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September 29, 2010
White Sox, Indians
Optioned RHP Carlos Torres to Charlotte (Triple-A); purchased the contract of LHP Chris Sale from Charlotte. [8/4]
Obvious Good News: Well, that the Sox play to win, even if they didn't. But that's not entirely on them—they were bouncing around 3½-4 games back when they added his Mannyness, and were in the middle of a seven-game winning streak that ran through Labor Day. They're geared up to win 85 games or so—exactly what you might have expected would be good enough to win the AL Central. Except that the Twins just happened to elevate standards well beyond that, playing .670 ball since the All-Star break, including a 16-8 record in September.
So, the standards for the Central changed, and while you can understand how the Sox anticipated how adding Edwin Jackson and Manny could radically alter their fortunes, it did not. You can argue about whether or not getting Manny from the Dodgers shouldn't have happened a month sooner, but since LA wanted candy and the Sox were only offering salary relief—you want a lolly, go to the dentist. Should the Sox have surrendered something? Theirs is not a farm system from which they have a lot to give, so you can understand their reluctance to part with anything beyond tokens, especially after the price paid to get Jackson, who for his part responded with five straight quality starts as a Sock.
What are they left with as a result of their extra effort? They have Jackson signed to a below-market rate through 2011. They also have the right to offer Manny arbitration, but they may understandably decide not to bother. He's failed to mash since arriving in the Cell, although the walks have been a nice addition. It was worth the $3.8 million to invest in the off chance that he'd make the difference. He didn't. If there are complaints to be made, they should be over the club's pre-season design—because it was readily apparent that Mark Kotsay and Andruw Jones weren't exactly the best possible answer for the team's DH needs—not at their subsequent effort to adapt to circumstance. If that's a lesson learned, I'd argue that even that's worth the $3.8 million.
Non-Obvious Good News: Gordon Beckham's performance in the second half isn't really a secret, but it's certainly a source of relief. His hitting .310/.397/.497 is a lot more Becks-y after his great rookie campaign. But he's simply one of a cadre of worthwhile young players who can help as contributers to any core, what with the promotions of Flowers and Morel and Sale.
As noted in August, making Sale looked like easy money, and he's been Thornton-esque in his contributions to the Sox pen, ranking second on the team in WXRL. Infante joins him as one of the best sleeper prospects in the system, a 23-year-old Venezuelan whose fastball sits 95-97 mph and who, having been moved to the pen this year after struggling with starting chores in the low minors. Sixty-nine strikeouts in 60 IP later, here he is.
Less promising, Flowers didn't blossom in Charlotte, hitting just .220/.334/.434, and striking out almost 30 percent of the time. That's more Tom Prince than Mickey Tettleton in his age-24 season, but he did throw out more than a quarter of stolen-base attempts. If the Sox wind up re-signing A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal, a job-sharing arrangement could turn out well. Morel isn't the best possible third-base prospect or anywhere close, but after hitting .322/.359/.480 in his age-23 season, he might at least provide a spatter of singles and some line-drive pop, plus better defense than Mark Teahen.
Meh: Carlos Quentin slugged .423 after the All-Star break, but at least he reached the 20-HBP milestone in a season for the sixth time in seven years as a pro. On the subject of random injustice, De Aza hit .302/.366/.440 for Charlotte in his age-26 season, including .342/.402/.502 against right-handers, enough to make you wonder why there's almost eight large's worth of difference between him and Juan Pierre. Nobody said life's fair, though, and most aspiring fourth outfielder types never do get their Timo Perez moment.
Takeaways: Kenny Williams rarely stands pat, and has no reason to this winter, so it'll be interesting to see what he does when and with whom. The White Sox, without Paul Konerko? Without AJP? Will they non-tender Bobby Jenks, and run with a pen where Thornton and Scott Linebrink are the veterans to leaven a new crew counting Sale, Infante, and Sergio Santos among them? Will the Sox stand pat with their rotation with costs for the front five climbing toward $50 million?
Placed DH-L Travis Hafner on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 7/29; placed C-S Carlos Santana on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled LHP David Huff and C-R Lou Marson from Columbus (Triple-A); noted the loss of 1B/3B-R Wes Hodges on a Rockies waiver claim. [8/3]
Obvious Good News: That Santana's career isn't over before it really began, because beyond that, there's not a lot for Cleveland to crow about, just a full murder's worth to bake in a pie and call it Christmas. If you needs sugarplums dancing in your head, just think about a 2011 season where Grady Sizemore plays center, Santana returns behind the plate, and heck, be greedy, ask if Pronk can give you a monster season while you're at it, what with two more years to go on his monster contract.
