Thanks to Thome, huge game rests on Harrell's shoulders

Hawk Harrelson said the AL Central race would come down to the last 22 games. I don't think this is how he saw it unfolding.

One month ago, this is how Hawk Harrelson saw the AL Central race at the end of the regular season.

“This race, to me, is going to come down to the last 22 games of the season; that’s why we’re going to win the division,” Harrelson said.
His reasoning?
“The last 22 games of the season, Minnesota has 12 on the road and 10 at home,” said Harrelson, a former all-star outfielder with Boston. “The last 22 games of the season, we’ve got six on the road and 16 at home.
“It’s going to be a tight race all the way down, and we’re going to win it in the last three weeks of the season.”

Fifteen hours after Jim Thome’s homer provided the only run in a 12-inning victory to extend the Minnesota Twins’ AL Central lead to six, Lucas Harrell will take the mound in a must-win game this afternoon.
Harrell already picked up an ugly-peripherals-good-results emergency victory earlier this season. Usually these things don’t happen twice.
I don’t think this is how Hawk imagined it taking place.
************************
Out of morbid curiosity, let’s see if I can figure out what exactly Ozzie Guillen meant by his last Thome defense.

”I don’t know about the organization,” Guillen said Wednesday when asked if he was feeling the heat. ”Myself, I know he’s going to hit.
”Maybe the fans do. Maybe the media does. I really don’t pay attention to that. I don’t. He had big hits for a lot of people. He had big hits for us.

Ozzie knew Thome still could hit, and was unsure about whether other groups knew as well. This is a great defense for answering complaints about one-dimensionality after re-signing Thome, by the way.

”If it’s not Thome, then it’s going to be [Justin] Morneau. Jim is playing just because Morneau is not there. And I’m glad for Jimmy. Believe me, I’m very happy for him. He proved to people he could still play. I never said we thought he couldn’t play anymore. All those people can say whatever they want to say. I keep my head up. I go by what we think, what we feel was better for the ballclub.”

Whether it’s Thome or Morneau, the Sox would be helpless. The Twins are going to run away with the division. But Thome has proved to people what Guillen already knew, and he’s happy that he’s done it.

‘We’re not in second place right now because of Jimmy,” Guillen said. ”We’re in second place right now because Minnesota plays good, and we have had two very bad months. We played good without Jimmy, and we played bad without Jimmy. That’s the way it is.

”They can say, ‘Blame it on Ozzie.’ Why not? I’ll take the blame. Believe me, if the Minnesota Twins win, it’s a team effort. It’s not just Jim Thome. Did Jim help? Yes, he did, a lot. I’m glad for him.

Guillen says the Sox aren’t in second place because of Thome’s play, but because Minnesota, for whom Thome is playing well, plays well. And also because the Sox had two very bad months, due in large part to not having enough offense, while Thome was providing enough offense to another club in the division.
If the Minnesota Twins win, it’s a team effort. And you can blame Ozzie, because Minnesota was helped a lot by Thome’s play.

”That ballclub, if you look at spring training, if you look at the starting rotation … who are those guys? The second baseman [Orlando Hudson] was looking for a job all over the place. The shortstop, everybody goes, ‘[J.J.] Hardy who?’ Those guys are playing well for them.”

Orlando Hudson also could have been on the White Sox with Thome. Also, anybody who says “Hardy who?” should not be in charge of player personnel, even if he’s projecting it on other people.
Anyway, I was right the first time. That could not be distilled into anything useful.

