Central Concerns: A division in shambles

While Terry Francona is twiddling his thumbs atop the AL Central with his Guardians, the rest of the division is burning. The Royals joined the Tigers in firing the head of their baseball operations, and the Twins and White Sox have equally significant questions to wrestle down as they come to terms with seasons that are transcending from “disappointing” to “debasing.”

We already discussed a slice of the White Sox’s failures after their series-opening loss on Tuesday, and while a worse loss on Wednesday is reason to open the vein further, I’d rather take solace by surveying the messes around the rest of the division.

Kansas City Royals

For the first time since 2006, the Royals will be overseen by somebody besides Dayton Moore.

The Royals fired Moore on Wednesday as they try to stave off a third 100-loss season in the last five years.

It’s the first major move for John Sherman, who took over controlling interest in the Royals in late 2019. He’d kept a low profile to this point. He gave Moore two full seasons to oversee a transition from end of the Ned Yost/Alex Gordon days to a new era, but meaningful progress remains elusive. They’ve recently introduced a number of promising players into the lineup card, but the pitching apparatus is a mess, and Moore was a big reason for the stagnation.

Between hanging on to Whit Merrifield until he devolved into a replacement-level player and retaining Cal Eldred despite the arrested development of his pitching staff, Moore’s actions suggested that he didn’t see a need for urgent action. His words were even worse.

Moore cut a unique figure among MLB executives, sometimes for very admirable reasons, and sometimes for weird, nonsecular ones. He was consistent in his emphasis on integrity and building men, although when it was the Royals’ turn to travel to Toronto and they had far more unvaccinated players than the rest of the league, it revealed the risks of defining “culture-building” so narrowly.

It doesn’t look like the Royals will undergo a complete overhaul, as they’ve retained J.J. Picollo, who already had the title of general manager under Moore, who was president of baseball operations. The Athletic’s assessment suggests that Picollo is willing to be more transactional, which is a part of the job that Moore never embraced.

Should a change in leadership invigorate the franchise, Sox fans will have even more reasons to bring their “SELL THE TEAM” banners to Guaranteed Rate Field.

Detroit Tigers

The Royals followed the Detroit Tigers’ lead in seeking a leadership change in response to a stalled rebuild. After firing Al Avila after seven mostly unsuccessful seasons in early August, they announced San Francisco Giants general manager Scott Harris as their new president of baseball operations this past weekend.

Both Harris and Picollo are tasked with upgrading an organization whose methods were considered outdated and/or out of step with modern baseball. Harris has a different challenge, in that he’s inheriting the huge contracts of Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez, both of whom got off to terrible starts, and he’s also navigating the end of Miguel Cabrera’s career.

His press conference was heavier on buzzwords than specifics, but between those delicate situations with veterans and a farm system that’s considered among baseball’s worst, it’s probably because he didn’t have much nice to say.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins haven’t fired anybody, but given that their own rebuild might’ve crested well short of expectations, they’re facing hard questions about what has to change.

Aaron Gleeman had already written a postmortem for the Twins’ chances when they fell into third place 10 days ago, and now he’s looking ahead to the offseason and wondering if anybody should expect the Twins to improve in a meaningful fashion.

This team never got healthy, but it also never got the rotation help it so clearly needed, never adjusted from its quick-hook management of starters to account for the implosion-prone bullpen, never hit consistently with runners in scoring position and never shored up its shaky, mistake-filled baserunning and fielding. This team may have been better if healthy, but it certainly didn’t deserve better.

For the fourth time in six years with a Derek Falvey-led front office, the Twins have a below-average pitching staff, ranking 10th out of 15 teams in ERA after finishing 14th in 2021. That might be acceptable for a young staff on the rise, but the Twins have gotten just 13 starts from 25-and-under pitchers all season and rank as the league’s fifth-oldest staff overall.

I’d be surprised if Derek Falvey and Thad Levine lost their jobs, but I am curious about Rocco Baldelli’s future. Some of the Twins’ pitching problems are probably attributable to the unexpected midseason departure of Wes Johnson to LSU, but their inability to adjust before and after suggests that his feel for the game is lacking.

This isn’t a request. I’d be fine if the Twins retained Baldelli, and I’d be exceptionally down for the Royals retaining Mike Matheny, because precedent says the White Sox lack the initiative or acumen to hire a standout manager of their own.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3794
4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
soxfan

While Hahn did fuck all at the deadline, imagine how much worse we’d feel if he’d made the trades that the Twins made and still ended up losing the division.

itaita

Its kind of funny how the paragraph on the Twins sounds just like the Sox outside of the pitching. At least the team seems to do well enough to generally get a good pitching staff up. Its a little scary to think that the Sox might be a 80-90 loss team if not worse if you took their offense and combined it with the Twins pitching.

Probably wont get much better for them either since they must be assuming Correa is going to dip after the season.

dwjm3

Should make Jerry’s ambition of finishing in second place that much easier.

To Err is Herrmann

I read several times this year the possibility of Toronto becoming part of the AL Central in a realignment, which makes a lot of sense and should put the fear of God into all teams in the division. However, who goes to the AL East? Cleveland? Or might there be a wider realignment where KC goes West while Houston comes to the Central, burying the White Sox forever?