Accountability for White Sox still limited to words

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.

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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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LamarHoyt_oncrack

They need to DFA La Russa. He is the status quo that they can’t continue with. He is that bad.

Anything short of getting rid of him is like trying to use a bandaid to treat cancer. If he stays around, this team is, in fact, hopeless.

tommytwonines

Someone mentioned Hinch is probably opting out of his contract this year, and unlike two years ago, is he signing up for this s**tshow?

metasox

Even La Russa wouldn’t sign up for this. He talked as though he was getting a championship club

Augusto Barojas

La Russa is CAUSING a lot of this. All that he does creates a toxic environment, destroys the vibe and any kind of momentum. Those things matter. Get a decent, average manager who isn’t a complete prick and I am certain things would be a lot better. Guys would hit better. It would be like a miracle. They are only a few games out of first anyway, and would almost undoubtedly be in first with a different manager. He has easily cost them 5 or 6 games.

This isn’t a championship club, that isn’t TLR’s fault. But they should still be able to win a hapless division. If this was a championship club, TLR would manage it into a non-championship club. He needs to go.

Marty34

This is a upper-middling team when healthy and that’s a stretch because everyone assumes the injured players are good.

Marty34

Have you watched the Tigers? No to Hinch.

ForsterFTOG

Because?

Marty34

Hinch isn’t a very good manager (see Tigers) who by his own admission got run over by his players in the Astros clubhouse.

Soxfan2

Since another team wouldn’t hire Hahn to be a GM or President of Baseball Ops, I doubt he will opt of the million or so dollars he’s getting paid. He is going to ride the Reindorf loyalty train for as long as he can, even if it’s a less than ideal situation

Nellie Fox

Manager Tony La Russa on Saturday told reporters that several White Sox veterans “are playing under trainer instructions that if they make a routine out, they slow it down” running toward first base.

WTF?

metasox

Haven’t we known that for a while?
And if they cannot run to 1B, presumably stolen bases and good defense should not be expected

Last edited 1 month ago by metasox
Foulkelore

Yes he did. He specifically said 5 out of the 9 regulars: Anderson, Pollock, Vaughn, Robert, and Abreu (you’ll notice that’s the entire outfield some days – running is nice for outfielders). This isn’t normal. None of this is normal.

metasox

Not even half way through the season and players cannot run nor play two games in a row. If I want to be pessimistic, these sound like the words of a team that has already acknowledged defeat

OldMMJ87

I am baffled by how the Sox have used the IL this year. I don’t get why it took them so long to put Moncada and Grandal on it even though they were clearly hurt

metasox

Presumably poor roster construction. They were so desperate for left handed bats, they felt their only choice was for these guys to try to play their way healthy

calcetinesblancos

Good thing we got rid of Luis Gonzalez.

vanillablue

Living in the Bay Area, I absorb a lot of Giants content, and the difference between how Farhan Zaidi manages the 40 man roster and how the Sox handle it is incredibly striking. Overall the Giants have major league talent that is at best comparable to the Sox and maybe worse at multiple positions. They’ve had plenty of injuries as well. But they’re in the playoff hunt in a tougher division, in large part because Zaidi keeps wheeling and dealing with the lower end of the 40-man until he finds someone that helps. That creates accountability up and down the roster – the Giants would never give Garcia, Sheets, or Moncada as many PA’s as the Sox have this year. Much to my surprise, Kapler has also turned out to be a very good manager in his second go-around. It’s really instructive to see how an actual modern organization goes about its business compared to the Sox, who always seem 20 years behind.

I see the Giants just called up Yermin Mercedes also…

asinwreck

My fantasy is this fall, Scott Harris becomes president of baseball operations for the White Sox and takes some of what he’s learned in San Francisco to modernize the organization.

That’s not going to happen under current ownership.

calcetinesblancos

It’s funny with Luis Gonzalez because even in his small sample size on the Sox he was getting on base. Then he goes to the Giants and becomes a usable piece. I get really confused as to why some players get a million chances with the Sox and then others don’t get any even when they show promise.

Andy51

They should have protected him, he was exactly what they were seeking when they traded for Mazara and later when they signed Eaton. .300+ BA and .800+ OPS lefty bat and right fielder, just a really bad call by the Sox.

Andy51

in ’18 & ’19 his BA and OPS were both north of 300 & 800 respectively. In light of the Sox’ pursuit of a left handed bat and right fielder seems to me the Sox should have maybe shown a bit more patience and take a harder look at guys who have been taking up space in their 40 man roster like Mercedes and Adolfo to name just 2 that would have made hanging onto him much easier. Just my opinion.

