Questions about the authority

Questions about the authority
"I'm sick of Dayan, how's about getting me a left fielder, Mr. GM?" "Don't tell anyone this, but I don't really work here anymore" // Tribune Photo

I only got to see the last two innings of Thursday’s game live, but I understand that baserunning blunders that prevented the Sox from blowing things open, more ineffectiveness versus Jeremy Guthrie, and the chasm in the number of opportunities between Chicago and Kansas City made the 9th inning a culmination of a night of frustration, rather than simply a single bad event.

Still, the explosion of rage at the 1-2 punch of Jeff Francouer being intentionally walked and Matt Thornton allowing a walk-off single to Eric Hosmer was notable.  And probably overwrought.

First, there’s Thornton himself, who got ahead on Hosmer 0-2, then tried to blow him away up and out of the zone with heat.  It probably would have worked better two or three years ago, when he could charge it up around two or three miles faster, but it was far from a bad plan.  As it was, Hosmer poked his bat out just in time to keep a hard-hit grounder fair down the line.  “Fiddlesticks!”, as they say.

Second, there’s the whole process of intentionally walking Jeff Francouer to get to Hosmer, which triggers everyone gag reflex because Jeff Francouer is terrible, and any process that avoids him must have some flaw.

The decision by Ventura actually spurred memories from August, when Francouer was given the free pass three times over a single weekend.  I recalled that the intentional walk given to Francouer by Chris Sale in order to bring up Hosmer was one of the few moves from that series that actually made sense according to The Book, simply because Hosmer was that bad against lefties (.225/.291/.315 on the year, even after Thursday).

This situation doesn’t correlate, though, because there’s no lefty starter Ventura needed to keep in the game.  In fact, a left-hander wasn’t even in the game at all.  Robin had Jesse Crain–death to right-handers, .128/.248/.213 against him–against Francouer (.237/.277/.355 against RHP), but seemed to swerve away from that due to a small sample of nine at-bats where Francouer is 4 for 9 against Crain.

But this is also the bottom of the 9th, with a runner on 2nd.  The typical drawback of an intentional walk–adding a runner, increasing the chance of a big inning–is out of play.  Ventura is simply quibbling over which matchup he’ll trust the fate of the game with, and traded one seemingly good one for another.  It was needless meddling, but hardly damaging or destructive.

Turning to a more substantive issue than a single pitching change, there was a report in the USA Today that Kenny Williams will be moving into a role of Vice President of Baseball Operations while Rick Hahn is promoted to be the General Manager.

By “report”, I mean that Bob Nightengale just threw it in as an “oh, by the way” at the end of a column about three other teams.  Despite those humbles beginnings, Williams responded like a man with a notorious preference for dictating when the press finds out about his professional maneuvers.

“There is nothing more important than today’s game, keeping distractions away and winning the division. Any future issues will be dealt with at the appropriate time.”

The move–in theory–seems like a great way to retain Rick Hahn, who has been interviewed for the same position by other organizations on multiple occasions.  Hahn is purported to be an excellent contract negotiator, well-versed in advanced metrics, and pretty much the guy that everyone wanted to take over last off-season.  Right after Kenny Williams was ran out on a rail, that is.  Those were the days.

It’s here where things become more speculative than usual.  Hahn has all the good buzz surrounding him, and the prospect of him being the GM is exciting.  But this has yet to be confirmed, and the power dynamic it will yield will take time to reveal itself.  Kenny claimed to propose a similar transition to Jerry Reinsdorf during the last off-season, and was rejected.  Either the nature of the proposal changed, or Reinsdorf’s attitude, or both.

Williams has made no secret of the difficulties of his position, and a transition will presumably allow him to offload some responsibilities onto Hahn, while also rewarding and appeasing his long-time right-hand man.  Still, I’m more than a little curious to how this will play out.  Williams doesn’t come off as particularly well-suited to taking a back seat, and one look at the Sox tells you he’s better at wheeling-and-dealing than overseeing and building a sustainable foundation of talent.

However, the look back at the Sox history revealed that it wouldn’t be too hard to make a case for Williams being the greatest GM in franchise history.

If you can imagine that.


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