Four White Sox who could use October redos

The tough thing about the White Sox’s three-game loss to Oakland in the wild card series is that they could have won every game, but there are real reasons why they lost two of three.

There’s the matter of injuries. Leury Garcia went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts, but he probably shouldn’t have been playing. Aaron Bummer couldn’t calm down the game, but he had recently come off the injured list. Evan Marshall gave up the lead, but he too had recently spent time on the IL. Dallas Keuchel faltered in his third start after a back issue. Yoán Moncada went 1-for-14, not because he looked demonstrably sluggish due to COVID-19 complications. No, he hit five balls over 100 mph and only had a lousy single to show for it. For all these players, the chief regret from this exposure to the postseason might be reduced to “I wish I could’ve been in better shape.”

For the fully functioning players, it was a mixed bag. José Abreu and Luis Robert had some good at-bats, and some bad ones. Adam Engel delivered against lefties and faded against righties, but it wasn’t his fault he had to play all three games. Codi Heuer gave up a two-run homer, but those were his first runs he’d allowed since August. A bunch of White Sox couldn’t come through when it mattered most, but baseball is a zero-sum game, and they had to contend with a team that was a little deeper in ways that exploited White Sox weaknesses.

Most of the failures merit shrugs to me, not out of indifference, but out of “that’s baseball.” That said, if I’m looking for a counterpoint to the post of players who did what they could with this postseason experience, there are four guys in White Sox uniforms who might be carrying motivation into the winter because of October regrets that were more within their control.


Ordinarily I would slot him into the “I wish I could’ve been in better shape” category, but he stands apart because 1) injuries have been a constant for the last several years, and 2) he might’ve played his last game for the White Sox when he failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in Game 3. He entered with two outs and the bases clear, but he walked Tommy La Stella, then fell behind 3-0 to Marcus Semien before giving up a double. That’s not the way a guy would want to get beat, and intentionally walking an unremarkable right-handed batter to load the bases to close out a career seems like an extra indignity.


Madrigal’s first postseason encapsulated the pros and cons of his first regular season. He looked OK at the plate, going 3-for-12 with no strikeouts. He struggled a bit with runners in scoring position, but he doesn’t stand out in that regard.

It’s the other stuff that he’ll carry into the winter, most of it occurring in Game 2. He committed two errors, getting bit by the lip of the infield for the second time in a week for a costly first-inning error, then rushing a throw on an attempt to turn a 4-3 double play. He also failed to get to third on what should’ve been a tailor-made hit-and-run, because Madrigal saw it as a run-with-hit and failed to pick up anything or anybody who might tell him to go to third instead of reversing course and thinking about first.

That mistake took a run off the board, and while the butterfly effect says that the White Sox could have very well lost by more if the early events unfolded in a different way, it’s generally sound baseball advice to score every run possible.

Entering the season, Madrigal figured to be a below-average hitter, but an above-average baseball player. Instead, he hit .340/.376/.369 and made all sorts of poor decisions on the basepaths and in the field. That should be easier to correct as he gets acclimated to the speed of the game. It’s probably just as necessary, too, because it’s still hard to count on an above-average runs-created number for a guy who never makes the outfielders run toward the fence.


It wasn’t that he failed, it was how he failed. He inherited the bases loaded from Rodón with two outs and promptly walked in two runs without making either Mark Canha or Matt Olson swing the bat. We still don’t know if Foster had the ability to throw two strikes against a batter that day, because Khris Davis swung at a 1-0 fastball and flied out to right.

If there’s any second-guessing on the deployment of Foster, he only made four appearances in the middle of an inning, and he had the fewest inherited runners (six) of any full-time White Sox reliever in 2020. That said, there was no reason to not go to Foster. He held the first batters he faced to 4-for-22 with one walk and eight strikeouts on the season. Here he is striking out Hunter Dozier under similar circumstances on Aug. 30,

Ideally, he would have started his own inning and pitched another for good measure. A lot of things about Game 3 weren’t ideal. Foster just looked like a rookie at the wrong time, and his postseason was an unfortunate coda to a fine first year.


If you’re looking for an evisceration of a self-assessment, Renteria isn’t going to provide it. I don’t blame him. The White Sox’s flagship hired an incomprehensibly popular former manager to second-guess his decisions every game, so it makes sense if he wants to prioritize internal peace over a search for external validation that will always be fruitless.

But let’s look at his evaluation of the ill-fated bullpen game anyway.

