TCS Morning 10: Born winners

1. I'm wondering how much time I should give to this 14-inning marathon when interest seems like it's...waning.

I guess watching your team blow a night of John Danks wildly outperforming Sonny Gray can be a bit deflating. Or just four-run ninths of any kind, or games where a passed ball seals a five-run meltdown. Seems like all the fans were having a good time, though.

2. Melky Cabrera's 14th-inning single to right, Geovany Soto's mad two-out dash to home, and Oakland catcher's Carson Blair's unforgivably slow tag off a typically strong Josh Reddick throw home ended Monday night/Tuesday morning's game after five hours, nine minutes of the type of needlessly harrowing staring contests between two teams going nowhere, with endless September-bloated bullpens to draw from, that makes you wonder if there's still some pace of play reforms that need to be considered.

The one benefit of the Sox being the best equipped team to cocoon into a scoreless hibernation state is that they are now 13-3 in extra-inning games. Just think how charming this trait would be if it wasn't a quirk of their that is borne out of the sum of their flaws. Non-David Robertson relievers threw six innings of one-hit, shutout ball with seven strikeouts to fuel this marathon/death slog/victory, including two impressive-looking shutout innings from Dan Jennings, but hey, we can't all not be David Robertson.

3. Robertson has been great this year by almost every statistical measure we care about. He's the only guy who can keep up with Chris Sale's strikeout rate, he's posting a career-low walk rate, he's having good batted-ball luck, and four home runs in 56.1 innings would be his lowest rate since 2011.

He's got as many blown saves as any closer working with six, only trailing in the overall standings to two guys who have long since lost their closer's jobs, and one hapless Red Sox middle reliever who is victimized by the blown save stat being dumbly applied. Robertson is not new to closing, and up until now, closed games in much higher leverage and in a much more scrutinizing New York atmosphere, and been outstanding. He would have earned the hell out of a blown save on Monday if it were an eligible save situation, but is there anything to learn from this season other than saves can fall apart for fluky reasons and maybe small leads and bad defenses don't help? I hope not. "What's wrong with the seemingly excellent David Robertson?" is not a fun research project.

A better research project would be trying to suss out what's true in this goofy stand-up routine Flowers and Robertson put on after the game, where Flowers both implies he'd be indifferent if Joe West was killed before his eyes, and that he interfered with Josh Reddick to prevent a home run. I'm going with the former being extremely true, and the latter being untrue, because a catcher who could spot home run pitches and break them up would be worth $80 million per year.

4. Haters and critics would tell you there is nothing to look forward in a mid-September John Danks start, but look at this little mystery! Danks is taking a little step back before his full wind up! What does it mean? Beyond being an insignificant timing mechanism that will fail to add any mph to his fastball, this is what I have always found charming about the last three years of John Danks in post-surgical hell: his constant tinkering. Everyone is always making the adjustments, but Danks furiously flipping through options for an edge as all the world rises against him is tragically noble stuff.

Then again, Danks threw seven innings and allowed three runs, and was one of the few people delivering a respectable and consistent performance--albeit while continuing the Sox starter quota of three solo homer runs--so who is really pointlessly tinkering out there?

5. Sonny Gray's Cy Young bid took a significant blow as the Sox tuned him up for seven earned runs, including two beautiful homers to left, over three innings, or really just two innings, since Gray's command boarded a flight and went back to Oakland after a lightning-quick first. The Sox laced line drives and loaded the bases in the second, but after it became apparent as Gray unraveled in the third that he simply wasn't himself, the grim satisfaction of an ace getting blown to pieces by a mediocre team became sort of sad. This is your fault, Chris Sale.

Abreu, who both launched a two-run bomb to left--his 28th--off a flat Gray cutter in the fourth, and fisted a two-run single to drive him off in the fourth without recording the out, was one of the few profiteers of the night's chaos, going 3-6 with two walks, and raising his line to a .293/.348/.514 mark that's quiet to everyone that's ignored the Sox all season. Which is everyone, and after last night, you can imagine why.

