Back in April 2007, Jim Thome strained a muscle in his rib cage that caused him to miss nearly a month of action. In turn, it placed an enormous amount of strain on an already struggling White Sox offense.
Ozzie Guillen suddenly had to replace a guy who had an on-base percentage of .553 at the time (not a typo). The possible replacements were laughable.
His first choice: Darin Erstad, who entered the game hitting .206/.267/.250. The next day, he chose Brian Anderson (.154/.267/.231 at the time), who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and was banished to Charlotte for the rest of the season immediately afterward.
One game later, Thome tried going again. He reinjured himself during his first at-bat, and was replaced by Alex Cintron (.083/.154/.083) for that game and the next.
Guillen ended up settling on a platoon of Rob Mackowiak (.160/.222/.280) and Pablo Ozuna (.194/.216/.250) before Thome finally made his return and stuck around for the rest of the season.
In Thome’s absence, White Sox designated hitters combined to post a line of .208/.287/.278. And when Thome returned, the lack of depth manifested itself in other ways. Joe Crede’s back gave out again, Erstad, Scott Podsednik and Pablo Ozuna suffered significant injuries, which gave way too much playing time to eventual running jokes Andy Gonzalez, Luis Terrero and Jerry Owens. It forced Kenny Williams to raise the white flag, as he traded Mackowiak and Tadahito Iguchi for nobody of help and resigned Guillen to a second half of heavier drinking.
(“The Running Joke” should’ve been Owens’ nickname. I am kicking myself for not thinking of this two and a half years earlier.)
And that brings us to Omar Vizquel.
Even before he came to the Sox, you would need two hands to count the number of managers Vizquel had played for over his 22 years as a big leaguer. At no point in any of those 2,742 games did any of those 10 skippers ever ask him to serve as a designated hitter.
It’s probably safe to say that, “We don’t need your glove out there today, but we do need your bat!” is a sentence he’s never heard directed at him.
There isn’t much to say about Vizquel, who hit designatedly for the first — and God help us, last — time as a member of the White Sox in a 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. We know what he is. If this were backyard football, he’d be the only guy asked to play all-time defense. He might not own the worst hitting line ever deployed by a White Sox DH — somehow, he’s hitting .129/.222/.161 — but it’s definitely the feeblest, aesthetically.
But there are some things to be said about the situation.
One is that there’s a good chance that Vizquel represents a defensive upgrade somewhere on the diamond. Possibly at short, probably at second, and definitely at third. This came into play when Mark Teahen came up short on a dive, then misplayed a short hop during the disastrous five-run inning that doomed the Sox. Teahen has yet to make a play when it counts, and those who have watched regularly aren’t surprised that he’s dead-last among regular third baseman in UZR. He’s atrocious.
Sadly, the move is actually a double-punt. Guillen declined to use Jayson Nix over Vizquel when offense is needed. The impact may be minimal at best, but if he’s not around to insure that Vizquel will never have to DH, then why is he even here?
Ultimately, though, this can be traced back to the offseason, when the White Sox passed on the opportunity to pencil in a 120 OPS+ bat into their lineup every day. Guillen and Williams should have learned three years ago that you can’t count on a cast of utilitymen and rejects to make up for the production of a future Hall of Famer.
They didn’t. Now, Jim Thome is merely a luxury with a 149 OPS+ for Ron Gardenhire and the first-place Minnesota Twins.
And Omar Vizquel is a DH for the White Sox.
Maybe they forgot what happened in 2007. If so, it looks like they’re about to get a refresher course.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Ozzie Guillen delivered a diatribe about his offense. I’ll have more about it at the end of the weekend.
*Filling in for Rob Neyer at ESPN.com, I wrote about a possible succession plan from A.J. Pierzynski to Tyler Flowers.
*Larry has posted the minor-league week in review several hours early, perhaps because the major-league team isn’t worth attention.
*Jake Peavy says his stumbles had nothing to do with the American League.
Minor league roundup:
- Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 6, Charlotte 1
- Tyler Flowers walked once and struck out twice, which is 18 K’s in his last 11 games.
- Jordan Danks went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.
- C.J. Retherford doubled and drove in the only run, but he, too, struck out twice.
- Dayan Viciedo went 0-for-4, and — you guessed it — struck out twice.
- Lucas Harrell wasn uninspiring: 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K.
- Jacksonville 4, Birmingham 3
- Charlie Shirek had his worst start of the year, but still held the Suns to one run on five hits and four walks over six innings. He struck out three.
- Brent Morel went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
- Christian Marrero went 2-for-4 with his third steal of the year.
- John Shelby went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts.
- Winston-Salem 6, Lynchburg 3
- Brandon Short fell back to Earth a little, going 1-for-5 with three K’s.
- Jon Gilmore went 2-for-4; Justin Greene had three hits, including a triple.
- Stephen Sauer allowed three runs on nine hits and a walk over five innings, striking out one.
- Santos Rodriguez walked two of the three batters he faced, striking out the other.
- Dan Remenowsky pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing just a hit.
- Delmarva 10, Kannapolis 4
- Kyle Colligan went 1-for-3 with a triple and a walk.
- Nick Ciolli was hitless over four at-bats, striking out once.
- Brady Shoemaker singled, walked and drove in a run.
- Cameron Bayne allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks over five innings, striking out seven.
- Jimmy Balliner struck out two over a scoreless inning, and hasn’t allowed a run over his last eight outings (10 1/3 innings).
Update: Miguel Gonzalez was hit on the hand with a foul ball on Thursday, but X-rays were negative.