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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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soxfan1

Ozzie is full of it, as usual.

cushinglee

If “The Club” comes out on DVD, I want Thome to do the commentary.

mechanicalturk

Speaking of being right the first time, the White Sox continue to see to it that I was right the first time I declared the season effectively over. Oh well, at least I still have my horrible alma mater football team and NFL team that is universally hated by all other Sox fans.
How long ’til hockey season?

striker

I think what ozzie is saying is that the twins are a good team and the white sox are just a bunch of good players. I agree with him to an extent about thome, sure he is better than Kotsay but if we don’t have a good team then one player wouldn’t make a difference. Would thome have driven in 6 runs yesterday?
It’s time to see if flowers and morel are major league ready.

lorenzobandini

>>The Sox have a good team<<
You are right. They are the fifth best team int he American league. That isn't shameful, just disappointing.
I'm afraid that as long as our hope is finding deals off the scrap heap, this will be the way the Sox roll.

striker

Interesting that you say this because I was just looking at standings and thought how this is quite possibly a 90 win team, which is good. I just look at that Twins rotation and think we should have been a better team.
The biggest disappointments are 1) we sucked this year against the twins head to head 2) we didn’t dominate the Indians, Royals and Orioles like we should have.
Outside the NL teams we played and the Mariners we are only a .500 team.

dalton

Isn’t that the mark of a good, not great team: To beat up on the bad teams and break even against their equals or betters? I live in Michigan, so it is rare when I can tune in to Chicago sports radio, but driving home from Kalamazoo on Saturday night, the hosts were rehashing this point about how mediocre the Sox are because they “got healthy” against the National League. Yes, they underperformed – an understatement – against the Orioles (who had gotten hot at the time under Showalter), Royals, and Indians. But they did sweep Cleveland and Boston before getting swept by Detroit. Boston has roughly the same record as Chicago.
Chicago should have had a better record. If they didn’t start off so poorly, we could be looking at 95 wins and a Division title. If they finish 11 – 8, that’s 90 wins. Disappointing result in second place, but they’re not a mediocre team.

bigfun

“finding deals off the scrap heap”
I don’t think this was the problem, depending on how you define scrap heap. Counting Putz, Vizquel, Garcia, and Santos, I’d say the team got a great return off of the scrap heap.
The medium- and higher-priced players hurt the team more.

expatnyc

I don’t think that’s what Ozzie meant. I’m not sure his mind is tuned to such subtleties. More likely, he knows he fucked up, and is flailing for a professional-sounding explanation. But there isn’t one. Because profesionnal American League managers and general managers should know better than to allow cheap, reliable offensive production to slip away when their team lacks same. Ozzie makes a lot of good moves when he’s doing his job instead of his boss’s. But he failed utterly in assessing the capabilities and lacunae of this team. Tough to forgive that.

ricksch

great comment and totally spot-on

antivig

Actually, to a great extent, any pennant race involving WS v Twins rests on the shoulders of WS fans, at least the ones who bet on games. When the Stanley Cup was in full swing and the WS were tanking, I said to fellow WS fans, “It’s the Stanley Cup effect.” Meaning? Heavy bets (obviously, winners) on the Hawks tilted the Chicago profit center for LV, requiring that the other Chicago teams’ handle be losers for pro-Chicago bettors. When the Lord Stanley came here, the WS went on that tremendous run. The Cubs’ bettors are gravy.
There are other examples of how LV oddsmakers play emotions to max LV profits (in the multi-100s of billions). Don “the Wizard of Odds” Angelini was the near-legendary lone mob oddsmaker whose life, in part (along w/Frankie Rosenthal), was the model for the De Niro character in “Casino”; now, it’s less centralized, but the simple contrarian set-ups still apply.
Want the WS to win? Place your $ opposite to where your loyalties lie. Bet heavy ON Twins, AGAINST WS. W/a big enough handle the vendetta vs. Reinsdorf since 1994 will hurt the bottom line (2005 was the anomaly paid for by US Cellular), and the pro-Minneapolis branch of the mob will lessen as a favorite vs. Chicago.
Go Bears. Bet on the Vikes.

lorenzobandini

I never thought of that! It makes perfect sense!

