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The suspense, the drama, the anticipation. Heart-pounding tension building day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Each season it's one of the most ballyhooed highlights of major league baseball.
Of course, we're talking about the Trade Deadline, and we're right in the midst of it. The Dodgers landed the biggest prize by prying loose Manny Machado from the Orioles. According to FiveThirtyEight, this singular move enabled the Dodgers to overtake the Cubs as the National League team with the best odds of winning the World Series.
Using Machado as an example, we have the boilerplate routine of an elite player, a soon-to-be free agent with millions of dollars awaiting him, going from a bottom-dweller to pennant-contender for the final two-plus months of the season.
Interviewed during the All-Star Game days before the deal was consummated, Machado provided the standard rhetoric. "It was a tremendous honor to wear this [Orioles] uniform. They gave me the opportunity to come to the big leagues," he told Fox's Ken Rosenthal to the surprise of absolutely no one.
All the while, he's probably thinking, "I can't wait to get out of this cesspool in Baltimore and play in a game that really means something."
Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette said, "When it became time to look to the future, trading Manny is the first step in the plan to rebuild our ballclub," while Dodger GM Farhan Zaidi crowed, "Any time you have a chance to add an impact player in a tight division race, that's something you have to look at closely."
It's all predictable and part of the drill.
In the short term, the Dodgers and their fans are the winners while the loyalists in Baltimore are left with one more reason to stay away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The White Sox possess no one of Machado's stature, but general manager Rick Hahn managed to part ways with Joakim Soria, who had converted 16 of 19 save opportunities for a team that more often than not doesn't require a closer since it rarely has a ninth-inning lead.
In a rare instance when a closer would have been a lovely asset, the Sox blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning Sunday against Toronto, who rallied for five runs against Jace Fry and Jeanmar Gomez to spoil another strong outing by Carlos Rodon.
Soria is no stranger to the trade deadline since this was the third time he's been dealt in late July. In 2014 he went from the Rangers to the Tigers, and a year later from the Tigers to Pittsburgh. He helped both of his new teams reach the postseason, something he'll try to do now with the Brewers. Soria pitched a scoreless seventh inning Friday night for Milwaukee in a 3-1 victory over San Francisco.
Soria also is accustomed to donning a new uniform. Milwaukee is his sixth team in a career that stretches back to 2007. He has a long way to go in order to equal the 13 teams that Octavio Dotel pitched for during a 15-year career that ended in 2013. Edwin Jackson pulled even with Dotel when he joined the Oakland A's in late June.
Dotel's career included three trade deadline deals, and Jackson was traded twice and released once (by the Cubs) at the trade deadline.
Soria is well-versed with the routine of expressing appreciation to his old team while looking ahead to greener pastures.
"I enjoyed my time here," he said. "I like the guys in here; the chemistry in here was really good. I always had fun with this group, but this is a business and I'm going to a new team and new family. I'm going to try to get to the playoffs . . . [W]e are competitive people, competitive players and you want to win. You want to be part of a group that makes it to the playoffs and win their championships."
Therefore, after a bit less than four months as a member of the White Sox, we can bid adieu to Joakim Soria and wish him well.
In the meantime, the Sox lose a member of the bullpen which, even with Soria's 2.56 mark, has a combined 4.69 ERA (24th overall), a WHIP of 1.49 (28th), an on-base percentage of .347 (28th), and 4.2 walks per nine innings (27th).
This is cause for concern in light of Sunday's meltdown and the struggles of Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, who continue to attempt to be effective big league starting pitchers.
Expecting steady linear progress from young players is pure folly with this bunch. Lopez had a great beginning to the season with an ERA of 1.78 over five starts in April. After yielding eight runs and five homers in four-plus innings on Friday in a 10-5 loss to the Blue Jays, he now owns a 4-9 record with an ERA of 4.57.
Last week we floated the idea of using a relief pitcher for the first inning or two before handing the ball to Lopez since his first-inning results are shocking. Friday was no exception as his second pitch to leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson was lined into the right field bleachers. Lourdes Gurriel followed with a first-pitch homer to left. Three pitches, two runs. Not good.
Meanwhile, the next evening, Toronto manager John Gibbons was forced to use all relief pitchers since his bosses had traded starter J.A. Happ to the Yankees in yet another trade deadline deal on Thursday. Enter John Axford who had appeared in 537 previous games, but not one as a starter.
All Axford did was face the minimum nine batters over three innings as the Jays mounted a 4-0 lead against Giolito. Wouldn't it be nice if Sox manager Ricky Renteria was impressed enough to experiment with Lopez? The kid simply doesn't have the required focus when he takes the ball to open a game.
Matching their Opening Day comeback, the Sox rallied from the four-run deficit on Saturday, scoring six times in the eighth inning to snatch a 9-5 win in front of 29,442 ecstatic patrons, the biggest crowd at The Grate since Opening Day.
Returning to the idea of using a reliever to start a game, my pal Tom Weinberg reminded me of who started for the Phillies in the opening game of the 1950 World Series. It was Jim Konstanty, the National League MVP that season, who had pitched in 74 regular season games, all from the bullpen.
Aside from the fact that Konstanty won 16 games and pitched 152 innings, the Phils were down a quality starter when Curt Simmons, who went 17-8 in 1950, was called to active duty with his National Guard unit in early September. The Korean War was heating up, and apparently major league baseball had little clout with the government so off went Simmons in the heat of the pennant race in which Philadelphia eventually edged the Dodgers by two games.
Konstanty pitched brilliantly, allowing the Yankees a single run on four hits in the 1-0 Yankee victory. While the Yankees swept the Phillies, all the games were low-scoring with the Yankees winning three by one run. Konstanty relieved in two additional games, pitching a total of 15 innings.
Assuming Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia will still be playing on the South Side on Wednesday as July turns into August, we now see the team that will carry Sox colors for the last two months of the season. Gone will be the nervous interlude to await the next departure. Let's hope now it's time to add bodies in the form of the young prospects who will lead us out of oblivion.
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