The White Sox playoff chances were shot in the chest and thrown into a meat locker two weeks ago, so the exact purpose of their remaining slate of games isn't the easiest thing to pin down.
Should they play youngsters with reckless abandon, and focus on figuring out the 2012 starting lineup? Should they passionately try to win every game possible to acquire the highly-coveted 'momentum for next season', assuage their irritated fan-base and save the jobs of the coaching staff? Should they do goofier things like tank for a higher draft pick, or pursue meaningless individual benchmarks for veterans?
This week saw the White Sox extend a Sunday loss to Cleveland last week into a 7-game losing streak featuring veteran-heavy lineups, before reeling off 10 runs vs. Bruce Chen to win on Sunday. So the answer would probably be 'none of the above' or 'other' or 'The White Sox don't bow to the tyranny of plans with singular focuses!'
Poleaxed by Detroit in their last chance to save face, overwhelmed by the Kansas City offense for three straight games, this was certainly an awful week for the Sox, but it was made easier by all the other awful weeks leading up to it.
Reading lineup patterns of the week for a theme
Juan Pierre (7 starts - Score a point for 'Win Now!' as well as 'Fulfilling Juan Pierre's Goal to Absorb All the Games and Plate Appearances in the World')
Alex Rios (6 starts - Score a point for 'Tanking' as well as '2012 lineup', also shed a tear for the 2012 lineup)
A.J. Pierzynski (6 starts - Score a point for 'Win Now!', '2012 lineup', and 'Avoiding Making A.J. Ornery by Suggesting His Playing Time Would Ever Be Cut')
Alejandro De Aza (4 starts - Score a point for 'Tanking', and 'Minding the Platoon Advantage Except for When it Applies to Juan Pierre, Adam Dunn, or A.J. Pierzynski)
Dayan Viciedo (5 starts - Half a point for '2012 lineup', and half a point for 'Giving Slump Days Off for Players in Meaningless Games')
Carlos Quentin (0 starts - I think he's actually just hurt. Zero points.)
Adam Dunn (3 starts - Score a point for '2012 lineup' and three points for 'Working Through Gag Reflex')
Tyler Flowers (3 starts - Tyler Flowers is not in a position to be doling out points to anyone. It is of note that during Monday's blowout, he was slid in at 1st base for a few innings, and was bad at it)
Omar Vizquel (0 starts - A million points for everyone)
It's hard to say that a specific criteria has emerged since the White Sox were officially removed from the playoff race. It looks like Ozzie has been informed that Dunn is around for three more years, and Viciedo is being played like a regular, but the odd aversion to Alejandro De Aza and the Juan Pierre worship continues. Guillen even timed up his appreciation for Tyler Flowers perfectly with the 25 year-old's precipitous demise.
Detroit clinches AL Central
The Tigers clinched the division Friday night, as a 12-game winning streak transformed their easy walk to the title into a preposterously easy walk-lined-with-cake to the title. With a little luck, Detroit could finish with 95 wins when all is said and done.
Good on them. At least now the White Sox will just be haunted by a massively disappointing season, and not a massively disappointing season where they failed to win a division that was begging them, "Win me!" with tears running down its cheeks as the Sox stoically walked away.
Limping to the finish
Clearly, neither John Danks, Gavin Floyd, nor Mark Buehrle want to leave Chicago. So together, they've decided to launch an assault on their value to other teams.
Their last three starts bear out their progress:
Silly Floyd! He never takes anything seriously!
Optimistically, this just proves a point that J.J. made earlier with Gavin Floyd, that the '11 results of these mainstays are such that the White Sox are better suited to hold on to them, knowing that they're all above-average starters. Pessimistically, none of these guys are ever going to be elite, and they're not going to be cheap anymore.
Speaking of cheap starters, Humber and Stewart were both terrible this weekend. They're also paid terribly, and soon Stewart will be a great reliever. Value!