Doctor Memory

Is it not clear that the Twins top-to-bottom are 10 games better than the Sox?
The Sox had an unrepeatable hot streak, and the Twins have gotten to this point without their lock-down closer and their team’s second-best player. Thome helped make it all seem easy, but it’d be hard to project a 39-becoming-40-year old doing what he’s done. (This is a lightning-in-a-bottle event.)
Given the personnel, an 85-win campaign should be celebrated. Sure, it’s kinda sad that they were “this close” – but, really, were it not for the mighty contributions of Omar, this team is +/- 3 games from the Tigers’ record. Given the Tigers’ injuries, I’d rate them as a superior squad when healthy.
Beckham is what Beckham is; Alexi is a complementary player; A.J. – although hitting out-his-ass the past couple of weeks – is a submarginal player. Konerko having a career season is the difference-maker of the projected regulars around the horn.
The outfield is staffed with .500 record-type players, with Rios the only exception. Juan Pierre is an ace – but he’s a complementary ace, or a fourth outfielder ace.
The starters have delivered about all that could be expected – although Floyd has made a giant leap.
Injuries make the bullpen question unanswerable. The best that can be said of that is, “Hey! How ’bout this Sale kid!”

hitlesswonder

“Alexi is a complementary player”
I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like less than what I’d rate Ramirez this season. Granted, his OBP is lousy. On the other hand, he has the highest OPS of AL shortstops this season and his defense has been very good. You need to compute his value relative to his position. He’s been one of the best SSs in the AL. Add that to the fact that he’s paid so little and he’s really a pretty valuable player.

alwayssox

According to fangraphs, Ramirez is the top AL SS in terms of WAR.
http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=ss&stats=bat&lg=al&qual=y&type=6&season=2010&month=0

mechanicalturk

#1 is a very average rank.

fustercluck

It’s the veriest.

Doctor Memory

I was wrong to label Alexi complementary. To do so is an offense to the informed readers of this site.
He is one of the better shortstops in the AL, and his future looks very bright. He plays hard and is growing as a player.
Although I recognize his “value” in relation to his salary, that aspect of the equation is not relevant to the team’s wins and losses. (Just as Paulie’s large salary is irrelevant to his contributions.) It’s great that he costs so little.
What I meant to convey was that Alexi is the sort of shortstop at this stage of his career who brings exactly what he brings – these things which Fustercluck, Mechanical Turk, Alwayssox, Hitless Wonder, and others have kindly noted.
The overall role of this sort of player – 7/8/9-hole hitter, limited power, still learning intricacies of the offensive side of the game, very good fielder, slightly-above average hitter(not measuring only shortstops), good speed but average base runner, seemingly benign locker room presence (very important) – this player doesn’t have the role that Konerko or Rios has, or (it seems to me) even the role of Beckham (who the Sox seem to position as a new face of the franchise). He’s more like a Dave Concepcion for the Reds. (A great – and fringe HOF – shortstop.) It’s just that this year’s Sox aren’t the Big White Machine. (They stay on the scene, like a Sox Machine instead.)
This is my sense of what “complementary” means, but Alexi is more important to the success of the Sox than Concepcion was to the Reds’.
Uber-complementary? Hyper-complementary? Complementary-plus?
I didn’t mean to use the word as a pejorative. I like his game and his way, and what his future would seem to hold.

dalton

Alexi has Dave Concepcion-like power? Did Concepcion ever hit 16 or more HR in a season?
I was reading up on Davey, and found this gem of a quote from an article on him: “I had 950 RBIs, which was hard on that team because I was usually batting behind Bench, Perez and George Foster and they didn’t leave many. Plus I had to hit a triple to get those guys home.” Love that last line.

