Saturday, August 31, 2013

Do you suppose the Cubs wish they still had Chris Archer? Or Josh Donaldson?

As a matter of philsophy, I usually agree with the idea of trading prospects for proven veterans. After all, you generally know what you're going to get from a veteran player, and as a percentage, the overwhelming majority of prospects are busts.

If you take a look at what the White Sox have done over the last 10 or 15 years, most of former GM Ken Williams' trades have involved dealing future prospects to acquire help for the here and now. When I look at all the young players Williams traded, the only one I wish the Sox still had is Gio Gonzalez.

Strangely enough, the Sox traded him twice. In 2005, they sent him and Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia for Jim Thome (good trade). They reacquired him, along with Gavin Floyd, for Freddy Garcia in 2006 (also a decent trade). Then, they sent him to Oakland in 2008 with Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos for Nick Swisher (terrible trade).

The rest of the players Williams traded, I can't say I miss.

Here are two guys the former GM of the Cubs (Jim Hendry) traded that I'll bet the current GM (Jed Hoyer) wishes he still had: Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer and Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Archer, a 24-year-old right-hander, is having a breakout season for the Rays. He's 8-5 with a 2.81 ERA in 17 starts. He's allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of those outings. Pretty impressive for a kid who just joined the rotation on June 1 and is pitching in the rugged AL East. 

The Cubs acquired Archer from Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa deal in 2008, but in 2011, they flipped him to Tampa Bay in an eight-player deal that brought Matt Garza to the North Side of Chicago. Over 2 1/2 seasons, Garza went 21-18 in 60 starts for the Cubs. He, of course, is no longer on the team, having been traded to the Texas Rangers earlier this summer.

Meanwhile, the Rays have a potential ace on their roster. The Cubs are still looking for that guy. Some people in Chicago seem to believe Jeff Samardzija is an ace. I disagree. A 28-year-old with a 4.13 ERA who is blowing 5-0 leads against the woeful Philadelphia Phillies is not an ace. He's a mid-rotation starter on a contender. The Cubs should consider trading him this offseason. He's not going to get any better than he is right now.

Donaldson, a 27-year-old third baseman, is a bit of a forgotten man. Most people haven't noticed his .296 average, 19 home runs and 77 RBIs this season because he plays for Oakland. Most people have probably also forgotten the Cubs selected him 48th overall in the 2007 draft.

In July of 2008, Donaldson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton and Eric Patterson were traded to Oakland for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin. At the time, Donaldson was the least talked about player of the four the Cubs gave up. Right now, he looks like the best player in that deal. He plays third base, too, and it seems like about half the teams in baseball are looking for someone to fill that position. It took five years, but that acquisition is paying dividends for the A's, who certainly do not miss Harden or Gaudin.

With both Chicago teams out of the pennant race this year, both clubs have traded some veterans for future considerations this summer. A couple years down the line, maybe they'll strike gold in some of these deals. Only time will tell. Most of the time, the team acquiring the veteran wins the trade. But every now and then, you seen a trade like the Archer deal or the Donaldson deal where the team acquiring the prospects prevails.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Jason Kubel is back in the AL Central

The White Sox have five games remaining with the Cleveland Indians this season. I just became less optimistic about their ability to win those games, because the Indians have just acquired notorious Sox killer Jason Kubel from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for cash and a player to be named later.

Sure, Kubel has stunk it up this year, hitting just .220 with 5 home runs in 89 games. But I'm sure he'll be rejuvenated by the mere sight of the White Sox logo. From 2004-11, Kubel tormented Sox pitching as a member of the Minnesota Twins.

Lifetime against the South Siders, he is a .274 hitter with 22 home runs and 76 RBIs in 81 games. He has no more than 12 home runs against any other team in baseball. He has no more than 52 RBIs against any other team. It's almost cartoonish how Kubel has basically made his entire career by hammering Sox pitching. In a way, he's the perfect Twin: great against the White Sox, mediocre against everyone else.