“I think we handled the bullpen as good as we could possibly handle it,” Renteria said. “All we try to do is use our best guys moving forward — and I think all of our guys are our best guys, but we had to keep the game there. We had to keep them down. I think that’s the most important thing. You’re always trying to keep the offense from jumping on you. You want that space, and that’s all we tried to do.”

There was nothing wrong with the order of pitchers. It’s easy to picture Dunning-Crochet-Bummer-Heuer taking care of six innings by themselves. It’s not necessarily Renteria’s fault that injury and ineffectiveness teamed up to limit them to 3⅔.

I’d just disagree with his notion that the bullpen was handled “as good as we could possibly handle it” if only because of the Rodón-Foster sequence. In our pregame discussion of how to arrange the pitchers for Game 3, I mentioned that I was leery of having the game tilt on the effectiveness of Rodón, a pitcher who might very well be non-tendered after the season. That Renteria came out and visited Rodón with a 3-1 count to Semien suggested a lack of confidence in the move shortly after he made it.

If Foster fared as poorly, it would have felt like another pitcher betraying legitimately earned trust. By putting Rodón out there first, the lack of confidence jumped out. Then again, had Renteria waited to use Rodón, he might’ve felt compelled to use him in a more stressful situation. I think the idea was to make any Rodón appearances as calm as possible, and even then, it didn’t work.

On the other side of the ball, I wasn’t crazy about starting Leury García in the first two games, especially considering how ugly his swing looked against competitive pitching. It helped the Sox in Game 1 because of some tough fly balls, but there were no such benefits in Game 2.

Speaking of which, Renteria lifted García in the seventh inning when his spot came to the plate in the seventh inning with two out and one out and the Sox trailing 5-0. The replacement wasn’t much better. Renteria tapped Zack Collins because he wanted a lefty bat to face Bassitt, but Collins, who went 1-for-16 during the season and last appeared in an MLB game on Aug. 19, struck out on three pitches.

After the game, he justified the move as hoping Collins would run into one. It’s easy to dream on the three-run homer that turns a snoozer into a ballgame, and when Eloy Jiménez left Game 3 after his first strenuous activity, it became a little easier to understand Renteria conserving his most limited resource.

The common thread between Collins, García and Rodón is the resorting to players who hadn’t proven ready or able to stand up to MLB competition for weeks. A lack of depth led him to these decisions, but if underachievers or lesser players like Nomar Mazara, Yolmer Sánchez or Dylan Cease led the White Sox into dark corners, it’s easier to pin it on the lack of available help. He tried to power the White Sox out of their nosedives with ideas that weren’t in manual, and so he ends up adding some “pilot error” to the list of mechanical failures.

If and when the White Sox return to the postseason under Renteria, I’d hope there isn’t a ton to learn from this. Let’s pray there are minor leagues, and the rehab stints they provide for players trying to get back up to full speed. Rick Hahn should want to supply his manager with a clear-cut Game 3 starter, and an outfield that isn’t reliant on guy who a guy who announced his start with “Who has one thumb and is playing left field for the first time since Aug. 10?”

But if I’m Renteria, I’m treating bullpen games as unavoidable, and thus practicing alternate strategies during the regular season when better options aren’t available. That would help reduce the sense of dread everybody felt when he came to lift Dane Dunning after two batters, because he’d have proven that such a situation is within his scope. I’d also make a list of every player who hadn’t proven himself capable of standing in against MLB competition and not touching them until the rules of the game require it. Both are easier said than done, but if Renteria knows he can’t sway people with the saying, then he may as well enjoy the freedom from external scrutiny when it comes to the doing.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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I have a huge problem with how Renteria managed the staff in game 3. Almost every decision he made was bad.
1. Why yank Dunning in the first? Even the A’s gave Fiers a chance to get out of a jam in the first. He was pulled after Robert launched one into orbit and he got into another jam in the 2nd. One or 2 runs would not have killed the Sox there. They were facing an A’s bullpen that was also compromised.
2. After Crochet went out, he completely panicked. He was basing his entire plan on Crochet giving them 2-3 innings. Why would you bring your best reliever (Bummer) into the lowest stress part of the game? 1 out in the 2nd, nobody on, and the 7-8-9 hitters coming up is not a time to burn your best reliever. Then he panics again and takes him out when he puts 2 men on base.
3. Why pull Heuer with 2 outs and nobody on after he gives up a home run on a pretty good pitch. Blowing through 4 pitchers in less than 4 innings is ridiculous.
4. Why bring Rodon in at all? That one is pretty self-explanatory.
5. Why bring Foster into the highest-leverage situation of the game, if not the season? As Jim pointed out, he almost always came in with no one on. To put a guy who has NEVER faced that situation in his life in the biggest game of the year is just asking for failure.

