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Nearly a month after the White Sox designated him for assignment, the Arizona Diamondbacks have called up Dallas Keuchel with the intent of starting him against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon.
It’ll be mildly intriguing to see whether Keuchel can experience success elsewhere, and to what extent. Keuchel in an adequate five-inning form wouldn’t have added much to the White Sox, because Johnny Cueto has been a godsend, and the White Sox are 3-5 in his starts. In the unlikely event of a rejuvenation, it’s worth noting for our Ethan Katz files if nothing else.
Beyond the old-friend feelings, seeing Keuchel resurface in the majors reminded me that he’s still the only member of this White Sox team that has suffered any consequences for below-average performance.
The White Sox fell to 22-22 after Keuchel gave up six runs over two innings in a 16-7 loss to the Red Sox on May 26. The moment before Keuchel took the ball was the last time they were over .500 this season. In the month since the Sox cut him, they’re 11-15, with a fresh four-game losing streak accounting for the entire deficit.
Keuchel’s DFA looked like a watershed moment in the season, the first signal that the White Sox couldn’t continue maintaining the status quo. Instead, he remains the only White Sox employee who has been held accountable for the team’s disappointing start, at least in a meaningful fashion.
Sure, Tony La Russa can accept responsibility after every enthusiasm-sapping loss, but that doesn’t mean anything in a world where he can’t or won’t be fired. In fact, every time he says something to the effect of “that’s on me,” it offers all the satisfaction of putting a drink on the tab of a guy who will never be asked to settle it, even if the bar goes under as a result.
The manager isn’t going anywhere. The coaching staff probably isn’t going anywhere, mostly because it hasn’t gone anywhere (Joe McEwing and Daryl Boston are on their third White Sox manager). The same can be said for the front office.
With all of the above entrenched, we’re used to seeing the changes executed at the player level, but underachievers there haven’t suffered much in the way of consequences, either. Since Keuchel, Gavin Sheets is the only guy the White Sox have demoted purely because of performance. He was hitting .204/.269/.329 at the time the White Sox optioned him down to Triple-A, but that only lasted two weeks because Adam Engel injured himself.
Everybody else who has struggled to the degree of Sheets only lost their jobs because their bodies wouldn’t allow them to take the field, and the body count makes it possible for Leury García to accrue 182 plate appearances, which makes him baseball’s worst regular.
García has started every game this series, even though Tim Anderson is theoretically back and the White Sox promoted Lenyn Sosa, who covers all the same infield positions. García is 2-for-9, and his two walks have doubled his season total, but he’s given away the upturn in production at the plate with terrible positioning and an error in center field on Thursday …
… followed by a more costly error at shortstop on Sunday.
A bench player shouldn’t disenchant the fan base this much, but he happens to embody so much of what’s going wrong in 2022. He’s the most replaceable figure on the team, whether you’re looking at his numbers (.191/.210/.254) or his skill set (he doesn’t do one thing well). Yet he’s not going anywhere because Rick Hahn inexplicably signed him to a three-year contract. He’s going to keep playing because he’s healthy enough, and the manager is inexplicably invested in his success. And he’s probably going to keep playing weirdly, because an coaching staff that’s fixed in place doesn’t seem to provide much in the way of guidance.
García is far from the only player struggling, but he stands out because he isn’t integral to the operation. Somebody like Lucas Giolito has to keep starting despite his disappointments because he’s proven capable of far better in the very recent past, and the other starters are combing over him well enough to buy time. Yasmani Grandal and Yoán Moncada didn’t have the benefit of cover from teammates, but they came into the season as major components of the depth chart and payroll. If they face-planted, you’d expect the team to get dragged down as a consequence.
When normally fungible bench players are further gumming up the works, and when an inessential manager keeps pushing buttons that stopped working years ago, sure, they might not be the biggest problem, but they strike a chord of unfairness for the same reason agencies and states are pressing hard on right-to-repair laws. It shouldn’t be expensive, time-consuming or punitive to replace a common part to save a product that required a hefty up-front payment. Alas, until the Federal Trade Commission can meddle in White Sox business, fans are on their own.