Maybe the Indians needed to acquire another Sox killer since Ryan Raburn recently went on the DL with a strained Achilles. For those of you who are not familiar with Raburn's work, he has 16 of his 69 lifetime home runs against the Sox to go along with 61 of his 257 career RBIs. Raburn has no more than 11 home runs or 23 RBIs against any other opponent (Kansas City). It's ridiculous.

Maybe the Tribe should acquire Lew Ford while they are at it. It would probably guarantee them another win or two over the Sox before the year is over.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chris Sale strikes out 12 Houston hitters, quiet concerns -- for now

White Sox ace Chris Sale had his worst outing of the season -- and perhaps the worst performance of his career -- last Friday against the Texas Rangers.

He gave up eight runs over seven innings. Four different Texas batters hit home runs. Naturally, that caused a great deal of alarm among the meathead division of the Sox fan base. "Shut down Sale! He's tired!" they cried. It seems like every time Sale has a bad outing, it's a sign of impending doom. Some people are just paranoid that Sale is an injury waiting to happen.

My thoughts on this matter are simple: You can't predict the future. You never know when a pitcher might get hurt. Every pitcher in baseball at times takes the ball while feeling less than 100 percent physically. That's the nature of the game. I would take a guess that most guys around baseball are feeling a little tired these days. It's late August. It's hot outside. These are the dog days. But so what? If a guy is healthy, he should pitch. If he's not healthy, he should take a seat. It's really no more complicated than that.

And right now, there's no sign that Sale is laboring physically. His stuff looks sharp. He was dominant Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He struck out seven of the first 10 Houston Astros he faced and finished with 12 Ks over eight innings in a 6-1 White Sox winner. I know it's just the Astros, but anyone who watched this game saw Sale at his very best. The fastball was in the mid- to high-90s. The breaking ball was biting. The changeup was well-located, except for one mistake to Chris Carter in the seventh inning. It was just the kind of bounce-back outing you would expect from an ace pitcher.

Sale does not look tired to me. Sure, he could get injured his next start for all I know. There's a risk of injury every single time a player takes the field. You accept that as part of the sport. What is the point in coddling guys? That said, you have to be smart and reasonable. The Sox are out of the race and have been for two months. They don't need to be leaving their starters out there for 120 and 130 pitches an outing trying to win these late-season games. That goes for Sale and everybody else on the pitching staff.

But as long as Sale is feeling good and throwing well, there's no reason he shouldn't take the five or six scheduled starts he should get between now and the end of the season.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Who will the White Sox recall Sept. 1?

It's the last week of August, and no doubt baseball fans around the country are wondering just who will be recalled from the minors to play for their favorite teams when the rosters expand Sept. 1.

I don't expect the White Sox to go crazy and call up 10 players or anything like that. The majority of their major-league ready prospects (Avisail Garcia, Josh Phegley, Andre Rienzo, Jake Petricka and Leury Garcia) are already on the 25-man roster.

But, the Sox do have three holes on their 40-man roster.  They could create a fourth spot later this week if they transfer relief pitcher Brian Omogrosso from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. That means we will see at least four players recalled, and maybe as many as seven. Here are some guys that Southpaw (pictured) might be cheering for by the time the next homestand rolls around:

1. Erik Johnson, RHP: The 23-year-old is a combined 11-3 with a 2.07 ERA in 23 starts at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. He is 3-1 with a 1.79 ERA in nine starts since his promotion to Charlotte. The Sox will keep a careful watch on Johnson because he has thrown a career-high 135 innings this season. But he is a candidate for the 2014 starting rotation, so the team is going to want him to get his feet wet at the big-league level this year.

2. Daniel Webb, RHP: A 24-year-old potential closer, Webb hasn't allowed an earned run at Charlotte in over a month. He has struck out 36 batters in 24.1 innings since his promotion to Triple-A. Walks remain an issue -- he has 17 of them in those same 24.1 innings. But, Webb could be a bullpen piece for the Sox as soon as next season if he can refine his control just a little bit more.

3. Charlie Leesman, LHP: He's already on the 40-man roster, having started one game for the Sox earlier this month. At age 26, he's probably not considered a prospect anymore, but he might be handy as the 11th or 12th man on a pitching staff in the future. Look for Leesman to get a start or two in September as the Sox seek to lighten the workload of some of the young pitchers who have been in the big-league rotation all season.