After that he really had no one left, so all the decisions after that really don’t matter. I sure hope he learns from that. To say that they handled the bullpen the best they possibly could is an insult to fans watching the game. Show some humility and admit you need to be better next time, Ricky.


1–totally agree. If Dunning gives up a 3 run bomb I think there would have been less second guessing than pulling him. If he gets the third out and pitches another 1-2 innings against a lineup who has never seen him, it would have totally changed the strategy of the game.
2–Couldn’t agree more. If Sox had 2 run lead in later innings, he had no high leverage relievers besides Colome available.
3–Yes. Way too many pitching changes way too early
4–I guess the Crochet injury necessitated there Rodon move in some way. But having Rodon as any part of the lineup strategy is baffling after the previous outing against the Cubs. Again, shuffling so many pitchers required them using ALL of their staff, including those not ready or just not very good.
5–I think it was a learning experience for all involved, especially Ricky. Madrigal and Foster got some good experience that hopefully humbled them a bit. But for the manager, developing a strategy is great and all, but adapting the plan is much more valuable. And at the end of the day, ride with the guys who got you there, not some underwhelming #4 pick.


Why have Rodon on the roster if you can’t use him in that situation?


That’s the big question. He didn’t show anything in his previous outings. They probably could have gone with Gio instead.


Gio Gonzalez was hurt, wasn’the?


could have retained Detwiler instead of Rodon


In that situation I would have preferred López actually. He would have made them at least hit their way on


Yeah I’m sure Sox fans would have reacted rationally if Reynaldo Lopez entered a playoff game this year.


I didn’t say it was a great option or one Sox fans would be ok with if it failed. Anything would have been better than watching Rodon just hand out free passes and serve up a meatball to Semien. López has been better of late and would have challenged them more with fastballs, rather than sliders that didn’t come close.

As Cirensica

Couldn’t say it better. Another failure not mentioned often was Rick Hahn providing Renteria with not a good playoff team. Why was Collins in? Why was Rodon in? They were clearly not gonna contribute, and yet, there they were. It would have made a lot more sense to use those spots to carry Rey Lopez or even Detwiler. Hahn also didn’t add anything on the deadline (other than Dyson) when the team clearly could have used pitching help.


Actually wouldn’t have minded Lopez being thrown in for an inning or two. The guy lead the team in WAR a few seasons back and literally only had a few genuinely bad games. He got himself together in a really surprising fashion near the end of the season and I thought it was genuinely impressive. Like lifelongjd said, at least the A’s would’ve had to hit their runs in. There would’ve been actual strikes and actual contact with Lopez, which could’ve easily saved the game.


The Renteria assessment is spot on.

Maybe it’s because I want him to succeed so badly, but I think Madrigal’s taken *some* unfair criticism for game two. The throw was bad and the fielding error wasn’t much better. To be fair, it wasn’t a total boot (ball was hit 91.4 MPH with xBA of .280), but it’s still a play Madrigal should make.

The base running mistake *was* a mistake, but, apart from the frustration of the moment, it’s probably unfair to say it cost the Sox a run. Madrigal has no shot at 3rd if he doesn’t have the base stolen. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it reminds me of some of the balls Anderson or Robert get to in the field but don’t make the play. It’s easy to say “that cost us x,” but we wouldn’t say the same if a slower fielder couldn’t reach the ball. Ironically, it was Madrigal’s base running ability that put him in the position to make the mistake in the first place. Said another way: a replacement level baserunner rarely gets to 3rd on that play. Madrigal should have there, but only because he was able to put himself in the position in the first place.

My guess is that it was a straight steal and he expected Anderson to take the pitch (which is standard on a straight steal). The truly unbelievable thing is the lack of awareness—how does he not hear the ball hit? How does he not see the middle infielders are not preparing to tag him?


Rightly or wrongly, that’s not what you’re taught to do on a steal. When stealing and the ball is hit, you’re taught—and your first instinct—is to find the ball. And that’s understandable given that a ball caught is likely to result in a close play at first. That’s what Madrigal was trying to do, even if he failed spectacularly.

lil jimmy

In a normal season, Madrigal gets three months in AAA. Not for service time. He badly needed more time in the Minors.


He was the 4th overall draft pick. If he’s going to be a slap hitter who never hits a double, he sure as hell better be a good baserunner and fielder.