Andy51

Jim, further to what I just posted it was in ’18 that he posted BA of over 300 and OPS of over 800 (not ’19 my mistake) but prior to ’18 in low minors also had some big numbers. Also re: Mercedes who has since been released and Adolfo who remains my point is about taking up limited space not necessarily tied to 40 man roster–seems to me some of who we keep around stay for a long time and go nowhere while guys like Gonzalez are prematurely set free.

Andy51

Gonzalez was exactly what the Sox were looking for when they traded for Mazara and a year later Eaton. The dude is hitting over .300 with an .800+ OPS + a lefty and a right fielder. Jesus Christ who made that call? the Sox literally gave him away on a waiver claim!

Trooper Galactus

Well, Garcia and Moncada are both under contract, so they’re basically on the 40-man unless the team eats money. The Giants probably wouldn’t eat that kind of money if they could avoid it also, but then, they’re generally a smart enough team not to sign players like that.

Sheets, sure, but there’s room on the 40-man for a lefty power hitter who’s had success (and is already turning things around some). The larger issue is there’s multiple names on the 40-man who aren’t even succeeding in AAA, but for some reason no alternatives to them are being sought or attempted.

vanillablue

your last sentence is key. Zaidi is continually tinkering with the AAA/AAAA part of the 40-man to find guys who can step in and be solid even for a few games. the Sox…don’t. under the Giants way of doing things, Garcia would never have been signed to anything more than a 1 year contract (so he would have been sent down by now); Moncada would have been IL’ed long ago; and Sheets would have been sent down well before getting to 150 PA’s. it’s about avoiding negative WAR.

Soxfan2

This excerpt from Fangraph’s ranking of the Sox System has always left a mark on me: “This club is not very proactive on the margins and doesn’t scoop up players with workable traits who become freely available via waivers. That’s the way clubs like the Rays and Dodgers find their John Curtisses and Phil Bickfords and manifest upper-level depth out of thin air in a way the White Sox badly need to right now.”

MrStealYoBase

This. 100%.

I just don’t understand why there is no sense of urgency in churning through the roster. The front office is content to sit on their hands and offer Tony and the coaching staff anything in the way of help. Not that I think Tony would use it effectively, but you give a bad poker player shit hands continuously and I don’t know what outcome you are expecting.

asinwreck

Alas, until the Federal Trade Commission can meddle in White Sox business, fans are on their own.

The rebuild sounded better in 2016, when Jerry Reinsdorf was 80 years old, as we did not know an 86-year-old Jerry Reinsdorf would still be in charge of White Sox business. Leadership matters, for better and for worse.

OldMMJ87

This is no secret but all the problems the Sox have start with Jerry Reinsdorf. This organization will continue to be dysfunctional and content with mediocrity until he’s no longer the chairman.

BuehrleMan

Has anyone checked the local library of things? If they stock fungible bench players I think that would be the ideal solution for Renisdorf.

As Cirensica

Great article Jim. Good analogy with TLR and the bar tab.

Two things I was thinking, and this is my own opinion (so I could be wrong):

1) Physical conditioning has been incredibly poor. Most established players came into this season exuding confidence that it will be another walk in the park type of season (as last year). Physical preparation was kept at minimum.

Some players got paid off already and settled for life before even deserving the pay they get. It is as if playing baseball became a “hobby”. Eloy, Robert and Moncada, for example, lost the monetary motivation to be great baseball players. I can’t put into reason how mid 20s players are so fragile despite of imponent physical bodies. Their off season conditioning probably consisted in weight lifting and little leg work. Paying in advance for future production is a double edge sword. It can bring complacency, and I think that’s what happened here. Showing up breathing is not physical conditioning preparation.

Catching up an optimal physical condition during the season is a tough act. You are facing the catch-22 of being needing to prepare yourself in the gym, but you can’t because you are all sored after playing baseball games at high level. So you never catch up.

2) The White Sox win one or two games, and they go on with the mindset that “they are back on track”, but even bad teams win some games every now and them. The White Sox will probably win today, and players, coaches, FO, and even us will go and think “we are back on track” which soon enough is proven to be a mirage. To be back on track this team needs to win at least 10 games in a row.