4. Marcus Semien, IF: Here's a guy who really wasn't on the radar this year until he tore up Double-A to the tune of a .290 average, 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases. I hesitate to put him on this list because he's struggled a bit since his promotion to Charlotte (.238, 8 doubles, 4 home runs, 1 stolen base), but he can play all over the infield and the Sox are looking for a third baseman for next year. They might call Semien up to see how he reacts in September. I suspect this is a player who will need to start 2014 in Triple-A, however.

Those are the four guys who we haven't seen much of yet that we might be getting a look at in September. The Sox will almost certainly recall another catcher, Hector Gimenez if he is healthy, or Bryan Anderson. Blake Tekotte, Deunte Heath, Brent Morel and Simon Castro are other players we saw earlier this year that could potentially get a recall, although I'm sure Sox fans won't be all that excited to see them again.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ryan Braun and a few other random Friday thoughts

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun finally admitted Thursday that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his 2011 MVP season.

Apologies from disgraced athletes are nothing new, and I can't say I have anything to offer on the matter that hasn't already been written dozens of times before.

But you know who owes me an apology? The idiot Brewers fans who sat behind me at U.S. Cellular Field on June 23, 2012. Not that Braun could hear me, but I yelled insults at him and booed him the entire game as the White Sox defeated Milwaukee, 8-6, that night.

These Brewers fans seemed offended by my conduct, and on multiple occasions made snide remarks toward me and claimed that Braun "was right" for appealing his positive drug test after the 2011 season. Ha ha, whatever.

I guess some fans will defend the indefensible when it comes to players on their own teams. I think we all should be smarter than that. No matter which team is your favorite, understand that at some point you have cheered for a player that was using performance-enhancing drugs. That's just the sad reality we live in as baseball fans.

Six straight saves for Addison Reed

They say you can't win 'em all. Well, you can't lose 'em all either, and over 162 games, even struggling teams will have a winning streak at some point.

That where the White Sox are right now. They aren't very good, but they have won six games in a row after defeating the Kansas City Royals 4-3 in 12 innings Thursday night.

In an unusual twist, closer Addison Reed has earned a save in each of those six victories. The Sox did have an off day on Monday, so Reed has not pitched six consecutive days. Still, it's fairly remarkable to pitch six out of seven days and be effective every time.

The last closer to save six consecutive games for his team? Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003.

Reed has been a bright spot in a dismal season for the Sox. He has 34 saves and five wins, meaning he has played a role in 75 percent of the Sox' 52 victories this year. He'd get my vote for team MVP.

Mike Olt is playing really bad

Coming into the 2013 season, third baseman Mike Olt was the second-ranked prospect in the Texas Rangers system. I don't think he'll be rated so highly going into 2014.

Olt has hit just .185 at Triple-A this year, and the Rangers gave up on him, sending him to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal. The Cubs could use some help at third base -- journeyman Donnie Murphy has been getting playing time at that position recently.

I think when the Cubs acquired Olt, they had designs on calling him up in September for a late-season look at the hot corner. Doesn't look like that would be wise.

Olt has played 28 games at Triple-A Iowa since joining the Cubs organization. He has gone 12-for-99 with two home runs and four RBIs. That would be a .121 batting average, to go along with a .194 on-base percentage and .222 slugging percentage.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

When it comes to the Cubs, Chicago media lose perspective quickly

Right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled Wednesday night in his third start with the Cubs. He lasted just four innings, allowing six earned runs on five hits. He was fortunate to escape with a no-decision as the Washington Nationals thumped Chicago, 11-6.

What significance should we place on Arrieta's poor showing? Well, virtually none. Nobody should put much stock in four or five starts, let alone just one outing.

But when I saw Arrieta struggling, I couldn't help but think of the ludicrous column ESPN's Bruce Levine wrote less than a week ago, which opined that the Cubs "may have found the next staff ace" in the 27-year-old right-hander.

Really, Bruce? Really?

I understand Arrieta had been great in his previous start. He fired seven shutout innings of two-hit ball against a good-hitting St. Louis team on Aug. 16. And it is true Arrieta has a power arm and swing-and-miss stuff.

