in, Tyler Flowers letting the ball roll through his legs, and Sale being too deep in his own storm of inner torment to back anyone up. That, combined with Daniel Webb allowing every possible inherited runner to score, doomed Sale to another disastrous stat line.
Sale didn't really provide any postgame insight beyond burning rage, his velocity remains very, very strong, his stuff snaps and he seems healthy, so who know what gives other than he has garbage command at this point. If he's still the ace we know, he'll recover.
3. Sale now has a higher ERA (3.52) than Jose Quintana (3.50), and slides alongside Jeff Samardzija (4.35) and Carlos Rodon (4.84) in a Sox rotation that has prevented runs way below their talent level. FanGraphs' WAR thinks the Sox starting five is the best in the American League, but in terms of ERA-, they're just sixth.
Since we're looking ahead to 2016 now, this is technically supposed to be reassuring. They'll be better once things normalize. Since we're looking ahead to 2016, I'd like to see where Erik Johnson fits in. If it seems like I'm repeating this a lot, it's because I mean it.
4. Avisail was telling any skilled writer who would listen Tuesday afternoon about his plans for a revamped plate approach geared toward more power production. Garcia pledged to stay off of his front side when leveraging into his swing, and allow his natural power to play in more to his contact. Garcia's comment about "using his hands" is kind of confusing, given how wristy he is already and Eno Sarris at FanGraphs having a long interview Josh Donaldson Tuesday where he dismissed the idea of focusing on hand-placement for power swings, but the more important point is work being done to adjust than quibbling over what works for him.
And sure enough, to put a bow on the story, Garcia got a garbage-time hanging slider and flipped into the left field bullpen at the end of the blowout. He kinda dived out over the plate to get it, suggesting he came upon it through his previous MO, but the first step to hitting more home runs, is hitting more home runs.
5. Trayce Thompson made his MLB debut at the end of the seventh, pinch-hitting for Adam Eaton. He fell behind early on a questionable call, and wound up waving at a Chris Archer slider to cap off a strikeout in his first big league PA. His father recorded the whole affair on an iphone, and I think his mother might have been dozing off. In her defense, the pace of the game really slackened near the end. It's rumored he's getting a start thrown his way Wednesday, but for whom!
The AL Player of the Week? Red-hot Melky Cabrera? Newly dinger-focused Avisail?
6. Good results covered up how much Not Better At All Daniel Webb has been since being recalled, but he really got lit up like a Christmas tree Tuesday. He hung both of his plus breaking pitches at will, let all of Sale's runners score, and then gave up back-to-back home runs in the seventh.
Webb was fired through the system as soon as his stuff started playing up, but his command has staggered so far behind in his development that he threatens to burn through his opportunities with the Sox before he has his a-ha moment and turns into a plus reliever. If that ever happens.
UPDATE: And now he's hurt.
On the other hand, YES, NATE JONES!
7. He was on an expiring contract, but Dave Dombrowski being released from his deal to be the Tigers GM is shocking. Not only was he brilliant in engineering Detroit's turnaround from doormat to regular contender, he just completed a brilliant trade deadline where he extracted meaningful value for the last two months of David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, possibly giving the Tigers another year or two to fight for playoff berths and success with Miguel Cabrera.
No one on the Detroit beat seems to be able to figure out why this happened. That Dombrowski was fired due to owner Mike Ilitch's impatience with this team's failures seems unreasonable giving the aging core, and his approval of deadline sales on Price and Cespedes, but a bizarre press conference introducing former No. 2 man Al Avila as the new GM gave credence to the notion. Avila wasn't offered the position until Saturday, Dombrowski had to pull his kid off the field from shagging fly balls Tuesday afternoon so they could exit the premises, and no one but Avila was present for the news conference. And at that same news conference, Avila gave a not-unprecedented, but still baffling announcement that he expects the Tigers to make a run for the playoffs this season.
The Tigers have been too great and smart, and are too well-funded, to think of them as foolishly booting the source of their brilliance in a fit of impatience, but there are definitely signs they just pushed out a top-5 GM in the game. Maybe Dombrowski wanted out or was losing steam, and they had to, but this definitely didn't make them better.
8. I ignored it in the last morning 10 because I had better things to do, but Tuesday was the anniversary of the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura thing. I've tried to go full-bore homer revisionist history on this: the primary takeaway from retro recaps of the event is that Ryan is a jerky dinosaur seeking violent redress for every shot to his ego, but...
Ventura doesn't so much tackle Ryan at the end of getting punched 83 times as much as the whole mob consumes the both of them. And what the hell is he doing there at :08? Why does he freeze? If he just drives through with his legs he would have saved himself hundreds or thousands of interviews over two decades. If we swap Ventura with Bo Jackson, this instantly become my favorite video of all-time. It'd be titled "Bo Jackson hits Nolan Ryan at the mound and knocks him 350 feet back and over the centerfield wall," and I can say that for certain because I would have cut my own version and picked my own title.
9. Sometimes, you can feel the universe winking at you, and the overwhelming majority of the time, it seems to be in a mocking fashion. I'm not second-guessing the Samardzija trade, it seemed like a good, aggressive move, and you can't just junk that assessment when the ideal results don't transpire, but this is not what I wanted to see late Tuesday night.
Semien has slipped down to roughly his career-average 89 wRC+ for the season, and is still an unmitigated disaster at short, so it's not too bad...
That's some excellent Bass. He's spent most of the year in Triple-A, and his shiny 2.64 ERA far outpaces his actual quality, but there are also reports of him hitting mid-90's with regularity...
Ok, now we're just getting mean-spirited here, there's no reason to get into a tit-for---
No! Don't give it a name! Now it has agency and power. Josh Phegley still has a 121 wRC+ in microscopic playing time that probably reflects the A's true level of faith in him, and Rangel Ravelo's hot return to action in Double-A hasn't answered any of the long-term questions on how he'll hit for power, but the Sox pushed big for 2015 production and got meh results, and are now seeing all the interesting little system pieces continue to be interesting little pieces going forward.
Except for the Phegley thing. That guy even being a useful backup is galling.
10. Surely Carlos Rodon can be counted on to stop the bleeding of the Sox rotation Wednesday afternoon. He had a 6.57 ERA for the month of July, but still struck out 27.6% of the batters he faced!