I think this team is done this year. They can’t compete for two reasons. They won’t be able to get healthy enough to compete. It is the end of June. We are no longer talking about “Spring Training” out of shape doldrums. And the other reason is that the White Sox are being managed by a person stuck with strategies that stopped working 20 years ago. Also, quite frankly, it is very possible La Russa has advanced cognitive decline that is natural as we get old. He is 77 years old and it is a known fact that alcohol consumption, in the long run, shrinks your brain, and impairs your ability to create/store new knowledge or retrieve information.

Last edited 1 month ago by As Cirensica
Augusto Barojas

There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that TLR is suffering either cognitive decline, or pshycological impairment that causes him to either self-sabotage, or just do things like hit Sosa leadoff yesterday because he is a complete a-hole.

Either way, he doesn’t have the right psychology to manage in a healthy way, in addition to his negative vibe and personality, and there is no chance of this team going anywhere without a managerial change.

soxygen

Keep in mind the owners literally told the players that they could not come to work, work with the team trainers, work at the team facilities, or have a regular spring training. That’s what a lockout is. I don’t think you can put most of this on the players. Imagine if your employer told you that you couldn’t come to work for a few months and how you would feel if you were being blamed for the inevitable consequences of that decision.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxygen
Marty34

Maybe it’s an indication of the players desire to be the best they can be. In addition to chasing skirts carve out time get into proper physical condition for what is a grueling season.

soxygen

While they technically were under contract, they were not being paid. The owners told them, in so many words, we might rather have no season this year or pay a bunch of scabs rather than pay you the salaries in your contracts.

Again, let’s say you use your personal truck for work. Your employer tells you to stop coming to work and stops paying you. Is it really your responsibility if your truck falls into disrepair during the time when you aren’t driving it and have no income to maintain it? In this analogy, truck = body.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxygen
Marty34

If you are guaranteed the same amount of money whether or not your truck operates there is little incentive to keep it in working order.

soxygen

Do you think they were guaranteed to get paid this year if the owners wouldn’t let them back in until the union acceded to ownerships’ demands in the collective bargaining process?

Marty34

They were guaranteed the same amount of money whether they stayed in shape or not just like every other year.

soxygen

Here’s what Rob Manfred said on March 2nd when the players were locked out by the owners but apparently should have been training anyway:

“games that are not played, players will not get paid for.”

As Cirensica

Players have their own trainers. They do no need permission from owners to train.

Joliet Orange Sox

I will again reiterate my disagreement with this popular narrative. It is often put forth and I’ve yet to see any evidence for it other than pure speculation about why players are not playing well.

I’ve seen this narrative put forth for many, many players over the last 50 years and in many cases those players came back with great years after they had supposedly lost interest in the game. To me it is much more plausible that the struggles are a result of injuries and/or pitchers adjusting to the hitters and/or pressing.

I just can’t buy a narrative that relies on my accepting the difference between 2019 Eloy and current Eloy is that 2019 Eloy played with more intensity.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joliet Orange Sox
As Cirensica

Point taken but never underestimate the power of incentives

ForsterFTOG

Imagine being loyal to a guy like Daryl Boston.

soxexile

I’m not trying to defend TLR’s decision making, but I’d appreciate a moratorium on all the armchair neuropsychology. Yes, cognitive decline becomes more likely with age, but it is not universal. It’s insulting to assume that those of us who actually watched Luis Aparicio and Dick Allen play in Comiskey Park must certainly be impaired.

Besides, there is no conclusive or even suggestive evidence that TLR’s poor decisions are caused by a neurocognitive deficit. So go ahead and trash his choices all you want, but please don’t blame them on his age.

ForsterFTOG

Well said.

Trooper Galactus

Yeah, I’m not a fan speculating on the source of his bad decisions, that the decisions are bad is enough analysis to suit my desire for him to be canned.

As Cirensica

There has been instances where TLR appeared not to know how many outs were out there or what inning were they playing. Probably not conclusive but definitely suggestive. Other than that, I do agree with your comment.

gibby32

As a 75 year old who believes that Tony LaRussa should be fired because he is now incompetent, I would be pleased if no one suggests that my opinion is suggestive of cognitive decline.

To Err is Herrmann

Face facts: It simply is not important to Jerry Reinsdorf whether the White Sox succeed or not.

SoxBulldog13

At least fire the entire strength and conditioning department. Hire someone with proven track record working for another team.

SoxBulldog13

It’s either they who need to be held accountable or it’s on team manager and coaches for not motivating players ti do their required work both off season and in season. It’s probably a combination. Maybe bench players who aren’t “doing their prescribed work” like yoga, stretching, weights, resistance training, etc etc etc

NancyFaustsOrgan

Nothing changes until ownership changes. Period.