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Waiting For Garcia

You know it's bad when you're following the Charlotte Knights versus the Norfolk Tides on the computer while the Sox and Tigers provide the background on television.

But that's what it has come to. The only drama Saturday evening in Detroit wasn't so much whether the Sox could beat Max Scherzer - of course they couldn't - but whether they could score against him. Again, that didn't happen in the meek 3-0 loss.

Tracking Avisail Garcia's first games in the White Sox organization - he joined the Knights last weekend after being part of the Jake Peavy deal - enticed me more than what was happening in Detroit as we count down the games to the end of the 2013 season, which can't come quickly enough.

Garcia has played at the Cell before. Perhaps the zenith of last season occurred on September 17 when the Tigers came to the South Side for a make-up game against the division-leading Sox. Detroit had brought up the 21-year-old Venezuelan outfielder from Triple-A and inserted him in left field against left-handed pitching.

Since Jose Quintana was the starting pitcher that afternoon for the Sox, Garcia went one-for-three as the Sox stole a 5-4 decision. Five Sox relievers shut out the Tigers over the final five innings on a yield of one hit. Detroit slunk out of town, three games behind our athletes with 16 to play. Thinking that our guys were headed for the playoffs wasn't a stretch.

The Sox beat Kansas City the next day to go 15 games over .500, only to lose 11 of the season's remaining 15 games. As if failing to make the playoffs wasn't enough disappointment, little did we realize that this was just the start of a freefall which remains in full swing at this late juncture. The current 10-game losing streak is the longest in 37 years!

But let's return to a more positive image, that of Avisail Garcia. His size (6-4, 240 pounds), national origin, and demeanor required a second look to make sure we weren't mixing up Garcia with Miguel Cabrera. He's close to a dead ringer for the best hitter on Earth, and folks in Detroit on occasion began to refer to Garcia as "Little Miggy."

Jim Leyland and the Tiger brass must have been impressed; Garcia played in 30 games down the stretch in 2012 and started six games - all against left-handers - in the postseason. While he hit just .241, the kid showed some power and played all three outfield positions. What's more, he can run. Once those 240 pounds get rolling, you don't want to be a middle infielder trying to turn a double play with Garcia headed your way.

By now it should be obvious that I like Rick Hahn's deal that sent Peavy to the Red Sox and brought Garcia to the White Sox while Detroit landed young infielder Jose Iglesias. More about that in a moment.

The one confusing piece to this puzzle concerns the Tigers' free-agent signing of Torii Hunter last November for two years at $26 million. Torii turned 38 a couple of weeks ago; he's having a fine season; but why wouldn't Detroit have turned to Garcia and said, "Go get 'em kid. Right field is yours"?

Instead Garcia has played most of this season at Triple-A Toledo, where he's hitting an eyebrow-raising .373. On the Sox post-game show last Friday, Frank Thomas exuded enthusiasm about Garcia but mentioned that he might be prone to striking out too often. In parts of six minor league seasons, he's averaged a strikeout every five plate appearances - hardly Dunnesque. He's fanned around the same rate in his big-league appearances.

Hahn's transaction should go down in Sox annals as the Biogenesis Trade. Even if Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta somehow manages to beat the PED rap today, the perception that Peralta was going to be suspended spurred Tiger general manager Dave Dombrowski - his pedigree is sound since he learned the profession from Roland Hemond when both were with the White Sox front office - to obtain some insurance at shortstop.

Hence Iglesias was pried loose from the Red Sox in the three-team deal. And Iglesias is no slouch. Just 23, he was hitting .330 for Boston with just one error - hello Alexei Ramirez - in 29 games at shortstop. Over the weekend he subbed at third base for the injured Cabrera, getting an important RBI on Friday in Detroit's 2-1 victory and hitting a home run on Saturday while playing solid defense all weekend. The Tigers got what they wanted - insurance for Peralta in the form of one of the league's most promising young players.

Meanwhile, Boston gets a veteran starting pitcher in Peavy and our White Sox land a guy who could be a fixture on the South Side for years to come. Thank you, Biogenesis. Billed as an anti-aging clinic, I, for one, will feel spry and youthful if Avisail Garcia lives up to his billing.

All of which signals the end of Peavy's stint with the White Sox. I'm not sad to see him depart.

Peavy won 92 games over eight years with San Diego and snagged the Cy Young Award in 2007 when he was 19-6, leading the National League in wins and ERA. He arrived in Chicago in 2009 on the disabled list and continued to suffer through a series of injuries - the detached latissimus dorsi in 2010 threatened his career - and never came close to reaching his previous effectiveness.

Garcia's upside is cause for optimism and excitement. It's certainly worth a chance in exchange for a pitcher whose White Sox record was 36-29.

Then there's this business about Peavy being great in the clubhouse. I'm not a huge fan of sabermetrics, mostly because I haven't taken the time to truly study and understand them. My feeling is that some of those numbers are as useless as the AT&T U-verse Multiview.

But that's also the way I feel about "great in the clubhouse." The best elixir for team chemistry and a happy clubhouse is winning - even then the relationships between players (and players and management) may not be particularly jolly, most famously evidenced by the championship A's and Yankee teams of the 1970s.

Peavy's positive effect on young pitchers like Chris Sale has been amply documented, and his reputation as a fierce competitor is justly earned. However, we witnessed his public dust-up with catcher A.J. Pierzynski during a game against the Cubs in 2011, and Tyler Flowers became his catcher more often than not last season.

Peavy is a good ol' Southern boy. He likes to hunt and fish; he plays the guitar; and country music is on his iPod. However, whether individuals like Peavy can identify with the diversity which characterizes all big-league clubhouses is anyone's guess.

For my money, Pierzynski symbolized the heart and soul of the White Sox for a long time. My sense is that they miss A.J. - whether he was disliked in the clubhouse - a whole lot more than they'll ever miss Peavy.

Meanwhile, Peavy won his first outing on Saturday night for the Red Sox, and he can look forward to ample support from Big Papi, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and the rest of the Red Sox. Peavy is just 32. If he stays healthy - far from a sure bet - he could be a big winner in Boston. He's positioned for much more success than he ever was in Chicago.

For now, White Sox fans will continue to bide their time, endure the unbelievable, and wait until rosters are expanded on September 1 to get the first glimpse of Avisail Garcia in a Chicago uniform. Right now that's pretty much all we have.


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


1. From Mary Burke:

I'm an avid Sox fan suffering through the season. I had no idea that last year when I was so enjoying the Cubs losing 100, that the Sox would be spitting the bit so soon this year. Bad karma, I guess. Anyway, I enjoy your columns and just the other day while enduring another brutal Sox game, I (I usually read with the sound down and glance up to the game from time to time) saw that the Sox had two men on, so they used the useless multi-view to show the two men on and the batter. I thought, "Now how does this improve my enjoyment of the game?" It shows nothing. So I agree with you completely. Maybe they should start showing the runner at third not tagging up on fly balls when there are less than two out. Now that would be educational, and too frequent. Or Tyler Flowers getting doubled off second on a fly ball. Do I sound bitter?

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