However, Levine should ask a Baltimore fan sometime about Arrieta's future as "a potential ace." That narrative is nothing new. The Orioles thought so much of Arrieta they made him their Opening Day starter in 2012. Arrieta won his start that day. Also in 2012, Arrieta threw eight shutout innings against the Yankees. He had another outing where he struck out nine Pittsburgh Pirates in seven innings. Alas, those were his only three wins in 18 starts. By the All-Star break, Arrieta had been removed from the rotation.

That's right: In a matter of three months, Arrieta went from presumed staff ace to the Baltimore bullpen. This is a pitcher who has never been a consistent performer. He's a tease; he wows you with great stuff. At times, he can dominate a lineup. Other times, he infuriates you by getting knocked out in the third or fourth inning. He can't be trusted. Why do you think the Orioles were willing to trade him to the Cubs, Bruce? I guarantee you it wasn't because they didn't like his 96 mph fastball.

You see, once a guy gets to be 27 years old, he's no longer a prospect. It's time to put up or shut up. Arrieta never put up in a Baltimore uniform, so they sent him packing. Potential doesn't mean anything for a pitcher of that age. It's all about results now.

I get the sneaking suspicion that Levine and others think Arrieta is still a prospect. He is not. Some members of the Chicago media need to get their heads out of the clouds when it comes to analyzing the Cubs. Let's call Arrieta what he is: a reclamation project.

He had multiple opportunities with the Orioles. He threw them all away. Will the change of scenery help him? Maybe. Matt Thornton was a busted prospect when the White Sox acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in 2006, and he became a valuable bullpen piece on the South Side for years. Sometimes, a reclamation project gets redeemed, but it's always a flip of the coin with these kind of guys.

I know this is a strange concept for some writers, but let's see how Arrieta responds the rest of the year. The Cubs are going to give him a look down the stretch, and why not? If he fails again, he's not hurting anything. But right now, he shouldn't even be penciled into the Cubs' 2014 rotation, let alone be a candidate for the title of "staff ace." 

In my world, the Cubs should be happy if Arrieta becomes a useful back-of-the-rotation starter.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Miguel Cabrera has 40 and 120 -- with a quarter of a season left

If Miguel Cabrera played for a team that wasn't in the American League Central, I would really like him. Come to think of it, the only reason I dislike him is because he plays for the Detroit Tigers -- a hated rival of the White Sox.

The guy is just an awesome hitter, and as a fan of baseball, I respect just how good Cabrera is at his craft. The reigning Triple Crown winner slugged his 40th home run of the season Sunday in the Tigers' 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. Cabrera also had an RBI single in the game, lifting his season RBI total to 120.

Cabrera, who leads the American League with a .360 batting average, became just the third player since 1921 to have at least 40 homers and 120 RBIs while batting .350 or better through 116 games. The other two names on that list are Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx.

As baseball fans, I think the Steroid Era made us all feel like 40 home runs and 120 RBIs in one season isn't much of an accomplishment anymore. In recent weeks, I've heard two different radio commentators in Chicago opine about how one day Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is going to "hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs every year."

Really? Even if Rizzo develops into an All-Star hitter, he isn't going to do that. I don't think people respect just how hard it is to put up 40 and 120 in a single year.

For Cabrera, as great as he is, this is only the second time he's had 40 and 120 in the same season. Frank Thomas accomplished the feat just three times in his brilliant 19-year career. Albert Pujols, who preceded Cabrera as the best hitter in the game, has done it four times. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who is beloved by statheads as an OPS machine, has never totaled 40 and 120 in the same season.

Even noted steroid cheats Alex Rodriguez (six times), Sammy Sosa (four times) and Barry Bonds (three times) didn't hit 40 homers and drive in 120 every year.

Those are difficult plateaus to reach, and that makes what Cabrera is doing this year all the more impressive. At the rate he's going, 50 home runs and 150 RBIs are well within his reach.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Chad Curtis: Idiot and convicted sex offender

Remember Chad Curtis? He is most famous for refusing to talk to Jim Gray after hitting a game-winning home run in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. Gray had previously conducted an interview with Pete Rose, during which he tried to get Rose to admit he bet on baseball. Rose, of course, lied through his teeth as Gray questioned him. America (and Curtis), however, thought Gray was being mean-spirited, which led to the interview snub you see in the video above.