Coaching Staff Jostlin'
Guillen delivered a strong defense of Kenny Williams' track record, pointing out that his roster-building was well-reviewed at the beginning of 2011, and that it's not really his fault a sinkhole opened in the center of US Cellular Field and swallowed up everything good in the world. There's no reason to think this was anything more than his honest assessment.
The timing of such kind words might seem curious, but that's easily trumped by Kenny Williams' interview with Rick Morrisey stating he's capable of working with Guillen if Reinsdorf asks him to.
There just doesn't seem to be much point in monitoring the press around this situation until some actual action occurs.
2012 Roster OR What The Hell Do You Have Against De Aza?
Alejandro De Aza has been absolutely bananas since getting called up at the trade deadline. He's hit .322/.383/.545, and while that's BABIP-inflated, it's also backed by a massive power surge (he has a higher ISO than Konerko at this point), and he's added defense that both UZR and DRS are equally superlative about. To hammer it home, Alejandro De Aza is 4th out of all position players in WAR despite only appearing in 43 games.
With payroll-reduction a huge priority, De Aza is a lock for the 2012 roster, and his bat would seem like a coveted asset on a team that's suffered through the offense of Rios and Pierre all year and have their only above-average hitting outfielder on the bench with a shoulder injury. And yet, there's Alejandro being hidden whenever there's a lefty starter, and there's Alejandro again never ever being considered to start in left field.
Guillen should be sure to save a section in his memoir for this one.
Other players to watch for signs of life for next year
Dayan Viciedo - Still breaking my heart with wild-off balance swing finishes and still low on power, leading to hope that it's just his thumb still bothering him. He hit his first extra-base hit of the month Saturday, and is still not struggling in any of the areas anyone was really worried about coming in. Except fielding. By God, he is not a good fielder.
Adam Dunn - Dunn racked up two hits on Sunday against a lefty, including his first extra-base hit off of a southpaw. And it was an RBI double! Then his next plate appearance saw him swing through an 88 mph fastball down the pipe for a K. Ambiguity!
Alex Rios - True or False? Alex Rios doesn't hit until the pressure is off? False! Alex Rios doesn't care about pressure. Nevertheless, he's hitting .291/.317/.455 for the month of September on the strength of 3 HRs. Even if it's the reason De Aza can't sniff the field right now, it can't be a bad thing that the hyper-expensive centerfielder is hitting like he's alive.
Brent Morel - Speaking of interestingly-timed surges, Brent Morel has hit .260/.393/.660. To clarify, he's made a very similar amount of contact to what he's made throughout the season, it's just that he's now incredibly discerning at the plate and half of his hits have gone over the fence. 6 HRs and 11 BB in 17 games?!!? Which is crazier? The 6 or the 11?
Gordon Beckham - DERP!
Tyler Flowers - Ditto
Sergio Santos - Tagged for runs in back-to-back appearances and up to 6 blown saves on the year. He's probably fine, as opposed to Chris Sale, who's almost certainly fine.
A.J. Pierzynski - It's worth mentioning that Pierzynski hit 2 HRs Sunday, is 8 for his last 13, and reached base every time he played this week. He also made multiple cruddy throws to 2nd. He's AJ, you've met.
Alexei Ramirez has ridden a hot streak to get his batting average over .270, and Konerko eclipsed 30 HRs for the 7th time in his career. Don't take your veterans with reliable benchmarks for performance for granted.
The games matter not, neither to the White Sox, nor to the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals they play. I suppose the Royals will miss baseball as they actually enjoy it, and the showdown with the Indians will go a long way toward determining who wins 2nd place in the AL Central. 2nd place bonuses are in the contracts of the players and coaches, and that mone--OH GOD I CARE SO LITTLE, I CANNOT EVEN FINISH.
There will be more Dylan Axelrod!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, baseball, Brent Morel, Carlos Quentin, Cleveland Indians, Dayan Viciedo, Detroit Tigers, dylan axelrod, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, John Danks, Juan Pierre, Kansas City Royals, Kenny Williams, Mark Buehrle, Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Guillen, Paul Konerko, phil humber, Tyler Flowers, White Sox, zach stewart