Agreed, but my point is his base running ability put him in the situation in the first place. If he doesn’t have the bag stolen, then he saunters into 2nd on Anderson’s hit and we’re in the same situation. And no one is talking about this. The only thing that makes this a thing is his steal.


Wait am I drunk? It was a hit and run. Literally every player on the team would have made it, right?


Has it been confirmed there was a hit and run sign given but he missed it? I didn’t see that, if so.

Based on how Madrigal reacted, my guess (as I said above) was that it was a straight steal and he expected Anderson to take the pitch (a reasonable expectation on a straight steal). But maybe the hit and run sign was on, in which case he clearly missed it.

As Cirensica

He would have made it to 3rd base easily. That run would have scored with the deep fly Moncada hit.


He only makes it to third base with the steal, is my point. If he doesn’t run with the pitch, no way he makes it to 3rd. It was scorched (99.7 MPH) by Anderson right to the RF. So, this is only a thing because he stole the bag.


He didn’t steal the bag because you can’t steal any bags when the ball is hit in play. He missed the hit and run sign, Anderson looked like he wanted to kill him because he executed it perfectly and yet there was Madrigal on 2nd looking lost


I haven’t seen anything about him missing the hit and run sign. Maybe I just missed that. My assumption was that we didn’t know what sign (if any) was on. My conjecture (above) was that the straight steal was on—or at least Madrigal thought it was—and Madrigal was expecting an Anderson take.


I was looking at the Cubs roster after Epstein’s comments the other day and I had the question: what’s up with Addison Russell? I don’t think he’s a fit for the Sox. More just curious.

I see that he was cut at the end of 2019 and played in Korea this year. Do people expect him to sign with an MLB team? It’d be a real bummer to have the Indians trade Lindor for an armada of prospects and have them plug a rejuvenated Russell in at SS


It’d be a real bummer to ever see him play in the United States again.


Russell has a sub .700 OPS in the KBO. I don’t think any MLB team is going to waste their time with him.


First good news I’ve heard in a while


The bullpen day idea wasn’t bad by itself. It was bad because if you are going to do something like that you might want to try it sometime before a playoff elimination game. Maybe if they try stacking Dunning with an opener a couple times in September, they’d have some idea if that would have worked. Ditto for Cease and Lopez.

Instead, they decided to start embracing “baseball in the 21st century” just in time for the most important game the franchise has played in 12 years. If they had done it earlier in the season and it worked, then they tried it in the playoffs and it failed, I’d have no complaints. Instead, they (I’m including Don Cooper with Ricky here) went in with no idea what they were doing. Having every reliever sit down and then get up again to finish one inning and start another is not a recipe for success.

Overall, I’m shockingly not particularly upset with the series loss (maybe because I think this team would have needed divine intervention to beat the Yankees or Rays in a best of 7), but the way they lost still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. They were better than this A’s team.

As Cirensica

Omar Vizquel might be in some troubles:

The tweet above is current Vizquel’s wife talking about her divorce from him because of domestic violence. It is in Spanish though. There is no coverage of this as I can’t find any news on Google about it. Weird.


Ricky was overwhelmed by the situation. This only had to be an “all hands on deck” game if it came to that. Dunning is a big league starter. The expectation should be that he gives you five-six innings unless he can’t. There were 2 outs in the first with no runs scored when he was pulled. Rickey spent the game in an infielder’s pose. He was the most nervous person in the dugout. And as Roke 1960 stated, he panicked with the Crotchet injury. I am a Rickey fan, but he absolutely was not up to this moment. Hoping he’s better prepared next time.
And one more thing. I’m probably in the minority here, but Eloy seemed to get to second on his double pretty ok. It’s a strain, not a break in his foot. It’s the playoffs and we need his bat. He’s the DH. He doesn’t need to go in the field. How about powering through the hurt? It’s a long off season to heal.


Madrigal has looked rough when he’s not at the plate. The game is clearly moving too fast for him in the field and on the basepaths right now and he was out of control all too often. I’m hopeful he’s more comfortable next year and this stuff fades away. Was definitely painful this year though.

Ricky…leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a tough combo with Hahn’s poor GM skills because he seems to be a good player’s manager, but he needs a dummy proof roster so he doesn’t screw it up. Otherwise we’re stuck watching questionable deployment and erratic hooks when players are struggling. Edwin Encarnacion had one of the worst seasons I’ve ever witnessed and he hit 4/5/6 every game. His management of Jimmy Cordero was like he didn’t know his other relievers’ names. I felt bad for Cordero.