Doctor Memory

@Dalton, I’m not sure where you read that I said Concepcion and Alexei were HR-hitting equals.
Concepcion hit 101 in his career, with a high of 16.
If Alexei plays 12 full-time seasons at shortstop, I’d expect he’d end up (multiplying present 3-year results by 4) with 850 R, 1750 H, 250 2B, 16 3B, 210 HR, 800 RBI, 360 BB, 800 SO, 150 SB, 90 CS.
Concepcion’s 12-year full-time run was approximately 770 R, 1800 H, 310 2B, 34 3B, 85 HR, 760 RBI, 570 BB, 800 K, 270 SB, 86 CS.
Their slashes would be close, too – Concepcion put up poor numbers at the beginning and end – when he was a part-time player. A casual glance at his 12 full-time years indicates that BA will be about the same, OBP significantly higher for Concepcion, SLG significantly higher for Alexei, and OPS a slight edge for Alexei.
Concepcion played mostly on a rug, so it’s tough to do much defensive comparison. Having watched both gentlemen quite a bit, my impression is that Alexei has as good or better an arm, about the same range, about as soft hands. Davey seemed to have slightly more evolved baseball instincts – but that seems to pop up a lot when comparing baseballers from earlier eras with those of recent times, except with some current players who played for top-level college teams.
I chose him as a comparative because (1) he was a veryvery good baseball player/shortstop, and (2) at no time would he have been mistaken for a heavy lifter on his squad.
Both these good shortstops fall into a class that I call complementary. It’s not an insult – just an attempt to establish a hierarchy of importance. Scottie Pippen was a complementary player, for instance. Was he not voted one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time?
Your excellent quote from Concepcion – humor aside – does make note that his opportunities may have seemed limited, but the flip side is that he got a lot of PAs, which fed his cumulative numbers. Hard to imagine Alexei getting 670 PA in the 7-hole, when he’s surrounded by AJ, Beckham, Kotsay, Andruw, Teahan, et.al. If I recall that Reds team, the only guy they had to hide was Cesar Geronimo. Not much of a challenge when you can trot out Bench, Perez, Morgan, Davey, Rose, Foster, and Griffey . . ..
, I think we agree about Alexei’s value and role. Mostly, this firestorm seems to be over the meaning of “complementary”. I’ve explained my understanding as best I can.
My objection to your “start for every AL team” is that shortstop is not a star’s position in the AL these days. As I mentioned in a note to you the other day, when Omar was in his prime, he was considered the fourth-best SS in the AL! Let’s all take a sec to get our brains around that.
Jump to the NL, though, and there are six teams that would stand pat. Three have team-toting stars(Hanley, Rollins, Tulo – down year for Rollins, I know); three have strong defensive/strong offensive base-stealing guys (Reyes, Furcal, Castro.) S.Drew, Desmond, and Uribe look to be better Alexei comparatives. That makes nine of 16.
Can we agree that Alexei ranks in the lower portion of the Upper Third of ML shortstops?

dalton

Great post, Doctor Memory.
As for thinking you thought I thought you wrote he had Concepcion-like power, I just took your comment, “He’s more like a Dave Concepcion for the Reds” and home runs came to mind. Or the lack thereof for Davey. Dave was an exceptional complementary player – no doubt about it. It’s just evident Ramirez has more power, and if he ever gets anyone to bat in front of him who can get on base regularly, I think his RBI totals will be in the 960 or better range for a comparable 12-year period.
As for comparing shortstops, who would have thought Uribe’s name would surface in the conversation after he whiffed his way out of Chicago two years ago? He’s put up two solid years at the plate for SF and I’ve always marveled at his cannon arm.
Wouldn’t we love to have Uribe at 3B these past two years..?

ricksch

I don’t think you can call Thome’s year “lightning in a bottle”. His numbers last year, at 38, were about the same. You’re talking about one of the greatest home run hitters in the history of the game.

Doctor Memory

My thought with Thome is that the perception in the off-season of his falloff (career quality – not the small sample at season’s end) was linked to his not being a capable position player.
He had a season of nagging injuries, then finished poorly with the Dodgers.
Much has been written – some shared here – about the projections for Thome’s 2010 campaign. I believe 13-14 dongs was the average of CHONE and others.
My personal admiration for Jim Thome is great.
His numbers last year were not about the same – this season represents one of the statistically best of his career – and his two previous seasons showed marked decline.
When Thome signed with the Twins, I recall feeling sadness – because I thought he had a chance to get to 600 if he played with a team that needed a three-outcome DH, and the Twins weren’t going to be able to offer enough ABs. Perhaps the Sox would have given him the opportunity, but perhaps the load of more ABs may have compromised his ability to stay fit. It’s all moot.