But now, Curtis, 44, can be famous for something else. He faces up to 15 years in prison after being convicted Friday of touching teenage girls. Loser.

I wonder if he did that for his grandma too.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I can't get on board with this whole 'rooting for draft position' thing

It's my understanding that a lot of the cool White Sox fans are rooting for the team to lose these days, hoping to secure a more favorable draft pick for next June.

In my world, such a thought process is stupid.

Folks, this isn't the NBA. This isn't the NFL. LeBron James (pictured) will not be awarded to the MLB team that finishes with the sorriest record in the league. Andrew Luck is also not available, nor is .133-hitting uberprospect Mike Olt.

You see, the baseball draft is a complete crapshoot. It is less predictable and more volatile than drafts in other sports.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, aka the best young player in the game today, was selected 25th overall in his draft year. Chris Sale, the best young player on the White Sox roster, was chosen 13th overall in 2010. That goes to show you do not need to be drafting in the top 10 to get All-Star talent.

It's also true that the overall No. 1 pick is no sure thing. The Tampa Bay Rays have a track record of drafting quality players and stocking their MLB roster with homegrown talent, but ask them how that No. 1 overall selection of Tim Beckham in 2008 is working out for them. Five years later, Beckham still hasn't seen the bigs and is toiling at Triple-A Durham for a third straight season.

People need to understand, in baseball, you are not assured of getting any sort of franchise savior by securing the top pick or the second overall pick. I'm not going to root for the White Sox to land in a certain draft position, because I have no idea what I'm going to be getting when the Sox finally do make their first-round selection next June.

I'd much rather cheer for the guys who are currently on the team, especially younger players like Sale, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Andre Rienzo, Avisail Garcia, Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo, Josh Phegley Addison Reed and Nate Jones. These are the guys who are still going to be around once GM Rick Hahn finishes the veteran purge that's going on right now. You want them to finish out the season strong, so they have a good feeling going into next year.

Take a look at the last White Sox team to finish in last place. You have to go all the way back to 1989, but understanding what that team did can be constructive. That season, the Sox were a godawful 32-56 at the All-Star break. But the second half of the season, they played much better. They went 37-36 after the break. Young players learned some things about playing in the big leagues. They finished with just 69 wins, but guys improved their games and came back the next season with the right attitude. In 1990, the Sox went 94-68.

Now, I don't expect the Sox to bounce back and win 94 next season. However, a good finish over the next 43 games can set the table for a much more competitive year in 2014. Personally, that's what I'm going to root for. I see no point to cheering for some nameless, faceless future draft pick. There will be plenty of time to root on that individual, whoever he may be, once that player joins the Sox organization next summer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Paul Konerko's future: The speculation mounts

The White Sox have 45 games left in the 2013 season. The question is, are there 45 games remaining in Paul Konerko's fine career on the South Side of Chicago as well?

Nobody knows for sure, but the beat writers and columnists are starting to speculate. Gordon Beckham was asked Monday about filling the clubhouse leadership void if Konerko either retires or signs with another team this offseason. The Sox second baseman didn't want to address the possibility of Konerko's departure.

“If Paul wants to play, he’ll play,” Beckham said. “Obviously that’s a decision for him after the season. He’s got a lot more left in the tank, so I wouldn’t rule him out of playing next year. If he doesn’t, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I think he’s got a while yet.”

But does he? One of the more painful things about being a baseball fan is watching a player who has been good for a long time struggle or hang on too long in the twilight of a brilliant career. Sox fans went through it in the early 1990s with Carlton Fisk. The Sox ended up releasing the future Hall of Famer in June of 1993 because the proud catcher couldn't admit to himself that he was done.

This season, we've seen a steep decline in Konerko's production. The lifetime .281 hitter is batting just .243. Over the course of Konerko's career, his 162-game averages have been 31 home runs and 100 RBIs. This season, he has but 9 home runs and 40 RBIs. His OPS is a career-worst .664, well below his career mark of .850.