6. Trayce Thompson would have also been among the night's stars, having laced his fourth home run of the season out easily to left-center off a hanging curveball from Gray, but is probably more notable for clumsily faceplanting and spraining his left elbow on a ninth inning play that both looked like he initially broke his forearm in 37 places, and kickstarted the taxi to the dark side that was the top half of that inning for Robertson.

Thompson reportedly just has a sprained elbow after x-rays came back negative, but it'd be a shame for him to miss much more than a few days, because unchallenged playing time like this doesn't just come around all the time, and with Adam LaRoche having disappeared (six games played this month as he deals with a bad knee), he's been allowed to keep his charmed introduction to the league going and get some real consideration for an actual roster role next season. If the Sox completely cheap out, that would allow the opportunity for Thompson to push Avisail Garcia toward stealing plate appearances from LaRoche at the DH, and soak up appearances in center field for Adam Eaton days off as well.

Provided his UCL is still intact.

7. If Trayce Thompson's injury made you sad, reading about the White Sox missing out Starling Marte because an armed dispute broke out between two rival buscones during his tryout won't make you feel better! But it is a fascinating read on the developmental chain of young Dominican talent. Scouts who aren't afraid to die are the new market inefficiency.

8. Sale is going to keep on making his starts provided he stays healthy, according to Robin Ventura. It's a relief, as always, to confirm that he is healthy, but also a little discouraging that a fully healthy and able Chris Sale can not figure out how to retire Torii Hunter. I either have some reservations about this statement or am awestruck by what it implies.

At 250 with three weeks to go, the left-hander is within reach of Ed Walsh’s club record of 269, set in 1908. He has an outside shot at 300 strikeouts if he makes four more starts.
— Colleen Kane

There are 20 games left and there are six starters in the rotation if Rodon is pitching again this year (why not?) and maybe a seventh if Montas gets a crack during the last week or two. But even if Sale made four starts, he'd have to strike out over 12 batters per outing, which is either completely insane to consider or shows the standard he's set that keeping up that striking out 50 guys in ~30 innings is just "an outside shot."

9. Jim Margalus at South Side Sox had referred to Samardzija's staunch pro-labor approach as a motivator for his pursuit of free agency, but I did not realize how deep it went until reading his old quotes to Patrick Mooney when he was on the Cubs.

‘Without a doubt,’ Samardzija said. ‘I’ve said it before: Personally, numbers and money don’t really drive me. What does drive me is protecting and setting up the players behind me, the future generations, so that I’m not signing any of these crummy early deals for seven or eight years.’

Samardzija has taken crash courses in baseball economics. He thinks the Northwestern football team is onto something, targeting the NCAA and fighting for the right to collectively bargain. His dad, Sam, has been a union guy for 30-something years, working at Northern Indiana Public Service Company.

’When you’re hitting your prime and you’re hitting free agency — like it’s supposed to be done — then that’s the way it sets up for guys behind you,’ Samardzija said. ‘I definitely have a responsibility to the players that are younger than me and approaching arbitration or approaching free agency to keep the numbers where they should be.

’And rising as they should be, in accordance to the economy and the state of the game. That’s more important than anything else — what you owe the players that did it for you and then the players behind you.’
— Patrick Mooney

Oh that awkward moment when overrated, sneering tomato can in your pitching staff has a very textured view of player contracts, articulates how the drive for early long-term deals are blatant strategy on part of ownership to suppress player salaries, and actually feels a sense of responsibilities for players coming up behind him as opposed to all the MLBPA guys who have shamelessly sold out amateurs in minor leaguers in recent versions of the CBA.

On the plus side, when Jeff Samardzija rejects the qualifying offer, there is now the added satisfaction that he is pursuing his goal to pump up revenue shares for his peers, in addition to the relief that a bad pitcher is leaving the team.

10. Oh, so Samardzija is pitching Tuesday night, too. Which is awkward. He faces Aaron Brooks, a very green 25-year-old with a 10.19 career ERA. Not sure how the Sox will mess up this pitching matchup, but I never am.