The Linebrink problem, and playing for now

Depending on how you look at it, one could say that Scott Linebrink needed this outing.

Nice work, Vince.
Nice work, Vince.
Before allowing two walks and a game-tying homer to Mike Jacobs on Monday night — all with two outs — opposing announcers had the habit of saying Linebrink was having a nice season, just by looking at these three stats:

42 1/3 IP, 42 K, 2.98 ERA

After Monday’s debacle, that ERA is now up to 3.53.  And now that none of his numbers are easily mistakeable, maybe the late-inning strategy can shift away from their $19 million man. Though his salary may suggest otherwise, Linebrink doesn’t belong in high-leverage situation.
Two pointless walks — Mark Teahan and Mitch Maier, with two outs with a three-run lead? — underscore the fact that his walk rate has more than doubled compared to last season. Jacobs’ blast was the seventh allowed by Linebrink, which is just about equal to his career-worst gopher ball rate of 1.6 per nine innings.
The last time the Linebrink problem was seriously addressed was after his collapse against the Cubs in June. At the time, Ozzie Guillen considered it a “slap in the face” to yank Linebrink from the setup role.
This time, it’s simply not a valid excuse. Acquiring Alex Rios had the potential to hurt the feelings of more useful players, such as Jermaine Dye and Scott Podsednik. Especially Dye, who was in the last year of his contract and slumping at the time.
Maybe the timing is officially right to make a big switch. Jeopardizing a must-win game should provide enough of an impetus, but since they won the game, Guillen isn’t turning Linebrink into a real scapegoat. Otherwise, if not now, when?
It’s kind of funny how Linebrink’s crosstown flop failed to be indicative of anything.
That loss put the Sox four games under .500. They’re now three games above it, and two games back of the Tigers.
That win for the Cubs got them back to .500, and ready to capitalize on their supposed talent advantage in the NL Central. Now they’re six games behind the Cardinals and falling, and the winner of that fateful game in June, Kevin Gregg, has been removed from the closer role.
We’re now two months removed from that game, and while the Sox are in a far better position than their crosstown counterparts, they haven’t exactly taken advantage of it.  Kenny Williams isn’t particularly pleased with the way the events of this season have unfurled to this point, and I’d venture to say the direction of the Cubs has at least a little bit to do with his frustration.
Cubbie adoration generally rankles Williams, and he hasn’t made a secret of it. He’s endured far more scrutiny than Jim Hendry despite owning a superior resume, mainly because he gives up talent to get talent, whereas Hendry goes the free agency route. Fortunately, Williams fights it with ballsy maneuevers instead of self-pity.
The additions of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy have greater implications for 2010 and beyond, but the importance of the 2009 can’t be understated. Williams pulled the trigger on those moves for the present, and he probably wouldn’t be holding court with reporters partially off-the-record if he didn’t want to be the only game in town come October. He’s added the payroll, but wins will ultimately determine any gain in market share, and, in turn, increased flexibility for Williams.
The Cheat is right when he says this year is one of the most frustrating in recent memory, and it’s setting up for a tense September. Getting to the postseason isn’t half the battle — it’s pretty much the war for the Sox. It’s OK that they’re not built for a deep October run, because a one-and-done still benefits them. They’ve never made the postseason two years in a row, and outsiders don’t have a great concept of their window of opportunity. Before adding Rios and Peavy, it could best be described as “ajar.” There was hope and potential, but little sense of urgency.
The way I see it, Williams’ window must be far bigger than most figured. He shocked the league enough by trading for Peavy — nobody thought they would take on Rios’ contract.
Timing played a big factor. Williams didn’t want to risk waiting for an environment in which he could be outspent again, so he added payroll when nobody else wanted to.
Likewise, it looks like this October — and just this one — has similarly significant financial implications, and benefits for the taking. He’s showing a big-market attitude (and Jerry Reinsdorf’s showing big-market wallet-opening), but stringing together division titles and commanding 100 percent of the city’s attention is what really defines that status. The Sox can’t guarantee either element by waiting ’til next year, so again…
…if not now, when?
Wrapping up the draft, Jared Mitchell didn’t lie when he called himself signable. At the start of the day, not only was he the only first-round pick playing minor-league ball, but he had been playing long enough to amass 100+ plate appearances. The Sox avoided a major headache there.
On the other hand, they couldn’t use the time saved on negotiating with their first-round pick to come to terms with Bryan Morgado or Justin Jones, which means the draft class takes a hit.
Morgado (fifth round) seemed to be in line with the selections of Dexter Carter and Daniel Hudson in last year’s draft — a collegiate pitcher with good stuff and disappointing results.  But after posting great numbers in the Cape Cod League (he struck out 47 hitters over 32 1/3 innings with a 3.06 ERA), it appears he’s returning to Tennessee to try to improve his stock.
Jones, meanwhile, will apparently honor his commitment to Cal after dominating the high school circuit in Northern California.
That hurts a little bit, especially if you consider what the Sox did with those picks last year. They found Hudson in the fifth round, and went above slot to sign Jordan Danks in the seventh. If only Jones’ brother played with the Sox.
Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 7, Norfolk 5
    • Josh Fields doubled, walked twice and struck out twice.
    • Stefan Gartrell hit his first Triple-A homer and added a single.
    • Wilson Betemit went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI; Miguel Negron had four hits.
    • Tyler Flowers did not play.
    • Wes Whisler scattered eight hits and a walk over seven innings, allowing just a run. He struck out four.
  • Birmingham 3, Montgomery 0
    • C.J. Retherford went 3-for-3 with a walk.
    • Matt Long extended his scoreless innings streak to 19 with six more. He allowed three hits and two walks, striking out three.
    • John Shelby hit a solo homer and walked.
    • Christian Marrero and Dayan Viciedo each went 2-for-4, with Marrero doubling.
  • Kannapolis 6, Lexington 0
    • Nevin Griffith struck out six over six, allowing just three hits and a walk.
    • Brandon Short went 2-for-3 with a walk and two RBI, stealing his 12th base as well.
    • Jon Gilmore doubled and walked, but also committed his 32nd error.
    • Jared Mitchell went 0-for-4 with three Ks, Josh Phegley 1-for-3
  • Bluefield 4, Bristol 1
    • Leighton Panglilinan had the lone multi-hit game, going 2-for-4.
    • Trayce Thompson had one hit in four at-bats.
    • Steven Upchurch’s struggles continue: 4 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 1 K.
  • Casper 9, Great Falls 1
    • Garrett Johnson is still off: 2 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.
    • Kevin Dubler doubled and walked.
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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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I think I have left three posts about how I hate when Ozzie gets Randy Williams up, a string of lefties are coming up, and of course he then leaves Dotel or Linebrink in.
WTF, either go to your lefty, or dont get him up. Whats ozzie’s thinking, if he gets williams up maybe they wont pinch hit with Jacobs, the only guy on their bench capable of a 3 run homer in a 3 run game with 2 guys on???? Just dumb.