ricksch

Okay, his numbers were up this year. But the definition of the word “about” still holds. His 17 ABs with the Dodgers isn’t even worth mentioning. Thome was clearly not used to being used almost solely as a pinch-hitter.
If the Sox were astute observers, they would realized Thome was ready to and should be taking a lesser role to keep his back healthy. Everyone noticed Jim struggling against lefties last year and it was time for him to throttle down a bit. I had only ever envisioned him DH-ing against righties — before Ozzie and Kenny blew the deal. (Not to bring it up again but it’s damn hard to avoid isn’t it?

Doctor Memory

@Ricksch, let me restate that my recollection of the MLB-wide take on Thome at season’s end was that he may have been washed up. He couldn’t stay healthy, and everyone was sadly admitting that sending him out to play first base was not tenable.
As a Thome fan, I was crushed.
If there is nothing more than anecdotal proof of this state of affairs, can we at least note that he was available for hire to 30 teams, and that the Twins hired him for one year at $1.5mm?
As you mentioned, ONE OF THE GREATEST HOME RUN HITTERS OF ALL TIME!, and almost no interest in adding him to the bench/as a DH.
As I recall, the press coverage intimated that he would be a pinch hitter and sometimes-DH. He was looking at a Matt Stairs-type gig.
I remember this well, because I root for him so avidly. I felt he was doomed to fall short of 600 – even if he hung around for three more years, scavenging 125 ABs per. You may be right in your PH-ing-in-LA (“with my best ol’ ex-friend, Ray”) assessment, but that’s the role into which he was being cast.
As to “about” – I went to his career-by-years. This year compares (as a half-example) with 1996 and 2001. Throw out the LA games, and there’s still a precipitous decline over the previous two years.
So, teams were looking at a guy who: would be turning 40, had measurably declined for two years, had the sort of “unique” body type that tends to go “inflexible” and slightly-fragile at about age 36, could not play a defensive position, struck out 30% of his ABs, and may have been motivated more by his desire to reach 600 than those things which had made him so great for so many years. (This was a concern of the lunatic fringe, in my estimation.)
Teams balanced these concerns with the knowledge that he is a great teammate (a “humanitarian” in the true sense, even), knew the strike zone, hadn’t seemed to lose bat speed (or “power”) – allowing that injuries would heal, and who would be affordable.
The concern of Sox fans over his non-signing was expressed BEFORE he went to Minny. That speaks volumes and volumes.
But, no Pollyanna forecaster could have this March tossed out as expectation Thome’s present line in a room of sober baseball people and made it out alive. “Oh, yeah? I heard we could get Yaz for $850K, and he’s bound to hit 30 this year.”
What hurts is that this one guy – playing the way he’s played this year – transferred from the Twinkies to the Sox – would have the Sox in first place or thereabouts today.
But, we’ve all seen the whining poker player who folded, only to see the next guy draw the card the folder needed to hit an inside straight. The guy folded because he understood that the percentages were horribly against him – he made an informed decision.
Of course now, he’s out on the patio, broke, chain-smoking from a pack of Kools he bummed from the guy who won the hand, drinking left-behind half-drinks, with smudged lipstick of the skeevy hostesses – the ones who will be entertaining the guy who gave up his Kools to the unlucky dude getting wasted out back.

