Monday, September 30, 2013

September 29, 2013: Diehard Day at U.S. Cellular Field

Nothing proves you're a diehard fan more than going out to the ballpark on the final day of a lost season, when your team is 63-98, when everyone else in the city is obsessing over the NFL.

Despite the White Sox' 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, we enjoyed the beautiful weather Sunday and one last afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field before adjourning for the winter.

After the game, we lingered around after most fans had left the stadium and had an usher snap this photo of us down the third-base line at field level.

Obviously, I'm second from the right. My girlfriend, Jen, is second from the left. We were joined by our friends, Tom (far left) and Doug (far right).

"You're gonna win 60; you're gonna lose 60. It's what you do with the other 42 that counts. We lost 39 of them."  --- Jen

At least we showed we're the kind of fans that show up no matter what, even when our team is finishing up a historically bad season. All hope for the 2013 White Sox was lost months ago. I'll be the first to admit I'm more than fed up with the losing. That said, let this photo serve as a reminder that win or lose, baseball is fun. Trips to the ballpark are about good times and good friends, creating memories with the people you enjoy being around most. That's something I miss over the winter, no matter if the Sox had a good year or a bad year.

So long, U.S. Cellular Field, we'll see you again March 31, 2014. The Sox will be 0-0 that day, and that sounds a heckuva lot better than 63-99.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another unwritten rules violation, Carlos Gomez edition

Atlanta Braves left-hander Paul Maholm drilled Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez in the leg with an 88 mph fastball on June 23. Gomez took exception to it, believing it was intentional, and he hasn't forgotten about it.

So, Gomez went to the plate looking for revenge when the two men competed against each other again Wednesday night. There's no question Gomez was looking to take Maholm deep. He took a mighty cut and missed on the first pitch, almost falling down in the process. On the second pitch, he connected, sending one deep into the seats in left-center field.

Give Gomez credit for that. If you believe a pitcher has hit you intentionally, one of the best ways to deal with that is to hit a home run next time you face him. Perfectly acceptable. What happened after Gomez made contact wasn't so acceptable, as he stood there and admired his handiwork, then stared at Maholm and flipped the bat behind him before rounding the bases.

On his way around the bases, Gomez jawed with Maholm, Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and catcher Brian McCann. Gomez actually never touched home plate, because McCann confronted him about 20 feet up the third-base line. The two men exchanged more heated words, and the benches emptied. You can watch video of the incident here

It's no secret I've never liked Gomez. I've disliked him since his days with the Minnesota Twins. He's a hot dog and a loose cannon. His actions on the field often cross the line into obnoxious territory, and this incident is just the latest example. He got tossed out of the game, and rightfully so. He's an idiot.

However, I can't put 100 percent of the blame on Gomez for this one. There are certain teams around baseball that fancy themselves as gatekeepers of the unwritten rules of the game. Atlanta is starting to become one of those teams. Not even a month ago, the Braves were involved in a similar incident when Miami Marlins rookie pitcher Jose Fernandez, a 21-year-old kid, got a little too excited about hitting his first major league home run. 

Is it really necessary to have an altercation when someone stands and admires a home run for a little too long? Have our feelings gotten that sensitive? For me, the Braves are living in a glass house. One of their own players, Justin Upton, has been known to pose after hitting a home run. Most teams probably have a guy or two who is guilty of hot-dogging it after taking the opposing pitcher deep. I know a lot of people don't like to see that stuff, but it's pretty common in today's game.

I can agree that Gomez was over the line with his antics. But I'll be honest, I don't know exactly where that line is. At one point does a home run pose become offensive to the other team? I'm not sure. Maybe someone should take these unwritten rules I hear about all the time and write 'em down so we all understand what is acceptable and what is not.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Here's part of the reason the Indians own the White Sox

The White Sox were one out away from finally beating the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Jason Giambi got a hanging slider from Sox closer Addison Reed and knocked it out of the park for a two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, erasing a 4-3 deficit and lifting the Indians to a 5-4 victory.

It was a familiar feeling for the Sox, who have been walked off six times in Cleveland this season. Chicago is just 2-16 against the Indians and has dropped the last 13 meetings between the two clubs.

Why? Well, there are multiple reasons, of course. But one thing I've noticed throughout the year is that the Indians own Reed. They also own Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale. I have the numbers to back it up.

This season, Reed has appeared in seven games against Cleveland. He is 0-2 with 12.15 ERA. He is just 2 for 5 in save opportunities against the Indians. Against all other clubs, Reed is 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 51 appearances. Against teams not named Cleveland, he has converted 37 of 42 save chances. Nearly one-third of the earned runs Reed has allowed this season (9 of 30) have been against the Indians.

The story is much the same for Sale. He's made four starts against Cleveland and lost 'em all. He's 0-4 with a 8.61 ERA. Nearly one-third of the earned runs Sale has allowed this season (22 of 69) have been against the Indians. Sale has started 25 games against clubs not named Cleveland and has gone 11-9 with a 2.16 ERA in those appearances.

