During the most recent episode of the Baseball Prospectus' podcast, hosts Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks fielded a question from a reader that asked how many teams would commit $10 million to sign top pitching prospect Archie Bradley to an 8-year deal. Goldstein and Parks quipped that every team would jump at such an absurd opportunity, save for perhaps the White Sox; mocking their famous frugality toward amateur talent and pitchers.
Even if their mockery had been more biting, it'd be too familiar to sting. Coming into the year, the inability to tend to the farm system was one of many issues cited as to why the White Sox organization had run off the rails.
Now that Philip Humber is looking like another dumpster dive delight, Rios and Dunn both possess gaudy stat lines at the moment, and the team is not yet the disaster they were expected to be, Kenny Williams' doesn't seem so off in his own world anymore in his assessment of the team
"We're just focusing on our focus," Williams said.
Well, he's still phrasing sensible ideas in phenomenally unusual ways, so that should keep everyone off his trail for a while, for better or worse. On the one hand, he's keeping the focus on the positives of recent play and trying to continue to suppress the distractions that marred previous seasons. On the other hand, he just used the same root word as a verb and a noun in a sentence; maybe he eats glue all day!?
Specifically, Williams is dismissing the idea of thinking about mid-year extensions to buy out the arbitration years of Chris Sale and Philip Humber.
"That means keeping distractions of any sort to a minimum. I would consider that right now a distraction."
If the White Sox want to hold off on all mid-year extensions for cost-controlled players, and protect themselves against overpaying for small samples and hot streaks, well then that's a fine policy for them to have.
If the White Sox want to see if Chris Sale can hold up over a full season before trying to give him a Matt Moore-like contract, or wait to negotiate with Philip Humber till some time other than right after he threw a damn perfect game and appeared on Letterman, well that's fine too.
And if the White Sox are in wait-and-see mode because the team's true talent level is a big bag of mystery and untapped potential at this point, that would probably be the appropriate reaction.
Half of the White Sox 10 wins so far this season have come against the Orioles, Mariners, and the A's. By rule, at least one of those teams will not finish last in their division, but if they could, they'd probably oblige. That would lend itself to the notion that the Sox' half-decent record to start the year is inflated with the empty calories of the weak and infirm.
However, heading into Tuesday's evening's Tom Milone-wielded buzzsaw, the Sox opposition had a .582 winning percentage, good enough for tops in all of baseball. That mark is skewed by Texas murdering the rest of the country like we've all been fearing for 167 years, and surprisingly decent starts from the aforementioned future cellar-dwellers in Baltimore, Seattle, and Oakland. Still, it's enough evidence to say with confidence that the Sox haven't just been piling on the misery of miserable teams.
I looked back at the 2011 squad's results against below .500 teams to see if there was some revealing stat showing that the Sox failed to take care of business against teams they should have, but thanks to abusive relationships toward the Mariners and Indians, last year's team actually went 53-43 against opponents with losing records. That's not great, and there's plenty to regret in going 7-11 against Kansas City, or splitting the difference with dreadful Twins and Orioles' teams, but getting poleaxed by Detroit probably hurt worse.
What was more striking is that 53 and 43 add up to 96, and that adding 7 games with Toronto (who finished 81-81) gave the Sox 103 games against non-winning teams in 2011. That's just shy of two-thirds of the schedule spent at war with mediocrity.
Games against crappy teams are important. They're what make up the season, and consistently winning them is what marks a successful campaign. This isn't the NBA, so "showdowns" against Detroit aren't meaningful beyond their entertainment value, and being hard-to-acquire wins. Getting fat against the dregs of the AL West is thus every bit as important as hanging on for dear life against Texas.
As long as the White Sox continue to perform competently week-to-week and stay in the race, it can be assumed that's as far as direction for the franchise is determined.
Tags: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, archie bradley, Baltimore Orioles, baseball, Chris Sale, Detroit Tigers, jason parks, Kansas City Royals, Kenny Williams, kevin goldstein, matt moore, Minnesota Twins, Oakland A's, philip humber, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, toronto blue jays, White Sox