Spare Parts: It’s Pitchers and Catchers Month until it isn’t

Rob Manfred (Arturo Pardavila III)

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Month…

… or is it?


As we enter February, teams are still set to report in about two weeks, with the White Sox scheduled for Feb. 17. Those dates are set by the collective bargaining agreement, which is something to keep in mind as Major League Baseball submitted its latest proposal, which includes:

This is closer to a legit offer, because it shortens the season without reducing player compensation, which ends up being a 5 percent raise for the players. On the other hand, it reduces the number of off days and provides Rob Manfred more power to suspend the season, and they wouldn’t be paid for any games canceled that way. The union is still expected to reject it, but with what level of prejudice is to be determined.

If the league had no history of exercising the CBA to the point of bad faith (or beyond), it’d make a lot of sense to unite and start the season a month later. Full-season, full-travel sports schedules are hard to pull off before the players get vaccinated, with the Blackhawks being the example most relevant to many of our interests. But with the CBA expiring after the season, it seems like it’s not in the union’s interest to show its hand with regards to what it might exchange for an expanded postseason, or setting a precedent for playing fewer games, even if a pandemic is generating those circumstances.


Normally at this time this year, Hawk Harrelson would be hyping up fans at SoxFest. Here, he tries doing the same through Scott Merkin, but it mostly serves as a reminder of how insular White Sox decision-making is.

“They decided to make the change and one of the guys from the White Sox called me the day they let him go and he said, ‘Who do you think [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] is going after?’ I said there’s no question in my mind, I told my wife, he’s going after Tony La Russa. I know Jerry.

“I was so happy. I loved it. I really did. I called Tony when he still hadn’t agreed yet and I told him, ‘Tony, you gotta come. You gotta come.’ We talked for about 15 or 20 minutes. Then we talked again either the next day or the day after, and he said, ‘Even [Jim] Leyland suggested I take the job.’”

Tony La Russa. Hawk Harrelson. Jim Leyland. What year is this again?

Evan Marshall’s White Sox career is not to be taken for granted for so many reasons, from how they acquired him (non-roster invitee) to his arsenal (great whiff rates despite pedestrian velocity). But there’s also the matter that he’s lucky to still be pitching to begin with after taking a line drive off his head that resulted in multiple fractured, a subdural hematoma and a ruptured artery. Marshall himself has just started talking about it, and he has a lot to say to James Fegan.

Focusing on baseball 100 percent was impossible when Marshall was beset by frequent nightmares and flashbacks to his ambulance ride that “ruined me for a little while” when they popped up. To this day, Marshall says he will never forget the sound of the crack of the bat, the hiss of a baseball sizzling toward him. On the field, he was regularly flooded with the sounds and images that brought his mind back to the moment when he was fighting for his life.

“All of a sudden, how do I avoid getting hit, not how do I get the hitter out?” Marshall said. “And I would go through spurts of eight straight balls and I’m out of the game. I was more worried about surviving than getting the guy out. Anytime someone would put a ball in play up the middle, I was flinching and there was nothing I could do about that. There is no level of sports therapy or however you want to address that, that can really take that away other than time.”

It’s not just that the Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals for no particular prospects of note. It’s that the Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals for no particular prospects of note and paid St. Louis $50 million for the privilege.

But if a franchise that plays in a taxpayer-funded ballpark is a public trust, the Monforts are guilty of leaving Denver sports fans emotionally bankrupt on a regular basis.  Paying the Cardinals to haul away Arenado like he was a busted washing machine instead of a human vacuum is only the latest example of why Bridich should never be trusted again to do right by paying customers.

Yes, fans have the right to spend their money as they wish. But if you give the Rockies your money in 2021, you might be dumber than this trade.

On Friday, I spent about four hours hanging out on Zoom with Josh and the guys from the 108 for the #108Fest, which took the place of the SoxFest Afterparty this year. It’s no replacement for the real deal, but it served as a suitable substitute for the circumstances. Reading this article later this weekend made me realize how few chances there have been to hang out (in one form or another) with people who aren’t inner-circle, but who are always a pleasure to run into.

Friends are sometimes delineated by the ways we met or the things we do together—work friends, old college buddies, beer-league-softball teammates—but they’re all friends, and Rawlins thinks that’s for the best. “Living well isn’t some cloistered retreat with just a few folks,” he told me. “The way worlds are created is by people sharing with and recognizing each other.” Many different kinds of relationships are important, he says, and man does not thrive on close friendships alone.