ricksch

Good argument and much of what you say is true. However, I don’t think all of ML baseball had written Thome off. Clearly he’s not able to play in the NL, but that’s been the case for years.
From where the Sox were sitting before the start of Spring Training, Thome’s numbers last year were still pretty good and far better, on average, than his jackass replacements, Jones/Kotsay — two older players who, in Kotsay’s case, was recovering from a recent injury.
Digging deeper into the Sox roster at the time. I harken back to Mr. Jayson Nix. A guy whose presence created a redudancy of use behind a guy tabbed as being a back-up already, Vizquel. Somehow there was room on the roster for Nix, but not Jimmy? The Great Nix is then DFA’d mid-season.
Also, at the time the Sox were mulling over Thome, it was already known the Twins were interested. Keeping Thome away from the Twins, coupled with what we should have hoped to get from Thome in a reduced role (less ABs means less chance at injury) means aadding Thome should have been a no-brainer.

ricksch

I forgot perhaps the most salient addition to your argument. The reason Thome wasn’t deluged with offers is that he’s restricted to the AL and all of the other AL teams already had their DH. The Twins sort of did too, but what they do better than most teams is create roster flexibility.

Doctor Memory

I’m speaking only of my own impressions now: I think the Sox imagined a range of possible Thome outcomes for the 2010 season.
The best positive outcome was: 100G 300AB 20HR 30%SO 20%BB .265BA.
The least positive outcome was: 50G 120AB 8HR 35%SO 15%BB .198BA.
The third contingency was: almost-immediate season-ending back surgery. A $1.5mm depth charge to the septic tank.
I think the Twins assessed the outcomes in virtually identical fashion, as did a half-dozen other teams looking for a good-character, high-OBP, lefty slugger for PH/DH in a platoon.
As it played out, everyone weighted the negative end of the outcomes more heavily than the positive.
Then, along came the inconvenience of actually playing the games, and Thome drops the equivalent of a 50-tater, 120-ribbie bomb (with historic slashes) on the AL Central – and only after Morneau catches a three-month concussion.
We all love baseball, don’t we? I submit that cases like this are Exhibit 1-type examples of “why”. God, I love this game.
More importantly, though, no love for “He’s pinch-hitting in L.A., with my best ol’ ex-friend Ray”? (You can keep the dime.)
And isn’t there a Chicago connection with Jim Croce? (Oh, that’s right, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown – baddest man in the whole damned town. I wonder if he could DH?)

Doctor Memory

Since Morneau went down, 7/7, Thome is 34/115 (.296), with 13 magnificos. (Several of the last half-dozen of which have been titanic.)
Post-7/7 AB:HR = 8.85
Career AB:HR = 13.55

dalton

I’ll say this much: If Minnesota wins the division, I’m rooting for them to win the World Series, simply for Thome. And I loathe the Twins.

fustercluck

Not much has been made of it, I only saw it the one time, and I’m not going to seek it out, because I am disinclined to pore through nine months of Ozzie-Thome controversy,,,
But Oz made a comment recently about Thome leaving the team last year like he felt abandoned. I got the impression that he harbored hard feelings that Thome didn’t go down with the ship. If he doesn’t want to be here, then I don’t want him here; bad breakup nonsense. So that might be something.
Of course, Ozzie’s been pretty clear that he demands versatility from the DH position. Even if that means sticking bench players there who can spot start in the field, players who by definition don’t merit an everyday position anywhere in a lineup.
Isn’t this horse dog food yet?

dalton

I’m still surprised Dye didn’t catch on somewhere as a DH. Does anyone think he has a shot in 2011 at a greatly reduced salary? He did hit 27 HR in 2009, after all.

ricksch

I wouldn’t bother looking up Guillen’s quotes. I know it’s hard when you have to communicate in a non-native language, but Ozzie’s quotes are often very close to gibberish.

fustercluck

Let it not be said I foist my homework onto others:
From 8/19:
“First of all, let me make this clear: Jim Thome made the decision to leave to the Dodgers.”

bigfun

“Thome helped make it all seem easy, but it’d be hard to project a 39-becoming-40-year old doing what he’s done. (This is a lightning-in-a-bottle event.)”
No its not. He had hit well consistently for years prior to this year. You could expect some regression, and he’s hit better than that, but its hardly lightning in a bottle what he’s done this year – there was little reason to think he would fall off a cliff.

ricksch

Look BF, we agreed!