Konerko, 37,  had wrist surgery last offseason and has spent time on the disabled list this year with back problems. Are the declining numbers the result of injuries, advancing age or both?

Nobody can say for sure, but I know this: I've never seen Paul Konerko take more defensive swings than I have this season. I've never seen Konerko get himself out by swinging at bad pitches more than I have this season. We're talking about a guy who has played 15 years with the White Sox. He's appeared in 2,148 games and made 8,887 plate appearances with this team. I've had the privilege of watching most of them. I feel like I know when Konerko is locked in, and I feel like I know when he's going bad. I'm that familiar with his approach.

And I'm afraid we've reached a point where it is no longer reasonable to expect Konerko to be a big-time run producer in the middle of the lineup. The bat speed isn't quite where it used to be. Konerko isn't trying to drive the ball in a lot of situations the way he did in the past. Often, he's just trying to slap a base hit into right field. There are certain times where that is good strategy, but this Sox team needed Konerko to produce more. He hasn't been able to do that, and I think that's evidence that Father Time is starting to knock loudly for the Sox captain.

So, what do you do if you're the Sox at season's end? We know Frank Thomas is the greatest hitter in team history. But Konerko is clearly in that next tier with Fisk, Harold Baines and Luke Appling, et al. There's no question No. 14 will one day be retired by the team. It's hard to say goodbye to a player like this, one of the best the franchise has seen.

On a personal level, I'm hoping Konerko hangs 'em up at season's end. He has nothing left to prove. He's won a World Series and been to six All-Star games. And that would be the easiest thing for me as a Sox fan. I don't want to see Konerko in another uniform, nor do I want to see him hang on as a shell of his former self.

His contract is up at the end of the year, and if he wants to play in 2014, I just can't see the Sox bringing him back. How big of a market is there for a soon-to-be-38-year-old singles hitter with no speed anyway?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Tigers have the Indians on the ropes

For most of this season, I've been of the mindset that the American League Central Division is a one-team race. The Detroit Tigers are the best and most complete team, and barring an unforeseen rash of injuries, they are going to the playoffs. That's just how it is.

But give the Cleveland Indians credit. They have made things interesting for longer than anyone expected. However, I think the party might be over for the Tribe following the events of this week.

Flash back to Monday: Detroit came into Cleveland to open a four-game series. The Tigers had a three-game lead in the division. Critical series? Well, not exactly. But it was an important series; important enough that it could be a huge turning point if one team or the other swept.

Well, the Tigers swept. That first game Monday night set the tone. The Indians took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning. They were three outs away from trimming Detroit's division lead to two games. If closer Chris Perez could get the job done, the race would be on. Instead, Perez imploded.

He faced four batters and retired none of them. Prince Fielder doubled. Victor Martinez singled. Andy Dirks walked. Then, Alex Avila (pictured) hit a 3-run homer. Suddenly, the Tigers led 4-2, and that would be the final score. In a blink of an eye, Detroit had a four-game lead in the AL Central -- the top of the ninth inning Monday night representing a huge two-game swing.

On Tuesday, Detroit's Justin Verlander outpitched Cleveland ace Justin Masterson as the Tigers prevailed 5-1. Wednesday brought another crushing loss for the Tribe as they fell 6-5 in 14 innings. Detroit ace Max Scherzer finished off the four-game sweep on Thursday. The likely AL Cy Young winner is now 17-1 after earning a 10-3 victory.

The Tigers left Cleveland with a seven-game division lead and a 12-game winning streak intact. The New York Yankees broke Detroit's winning streak with a 4-3 win in 10 innings Friday night, but Cleveland failed to take advantage, falling 5-2 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Entering Saturday's play, Detroit leads Cleveland by 7 games and red-hot Kansas City by 7.5 games. The Royals have won 15 of 17 and could take over second place by the end of action today. The Indians, however, look like their chances are dying. It's been a terrible week for Cleveland, and if the Tribe fails to make the playoffs, this recent series with Detroit will be the one they look back on as the one that cost them.