Non-Obvious Good News: Here again, pickings are slim, bordering on ghastly. Jayson Nix beats out Andy Marte at third base... what sort of parade do you hold for that? Probably the kind that if you watched, would knock you into a dead faint, like Robert Olmsted at the climax of The Shadow Over Innsmouth, with a similar danger that, at the very end, you find yourself with a rooting interest in the floundering participants.
On that oblique note, you don't have to fish around that long before you find something cheery. Carlos Carrasco has posted six straight quality starts since his call-up, instantly making him the best starting pitcher Cleveland has to its name with a .588 SNWP. Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin aren't great pitching prospects, but at least they're making cases for why they might be worthwhile back-end rotation types. In the bullpen, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith have been useful situation righties, and Chris Perez is their closer of the right now and immediate future, and a good one.
Meh: The real problem is who actually earned a return invite, as opposed to being certain they'll be back. Matt LaPorta is having a year he needs to forget, and Brown and Brantley can't successfully win jobs away from the likes of Shelley Duncan and Trevor Crowe. Tony Sipp generated one of the Three True Outcomes 45 percent of the time, and not in just the happy way with 68 strikeouts in 62 IP, but with 39 walks and 12 taters as well, so there was certainly a thrill factor of some sort involved when he pitched. With Jason Donald done for the year, a nation waits and watches to see if Luis Valbuena will run out of season before he attains the Mendoza line; he'll need roughly six hits if he gets to play every day in the next five games.
Irrelevant Observations, or Why Everything's Coming Up Pestano: I was in Columbus heading back toward Chicago in time to catch the second game of the Governor's Cup. The Tribe-affiliated Clippers won 4-0, with Zach McAllister slinging seven shutout innings with five strikeouts, while Cord Phelps, Jerad Head, and Jake Goedert all crushed homers in the prettiest little ballpark you might ever see.
But to cap the action, Vinnie Pestano stomped out to the mound and delivered a ninth inning that Rod Beck would have loved, striking out the side but separating each punchout with a baserunner to keep things interesting, Shooter-style. A 20th-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton back in 2006, the chunky Pestano throws low-90s heat from a wide three-quarters delivery that looks tougher on right-handers and was, as he struck out 40 percent of them this season. Overall, he managed a 77/16 K/UBB ratio in 59
Now, I know the Ivies out there among you got all worked up over Frank Herrmann's making it up earlier this year and making Harvard proud, and that's all well and good—you gave the rest of us Herrmann, and the human race gave you back Larry Summers, and we'll see how that transaction turns out, but it already seems like one of those trades that's good for both teams. But similar to Herrmann, Pestano is yet another nice instance of an organizational arm showing up in the Show with enough talent and the opportunity to help a big-league bullpen, but without a ton of touts along the way.
Either that, or I'm still thinking about his fun frame to clinch a win in the context of its time and place: a perfect, warm mid-September night in Columbus, with me taking in my first game on my way back home to Chicago after a tough month in upstate New York. But it was made better still because I was thoroughly spoiled the next morning by getting a guided tour around Huntington Field given by Joe Santry, a peerless historian of Columbus baseball as well as the Clippers' director of communications.
I hope to put up some images in the bloggy portion of the site, and I'm already far afield from Tribe transactions, but the place may be the best imaginable synergy of local baseball history, park design, and even integrated baseball-themed advertising that you'll find in any league at any level. If you find yourself in Columbus during the spring or summer, don't ask what led you to this state of affairs, kick back and take in a game, you won't regret it. The sheer volume of memorabilia built into the structure and its appurtenances is incredible. That was followed up by a trip to the German Village section of Columbus, where I spotted something called "Kahrl's Killer Club" at Katzinger's Deli, leading me to wonder which of my relatives it might have been named after.
Put all of that together in one 24-hour package, shake, pour, and recollect, and I'm left with this odd jumble of entirely positive memories that, for whatever reason, I now associate Pestano with. There's no cheering in the press box, of course, but seeing his name in big-league boxscores puts a smile on my face because it automatically puts me back there and then, in the way that any of us might associate a player or a play, on any day in any game anywhere with where we were and who we are and how we felt, a fan's mnemonic that lets each of us recapture not just that player or game or moment, but some bit of ourselves.
At this rate, who knows, maybe I'll see Pestano pitch in the Cell this weekend. It would make a nice way of capping a regular season already well-laden with vignettes, all before we sweep that lot into history's bottomless dustbin and swing into playoff action.
Takeaways: Well, many of us swing into playoff action, but not, of course, the Indians. However, to anticipate Bill Terry's question, yes, they will still be in this league next year, and they should less closely resemble a disjointed amalgam of their affiliates' leavings and heroes.