Jake Peavy is hurt.
He’s got a busted rib, and that means he’s the latest member of the White Sox pitching staff to land on the DL.
Robin Ventura is the Jimmy Carter of baseball managers. One of my many nerd obsessions is American politics from 1960’s into the 1980’s. During that time, the broad-based Democratic coalition (intellectuals, big-city machine Democrats, Southern bigots, and African-Americans were all part of the New Deal group that kept Democrats in control of the White House, House, and Senate from the 30’s into the 90’s) fractured over civil rights, law and order, the culture war, and Vietnam. Everything that exists in American politics today can be traced back to some event 50 years ago.
Under normal circumstances, Jimmy Carter would not have come close to winning a national election. But 1976 was not a normal year. Richard Nixon resigned two years before. Gerald Ford was struggling to get out from under the fact that he had pardoned his predecessor. To many, it looked like another crooked quid pro quo.
Enter Carter – a one-term Governor of Georgia who taught Sunday School in a town called Plains. LBJ had his ranch. Nixon stayed at the home of his rich friend Bebe Rebozo. Carter slept in the guest rooms of his supporters. He carried his own luggage. The story seemed almost too good to be true.
Robin Ventura became White Sox manager under similar circumstances. He was nothing like Ozzie Guillen. During his introductory news conference, he said “I don’t tweet.”
…..A reference to the Twitter account that caused endless tension between the Guillen family and GM Kenny Williams.
No more threats to quit. No more suspensions. No more instances of the Guillen boys spilling state secrets on Twitter (Williams couldn’t call up a spot starter in Kansas City because he was on a date with a woman who was not his wife….Bobby Jenks cried in the Managers office…).
Robin Ventura is Even Steven, compared to his predecessor; just as Jimmy Carter was a regular guy compared to the imperial presidencies of Nixon and Johnson.
Carter was also caught holding the bag when the inflation bomb finally detonated. The rate of inflation, which had been building throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s, took off like a rocket in 1975. By 1979, it was in the double digits. Paychecks, savings…all were worth less and less. Interest rates were hitting 20 percent, making it nearly impossible to buy a home. None of this was Carter’s fault – it had been building for years – but he was blamed for not fixing it.
Ditto the oil shocks of the late 70’s. The Arab nations, which for years had been part of the Cold War chessboard, started asserting their influence by shutting off the spigot of oil to the US. Gasoline prices soared. Gas was rationed. Stations ran dry. People got into fights while waiting in line.
Robin is also grappling with a roster that was designed to win in previous years. The Sox have very little minor league depth because the system had been cleaned out in previous trades. Four players went to the A’s to get Nick Swisher, who was promptly dumped on the Yankees after an unhappy 2008. Four pitchers went to San Diego to get Jake Peavy. After hemming and hawing over Mark Buehrle’s contract extension in 2007, the Sox went out and claimed five years of Alex Rios.
Peavy and Rios were supposed to help push the Sox into the playoffs in 2009. Didn’t happen.
In 2010, Daniel Hudson was launched to Arizona to get Edwin Jackson, who was either supposed to be flipped to the Nationals for Adam Dunn…or was supposed to replace the injured Jake Peavy.
Major League ready, cost controlled talent was dealt for expensive veterans. The Sox roster is a monument to previous “win now” schemes. Now the bill has come due, and Robin has to assemble a lineup that is either old, injury-prone, or just plain bad.
Robin doesn’t have to worry about being challenged by Ronald Reagan…or Ted Kennedy. So he can ride out this period of de-leveraging, while picking up some managerial miles along the way. But the bad record will be next to Ventura’s name…and he had very little to do with the roster that made it happen.
Filed under: #TWTW