Friday, August 9, 2013

White Sox trade Alex Rios to the Rangers

Breaking news this afternoon: The White Sox have traded right fielder Alex Rios, along with $1 million, to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later or cash.

Rios, who is hitting .277 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and 26 stolen bases this season, was scratched from the lineup moments before the first game of Friday's doubleheader with the Minnesota Twins.

I'm sure Sox fans right now are asking this question: What are we getting in return? Well, here's why the deal is for a player to be named later: It's likely the Sox are getting a youngster who would not clear waivers, so that is why the deal cannot be completed right now.

There are reports out there that Leury Garcia is going to be the prospect coming back to the Sox. The 22 year-old infielder has appeared in 25 games with the Rangers this year, hitting .192 in 52 at-bats. He's spent most of the year at Triple-A Round Rock, where he's hit .264 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 47 games -- 42 of them at shortstop. Garcia has a reputation as a good fielder whose bat still needs work. But right now, we're just speculating that he's the guy involved in the deal. We'll find out later.

What we do know is the trade of Rios clears a spot in the lineup for Avisail Garcia, who the White Sox recently acquired in the Jake Peavy trade. Since joining the Sox organization, Garcia has hit .370 with a home run and 9 RBIs in eight games at Triple-A Charlotte. As we've mentioned previously, Triple-A pitching is no longer a challenge for the 22-year-outfielder. It is time for him to come up to the big-league level and test himself against Major League pitching. I suspect Garcia could be in the lineup as soon as Friday in the second game of the doubleheader. If not, we'll see him at U.S. Cellular Field on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Yankees are even worse than I thought

I wrote yesterday that it doesn't look like New York will be making the playoffs this season. After watching the Yankees' performance the last two days at U.S. Cellular Field, I'm 100 percent convinced that team does NOT have a late-season push in them.

Check out the lineup New York was fielding last night: 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano batting second; 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez batting third; 34-year-old Vernon Wells (pictured) batting fifth; Jayson Nix, a lifetime .218 hitter, batting sixth; Eduardo Nunez batting seventh; 26-year-old rookie David Adams hitting eighth; and some catcher named Austin Romine batting ninth.

Wow. That list is full of has-beens and never-will-bes. Cleanup hitter Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the game, and leadoff hitter Brett Gardner is a respectable player. Anybody else in that lineup you'd want on your team? I don't think so.

Even without his best command, White Sox ace Chris Sale limited that crummy lineup to one run on five hits over 7.1 innings in Chicago's 3-2 victory. And, the one run the Yankees scored off Sale was gifted to them after the Sox middle infielders failed to turn a routine double-play ball off the bat of Soriano in the first inning.

New York's high-water mark for this season was May 25, when it had a 30-18 record. Since that day, the Yankees have gone 27-37. Among American League teams, only the White Sox (19-45) and Houston Astros (23-40) have been worse over that same time frame.

The Yankees enter Wednesday's play at 57-55, in fourth place in the American League East, 10.5 games behind first-place Boston. I'll go ahead and write it: New York is toast for this year.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Nelson Cruz suspension is more interesting than the A-Rod circus

Major League Baseball finally lowered the boom on some cheaters Monday, suspending 13 players for their connection to Biogenesis, a now-shuttered Miami clinic that provided performance-enhancing drugs to baseball players and other athletes.

The suspended are (in alphabetical order): Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo, San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera, New York Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz (pictured), minor league pitcher Fautino De Los Santos, minor league pitcher Sergio Escalona, minor league outfielder Fernando Martinez, minor league catcher Jesus Montero, free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta, minor league outfielder Cesar Puello, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and minor league utility player Jordany Valdespin.

Twelve of the 13 players received 50-game suspensions. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who was suspended 211 games for being a repeat offender, reportedly recruiting other players to the Biogenesis clinic and impeding MLB's investigation into the matter.

Twelve of the 13 players accepted their punishment. The notable exception being Rodriguez, who filed an appeal that will allow him to continue playing until a judgment is made. Rodriguez, who just returned from a hip injury, went 1-for-4 in his season debut Monday night -- an 8-1 loss to the White Sox.

