Left field injuries bind White Sox for two consecutive postseasons, 12 years apart

Carlos Quentin (Derek Semmler on Flickr)

Before the White Sox embarked on their first postseason in 12 years, Jon Greenberg talked to some of the principals of the 2008 White Sox, and how they won despite and because of their strange (anti-)chemistry.

Nick Swisher is at the center of a lot of anecdotes, of course. Paul Konerko had sympathy for him, while the others quoted in the story mostly saw him as somebody to bond around, or maybe beyond, or maybe against.

The story is most valuable for revisiting Carlos Quentin. His brief peak cuts a unique figure in the blogging era of White Sox history, especially since it kinda characterizes the White Sox’s attempts to reach the postseason afterward. Quentin was talented, but also fragile. Punching his bat and breaking his wrist was fluky, but if that injury didn’t throw off his career, another one might have. He had Tommy John surgery in Arizona, and knee surgery in San Diego. In between, he lost production to plantar fasciitis and a shoulder sprain. The wrist injury just happened to be the most memorable, because it had the worst timing, but it sounds like he doesn’t spend time dwelling on that particular misfortune.

Quentin obsessed about a lot of things, but he was more just disappointed.

“You know, it was truly this freak thing that I never thought could ever happen,” he said. “And I watched the video over and over. It was like, really? And yeah, it was a strange thing. It sucks. A wasted opportunity. I could have won an MVP and it may have changed the course of my career. But who knows?”

Quentin’s absence changed the complexion of the 2008 White Sox lineup dramatically, mostly because his breakout season helped cover for the disappointment in center field. With two below-average outfield spots, a team can start taking on water. Quentin couldn’t rediscover that MVP-candidate form afterward, and the White Sox couldn’t figure out how to cobble together a contender. By the end of the first rebuild, stranger, darker episodes in the White Sox clubhouse made a bat-punching gone wrong look almost endearing.

Quentin had come to mind as Eloy Jiménez departed the penultimate game of the regular season with a foot sprain, partially because extrapolating his 60-game numbers for a 162-game season gave him a Quentin-like line …

  • Jiménez, 2020: .296/.332/.559, 140 OPS+, 38 HR, 111 RBI, 3.0 WAR
  • Quentin, 2008: .288/.394/.571, 149 OPS+, 36 HR, 100 RBI, 5.3 WAR

… and partially because the options behind him can’t come close to making up the deficit. Renteria gave Leury García a shot over the first two games, and while he’s an upgrade in the field, he’s showing all the signs of a guy who had thumb surgery with no rehab stint at the plate. García swing looks awful, even by the standards of his wilder hacks.

But even when running hasn’t been involved, Renteria hasn’t been able to deem Jiménez the best option. While Renteria said that Jiménez could “hopefully” be available for a big pinch-hitting situation before the first two games, he went to Zack Collins of all people in the seventh inning of Game 2. And though Jiménez had a bat in his hand in the ninth, Renteria said James McCann would’ve been his choice against Jake Diekman.

When Collins struck out on three pitches, it was easy to chalk up that decision as Renteria falling in love with an idea — lefty power against a righty-killing starter — that had no evidence of effectiveness. When Renteria alluded to McCann being his choice over Diekman, it’s made me wonder if Jiménez is more of a decoy for this round.

If that’s the case, then it looks like an outfield with Luis Robert, Adam Engel and Nomar Mazara is the closest thing to big-leaguers at all positions, with the hope that Engel can continue to hold up against high right-handed heat. As Josh and I discussed on the postgame show, I don’t think it’s insane to start Nick Madrigal at DH with Yolmer Sánchez at second.

We’ll find out what Renteria has in store for all these positions in a little bit. Ideally Jiménez has enough to play, and not just as a shell of himself. The greater hope is that this isn’t the only round the White Sox play, and we get some idea of how a White Sox lineup with a mostly functional Jiménez holds up in the playoffs. It’s a lot easier to imagine sustainable success, and any failures at least answer that nagging question from 2008: “What if he were here?”

(Photo by Derek Semmler on Flickr)

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Foulkelore

Alright, Eloy in as DH!

LuBob DuRob

Looks like such a better lineup with his name there.

Eagle Bones

I like this lineup, but does Madrigal HAVE to bat 9th? He’s better than several of the guys in front of him. Would suck to need a big hit in the 9th and end up with Mazara up there instead of him.

soxfan

He’s better than one guy in front of him. I can’t speak to the relative disadvantage of Mazara possibly getting one more at bat than Madrigal vs. the relative advantage of “turning the lineup over” but if the game comes down to whether or not Mazara or Madrigal are batting with the game on the line it’s going to be exciting either way.

Eagle Bones

You’d rather have Mazara hitting over him? Engel? Even Moncada and Robert (though I expect them to be better hitters long-term) do not look like better hitters right now.

As Cirensica

I can’t believe I am saying this but Mazara looked solid and even menacing yesterday…for the first time ever. Maybe he will deliver today the HRs he owes us. I am willing to forgive him if he does.

EDIT: Also, I like the idea of giving more PAs to guys who can deliver a bomb than the guy that slaps singles.

Eagle Bones

I would normally agree, but when the slap hitter is hitting this many singles and the HR hitter is hitting basically none, the scales tip towards the slap hitter at a certain point.

GoGoSoxFan

FNS.