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Play Out The String

At 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, this silliness known as the Trade Deadline will be behind us. It can't come too soon.

Not that there is a problem with players being dealt to new clubs. That practice has been part of Organized Baseball since the beginning.

Granted, until 40 years ago with the ascension of the Players Association, the athletes were completely at the mercy of the owners in terms of where they would be performing. Nowadays free-agents-to-be like Jeff Samardzija simply need to be patient and pitch where they are told until they can entertain offers from anyone.

What is redundant and bothersome is all the blather about buyers or sellers, who is going where, who are the best prospects, and which rent-a-player is most likely to make a difference. I have a lot of company from those who much prefer the action on the field to all the rumors and conjecture.

Talking about action, the White Sox displayed plenty of it the past four days in sweeping Cleveland on the Tribe's home turf for their first four-game road sweep in eight years.

So here we are once again, four games below .500, five games from a wild-card berth with five teams to leapfrog to get there and 66 games to do it.

Despite losing five of their first six games after the All-Star break - including a pair to the front-running Cardinals at The Cell last Tuesday and Wednesday - our enigmatic crew has won 14 of its last 22 games. The Sox outscored the reeling Indians 26-5. In splitting 10 games since the break, the Sox have made just two errors, one of which was catcher's interference by Tyler Flowers last Wednesday that led to the winning run on Yadier Molina's eighth-inning bases loaded triple.

Promoting Tyler Saladino from Charlotte 13 games ago so far has proved to be a master stroke of genius by general manager Rick Hahn. The kid can play. Gone are the defensive miscues of Conor Gillaspie - in fact, just plain gone is Conor Gillaspie who was picked up by the Angels last week after the Sox designated him for assignment, whatever that means.

(Actually it means that the team can either trade the player or release him outright after 10 days. The Sox got "cash considerations," another ambiguous phrase, for Gillaspie. Personally, I'd rather have the cash. You can hold onto the considerations.)

In Gillaspie's place is Saladino, who not only has made all the routine plays that tended to intimidate his immediate predecessor, but he's turned in a few gems as well, to say nothing of a slash line of .294/.327/.778. The sample size is small, but the 25-year-old Saladino, batting second in the order, has given the team a new look.

In addition, since Saladino entered the scene, shortstop Alexei Ramirez, perhaps sensing that Saladino is the heir apparent at shortstop, has become a demon in the field. He and Carlos Sanchez are turning exciting double plays as often as Donald Trump says something outrageous.

Sox pitchers have to be ecstatic about the development in which their fielders actually can catch the ball. Sox starters in the past 10 games have a 3.00 ERA. John Danks in his last two starts against Kansas City and St. Louis didn't give up a run in 12 2/3 innings. Carlos Rodon shut out the Indians on Sunday for 6-plus innings while Jose Quintana pitched his first complete game ever on Friday, blanking Cleveland 6-0.

Although the South Siders still have scored fewer runs than any team in either league, there are signs that just maybe they are awakening from their season-long hibernation.
If so, Melky Cabrera, who was hitting .228 back on June 8 with just five extra base hits in 56 games, deserves a lot of credit. Since that first week of June, the Melkman is hitting .338 with 16 extra base hits. Sanchez was hitting an embarrassing .165 at the end of June. So far this month, he's rolling along at a .306 clip. He hit his first career home run Saturday in the team's 10-3 laugher, and then he belted No. 2 on Sunday and scored both runs in the 2-1 squeaker.

Leadoff man Adam Eaton remains at .251, far below the .300 he hit last season. But after two hits and two walks on Saturday, his OBP is a respectable .327. Jose Abreu isn't close to the numbers he posted in his rookie season a year ago, but he remains a threat every time he walks to the plate. If he just went back to swinging primarily at strikes, he would be even more productive.

Lest one is led to believe that the White Sox are speeding toward a division title, let me tell you about Adam LaRoche, who usually bats fifth, thus providing "protection" for Abreu. Poor Adam is hitting .141 this month without a homer and only three RBI. Only six players in all of MLB have struck out more than LaRoche this season.

Yet manager Robin Ventura continues to bat LaRoche fifth behind Abreu. Okay, the guy's making $12 million, so you have to play him. Or do you? Having the speedy J.B. Shuck as DH would make so much more sense.

Signing LaRoche last winter appeared to be a brilliant move. But he is having by far his worst season ever. So do something. The Indians walked Abreu on Sunday to load the bases in the top of the seventh of a 2-0 game. The odds were that LaRoche would strike out, which is exactly what he did. If LaRoche must play, can't he bat eighth or ninth?

Catcher Tyler Flowers strikes out almost as often as LaRoche, but he gets credit for his handling of the pitchers. So let him catch Chris Sale and once or twice more each week while giving Geovany Soto much more time than presently is the case. Geo's OPS is .748 compared to Flowers' .599. C'mon Robin. Play Soto.

So there you have it. Solid pitching. Much improved defense. A few hitters finding their stroke and becoming productive. Why not make a few adjustments and stand pat? Let Samardzija do what he was brought in to do. Play out the string and see how far these fellows can go.

Not everyone sees it quite this way. In fact, my guess is that if Hahn does little or nothing this week in the way of trades, he will be derided as a wishful thinker for believing that the 2015 White Sox can actually reach .500 and then make a move against the teams ahead of them.

Beachwood editor Steve Rhodes e-mailed me last week asking, "Shouldn't the White Sox think about moving [closer David] Robertson and [relievers Zach] Duke and [Dan] Jennings?"

He correctly suggested that a pitcher the caliber of Robertson or a hitter of Cabrera's ilk could bring a good return of a position player or a hot prospect.

"Robertson has the most value and is a luxury on a team this bad," Steve continued. "You can't just bring the same guys back. That's death."

Hahn has been adept at holding his cards extremely close to his vest. And my sense is that this is where they will remain as the White Sox invade Fenway Park for four night games against the Red Sox this week. If our Sox come anywhere close in Boston to where they were last weekend in Cleveland, Jeff Samardzija, Alexei Ramirez and possibly the rest of the roster will stay right where they are.

If that kills them, so be it. At least we can stop hearing the inane chatter about the Trade Deadline until next season at this time.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the Sox. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 11, 2021