As expected, a media circus surrounded Rodriguez. My reaction to him is basically, "Who cares?" The guy is a liar and a cheater. His appeal is going to be denied. He's going to be suspended for the 2014 season, and we'll probably never seen him in a big league uniform after that. The Yankees are a fourth-place team in the rugged AL East, and the 38-year-old Rodriguez's return to the lineup figures to have little effect, if any, on the playoff race. It does not look like New York will be making the postseason this year.

The more interesting story is down in Texas. Cruz, 33, leads the second-place Rangers with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. He is clearly the best run producer in a lineup that is struggling to score runs. Texas entered play Tuesday with a 63-50 record, two games back of Oakland in the AL West. Losing Cruz is a huge blow to the Rangers' pennant hopes. This is a guy who has been batting third or fourth in the lineup all year, an impactful player still in the prime of his career who plays for a contending team.

At the trade deadline, it was assumed Texas would acquire a corner outfielder in anticipation of Cruz being suspended, much like Detroit went out and acquired Jose Iglesias to play shortstop in place of the suspended Peralta. Instead, the Rangers stood pat, leading many to assume Cruz was going to appeal his suspension and play out the season.

On Monday, Cruz accepted his punishment and began serving his suspension. Some have called Cruz "selfish" for deciding to serve his suspension now, arguing that the "team-first move" would have been to appeal the suspension, play out the year, presumably help the Rangers win, then drop the appeal and serve the suspension next year when the games "mean less."

Do a Twitter search for "Cruz selfish" and you'll see plenty of people making this argument. From where I'm sitting, that's hogwash. Cruz is obviously guilty of using PEDs. If he was innocent, wouldn't he appeal? Obviously, he knows he did it, and he knows the evidence is stacked against him. Morally, isn't it the right thing to do to accept your punishment when you've done wrong?

If Cruz did something selfish, it was taking the PEDs in the first place. Putting himself in position to be suspended, that's how he hurt the Rangers. I don't see anything wrong with accepting the consequences for breaking the rules.

A-Rod, narcissist that he is, refuses to admit that he's done wrong and refuses to see the damage he's done to the game of baseball. Isn't that part of the reason we as fans are booing the crap out of him each and every time he steps to home plate? I believe so.

The other storyline around Cruz, of course, is that Texas still needs a right fielder for the pennant drive. Hey Rangers fans, I hear Alex Rios is available.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The White Sox are wasting a lot of quality starts

Most people think I'm crazy when I say the White Sox long-term prognosis isn't as bleak as it looks. Sure, it's hard to see the light when the team is on an eight-game losing streak and has a record of 40-67.

The Sox haven't been 27 games below .500 since 1976, the same year I was born. So yeah, this stinks.

But given this team's sorry record, would you believe it if I told you the Sox rank fifth in the American League in quality starts with 60? Their team ERA (3.98) is better than league average (4.03) too. The pitchers have been more than holding their own despite almost no run support and the horrendous defense being played behind them.

White Sox starting pitchers have an ERA of 2.68 over their last eight games. You would think that would be enough to win at least one game, wouldn't you? Well, not with this team. The Sox have scored two runs or less in six of these eight defeats. Therefore, a 2.68 ERA gets you nothing more than a 2-1 or 3-2 loss. In the other two games where the Sox did score more than two runs, their bullpen imploded. None of these losses reflect poorly on the starting rotation of Chris Sale, John Danks, Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago and Andre Rienzo.

All of these guys have been doing their jobs recently with nothing to show for it. Santiago (pictured) was the latest victim. Friday night, he held the division-leading Detroit Tigers to two runs on six hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked just one -- a strong outing on the road against an excellent American League lineup.

What did he get for his efforts? A 2-1 loss. Typical 2013 White Sox.

But, here's the silver lining: All five of those starters are under age 30 -- Danks is the old man in the group at 28. All of them figure to be back next year, and that's your starting point for trying to build a more competitive team in 2014 and beyond.

Given the choice, I'd rather have pitching and be looking for position players than the other way around. The Sox have a ton of holes in their lineup, but those can be filled more quickly and easily than holes in the starting rotation.