This realization, new to me, is also somewhat new in the general understanding of human behavior. Close relationships were long thought to be the essential component of humans’ social well-being, but Granovetter’s research led him to a conclusion that was at the time groundbreaking and is still, to many people, counterintuitive: Casual friends and acquaintances can be as important to well-being as family, romantic partners, and your closest friends. In his initial study, for example, he found that the majority of people who got new jobs through social connections did so through people on the periphery of their lives, not close relations.

One of the great things about baseball in particular is how it generates these connections on an everyday basis. I’m looking forward to its full and proper resumption.

(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Marshall’s plight makes me think of another Sox prospect who, I believe, got hit with a ball in the jaw while in the dugout. Then he gets in a bad car accident driving home after a season. Who’s that guy – still with the Sox? I don’t think it’s Marshall.

Last edited 3 years ago by tommytwonines

Ahhhh. Thanks.

John SF

I’d love to get Hamilton back in the org. Last I checked, we actually still have Burr. He’s not “officially” in the org anymore, but he did his entire TJ rehab at Camelback and he has said on YT he still considers himself a sox pitcher.

Last edited 3 years ago by John SF

which begs the question, what’s up with Ryan Burr. Was really looking forward to the jokes around the two of them dueling it out for a position in the major league bullpen.


Inevitable that Burr would survive Hamilton.


Speaking of casual acquaintances @asinwreck, don’t die. I’ll miss your commentary too much.


Best avatar, too. Fond memories of those crazy seventies teams/times. Veeck as in Wreck.


Very kind of both of you!


When it was first reported as “same rules as last season” I was worried that the runner on second to start extras rule was coming back. Now it seems like that’s not part of the proposal?

I could live with the changes to season length, playoff expansion, universal DH, etc. But I’m never going to think that the runner on second rule isn’t awful. I’d sooner accept games ending in ties than having that rule on a permanent basis.

Last edited 3 years ago by MrStealYoBase
John SF

Let’s have the final inning just be a 20 pitch homerun derby.

That’s just as silly as the guy on 2nd thing, and would be much more fun.

Last edited 3 years ago by John SF

I’m curious as to the format for the proposed seven-team playoff. I honestly think it could work if: for the first round, the top two teams get byes, seed 4 plays seed 5, and seed 3 plays the winner of a one-game Wildcard play-in game between seeds 6 and 7. That should satisfy a lot of parties. There’s strong incentive to win the division there. There’s a one-game winner-take-all game, which is popular. It’s expanded, but not to a crazy level like last year. If you don’t consider the one-game play-in as a true playoff game (I don’t), then there’s not too much dilution of the field. I could live with that.

This could all be moot of course, since the players may be nowhere near accepting. I get their mistrust of Manfred and the owners, but with full salaries, realistic playoffs and universal DH, there’s at least a workable framework here to start with. I hope they at least counter and not outright reject.


From what I gather the MLBpa does not want to give the playoff away until the CBA negotiations start so they can receive something meaningful in return for it. I would take a hardline with the owners considering how they manipulated the previous CBA


An impressive aspect of the #180Fest video is that, several hours in, Leila Rahimi joined the discussion and Josh (who at this point could count his number of beers consumed and drunken rants on fingers requiring two hands) and her immediately began a cogent discussion that would make for fine radio. That skill will serve her well in her new job, and also makes me think she’d be a terrific guest for the podcast.


That was a terrific conversation! Glad to put a face to your name, Jim, and to others as well.


Wonderful thoughts on the nature of friendship.

Even if we’re miles and miles apart from one another, I want to say just how important the Sox Machine community has been to me over the last year. It feels like I’ve still been getting together with my buddies every day. These 12 months would have been a lot darker and lonelier without all of you.

John SF

That Evan Marshall article is my favorite thing published by the Athletic so far in 2021. And I strongly suspect it will still be my favorite at the end of the year.

You just don’t find reporting like that talking openly about the struggles of trauma and mental health very often, in any medium much less the baseball world.

James Fegan is really talented, and between this website and him on the beat I think Sox Fans don’t know how lucky they are.

Edit to add: I don’t think it’s just random chance that two of the most empathetic sports writers I know of are married, respectively, to a therapist and a public health specialist. I would gladly pay for more baseball content written by people who value the emotional side of the story, and not just the stats or big plays or crude jokes side of the game.

Last edited 3 years ago by John SF