Wednesday, September 01, 2010
The White Sox owe their fans an apologyPosted by Jeffrey Gross
The White Sox decided to experiment with their DH spot in 2010. Instead of re-signing a prodigious slugger with great on base skills (Jim Thome), general manager Kenny Williams instead decided Mark Kotsay was awesome (he is not) and that the DH should exist for the alternative purposes of resting the fielders (some of whom—specifically Carlos Quentin—should not be playing defense in the first place).
Comically enough, Manager Ozzie Guillen blames Thome for no longer being a White Sox. Quoth Guillen:
Jim Thome made the decision to leave to the Dodgers," Guillen said initially about the August 2009 deal. "He made that decision to himself, all right."Though Guillen has sarcastically accepted the blame for the Thome non-signing, he and Williams owe a genuine apology to White Sox fans. Here is why:
The White Sox, after Tuesday night's win against Cleveland, sit four games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central standings. Thome, who makes a measly $1.5 million this season, has accrued +2.4 WAR for the Twins while Kotsay, who has the same salary, has produced -0.6 WAR for the White Sox.
In a vacuum, a re-signing of Thome by the White Sox would give the South Siders a +3.0 WAR swing in the AL Central Standings. Note, however, that Thome has only 279 plate appearances this season while splitting DH duties with Jason Kubel. Of course, Thome's been platooned, which may exaggerate his bottom line, but any potential non-platoon "regression" would surely be offset by the additional playing time he would have seen with the White Sox. Let's just leave the WAR at +2.4 and call it even.
The White Sox do not play in a vacuum, however. Thome, in not re-signing with the White Sox, signed a deal with the Twins. Hence, in a Thome-on-the-Sox-over-Kotsay theoretical situation, you have to not only add +3.0 WAR to the White Sox 2010 win total, but also subtract 2.4 WAR from the Twins' 2010 win total. That turns a 4.0 game lead by the Twins in the AL Central into a 1.5 game lead by the White Sox.
Still think it is okay to be sarcastic, Ozzie? It gets worse.
Not only are the White Sox sitting 4.0 games behind the Twins, but they are in need of a hitting DH. (Turns out burning Mark Kotsay's bat was not enough of a move at the July trade deadline. Maybe the White Sox should have tried burning Kotsay's contract (and Mark Teahen's, while they were at it) instead.
Unable to procure either Adam Dunn or Lance Berkman, the White Sox claimed Manny Ramirez from the Dodgers in exchange for salary relief. Without question, the Manny move is an upgrade for the White Sox. Whereas Ramirez is projected by ZiPS to hit .290/.398/.533 (.399 wOBA) for the rest of the season, Kotsay was pegged at only .244/.313/.384 (.305 wOBA) down the stretch. Dave Cameron sees this difference as worth around +1.0 WAR for the White Sox. Unfortunately for the White Sox, however, they are four games behind the Twins (thus, they have three more wins to make up somehow) and Thome has a wOBA of .413 on the season (with a projected wOBA of .370 down the stretch).
Per MLB Trade Rumors, 31 games of "salary relief" means $3.8 million. That figure is more than 2.5 times what Thome will make all season and almost $1 million more than Kotsay and Thome's salaries combined.
Then, of course, you need to consider that Manny is Manny and you never know quite what you are going to get with him. He might try to get pregnant again or invoke his alleged "do not play" clause during day games. In another chapter in the "Manny Being Manny" saga, he took the early flight to Cleveland from L.A. Tuesday morning and was at Progressive Field in time to play ball, but was not in the White Sox starting lineup. He told reporters that he felt like he was 25 again, but he could not play because, as TBO speculates, he woke up to early that day. Guillen's comments after the game seem to confirm this speculation.
To summarize, the White Sox are not in first place this year because they decided that subpar offensive production from the DH position was acceptable so long as they could rest Alex Rios' and Juan Pierre's knees every so often and find a way to work Mark Kotsay's mighty bat into the lineup. Had the White Sox just not give Kotsay a bat to burn to begin with, the Sox would be at least a half game closer in the AL Central Standings.
Because the White Sox gave Kotsay said bat, they are now paying 2.5 times the money it would have cost them to keep Thome all season for just 31 games (scratch that, 30 games, as Manny did not play Tuesday) of Mannywood. Talk about "fail."
I wonder if the White Sox will sell re-branded Manny dreadlock caps left over from his time in L.A.
Jeffrey Gross is an attorney (and die-hard Cubs fan) who currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. In addition to writing for The Hardball Times, he also writes about craft beer as part of a side project blog titled "saBEERmetrics." He previously worked for The Daily Illini and Northern Star newspapers as a film critic and sportswriter (respectively). You can reach him by email at saBEERmetrics AT gmail DOT com.