The White Sox best starting pitcher can't slow the Tribe; neither can their best reliever. That plays a major role in going 2-16 against an particular opponent.

The Indians are likely to make the American League playoffs as a wild-card team, and they have the Sox to thank. Against teams that are not from Chicago, the Indians have a pedestrian 71-68 record. They become 87-70 only when you add in their mastery of the White Sox.

In case you are wondering, Cleveland is a combined 12-27 against the four other likely AL playoff teams (Detroit, Boston, Tampa Bay, Oakland). Unfortunately for the Indians, they will not be facing the White Sox in the playoffs.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The pennant races with one week to play....

The 162-game marathon has come down to a six- or seven-game sprint for some clubs as we enter the final week of the regular season. Here's a rundown of the races, who has clinched, and who still has work to do:

AL East
The Boston Red Sox have clinched the division and own the best record in baseball (95-62). The Red Sox are two games ahead of the AL West-leading Oakland A's in their quest to secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

AL Central
The Detroit Tigers (91-65) possess a five-game division lead. Their magic number is down to two. They open a series Monday against the 90-loss Minnesota Twins. Detroit figures to clinch before it leaves Target Field. The second-place Indians (86-70) figure to be more concerned with securing a wild-card spot at this point.

AL West
The Oakland A's (93-63) have proven last season's division championship was no fluke. They have clinched the title for the second consecutive year, once again outplaying the big-spending clubs in Texas and Anaheim. The A's will need a red-hot final week to catch Boston for the top seed in the AL, but I doubt anyone in Oakland will be complaining if the A's finish with the second-best record in the league.

AL Wild Card
Six teams remain alive, but realistically, this race is between Tampa Bay (86-69), Cleveland (86-70) and Texas (84-71). The Rangers are 1.5 back of Cleveland and two back of Tampa Bay. Texas opens a three-game set Monday against 105-loss Houston, and it better sweep. The Rangers close with four in Anaheim. The Indians are in great shape. They have two games left with the 94-loss White Sox and four with the 90-loss Twins. They win five out of six, they're in. Four out of six will probably do it, too. Tampa Bay is concluding a four-game series with Baltimore on Monday, before a six-game closing road trip to New York and Toronto. That will not be easy, but the Rays have the advantage of that two-game cushion over the Rangers. Kansas City (82-73) is 3.5 out of the wild card. New York is four back, and Baltimore is 4.5 back. Each of those three teams is still alive, but realistically, they would need to win out while others choke.

NL East
The Atlanta Braves (92-63) have the best record in the National League and clinched their division title Sunday with a 5-2 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It will be a fight to the finish for homefield advantage in the NL. The Braves are just 1.5 games ahead of St. Louis (91-65) and 2.5 ahead of Los Angeles (90-66). Does that even matter? You bet it does. Atlanta is 52-22 at Turner Field this season and just 40-41 on the road.

NL Central
St. Louis (91-65) is in good shape, two games ahead of both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Cardinals are at home for the final week, hosting Washington (84-72) for three and the 91-loss Cubs for three. You have to believe St. Louis will win the division with a .500 homestand, especially since Pittsburgh and Cincinnati close the season playing head-to-head. If either the Pirates or the Reds were to sweep that final series, maybe they could catch the Cardinals. But, the more likely scenario involves the Pirates and Reds beating up on each other, allowing St. Louis to put the division away.

NL West
Los Angeles (90-66) is the only team in baseball enjoying a double-digit lead in its division. The Dodgers have basically lapped the NL West. They could use a hot streak at the end to pass the Cardinals and or the Braves, so that they'll be able to open the playoffs at home.

NL Wild Card
Almost certainly, the NL wild-card game will feature Pittsburgh (89-67) and Cincinnati (89-67). Both clubs are five games ahead of Washington (84-72) with six games to play. Right now, it's a matter of which team will host that wild-card game. It's a dead heat entering Monday. The Pirates play at Chicago for three games before finishing with three in Cincinnati. The Reds welcome the New York Mets for three before playing the Pirates. Here's a possible dilemma for the season's last day: If the two teams are tied going into Game 162, do you throw your best pitcher or one of your best pitchers to try to get homefield for the wild-card game? Or do you rest everybody for the winner-take-all 163rd game? I think I'd save all my bullets for the wild-card game.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Joe Girardi to the Cubs? Idiotic speculation or a real possibility?

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi's contract is up at the end of the season. You know what that means. It is time for renewed speculation that Girardi will "come home" to manage the Cubs.

Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rogers is leading the media charge with his piece in today's paper.

Rogers and others have reported the Cubs are open to the possibility of replacing manager Dale Sveum, who frankly has had no chance to win the last two years with the crappy rosters he has been handed. But, perhaps Cubs brass is unhappy with Sveum because supposed core players Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija have all taken a step backward this season.

My opinion on Sveum? Take him or leave him. I don't think he's anything special as a field boss, but the truth is no manager ever born could have coaxed the Cubs teams of the last two years to anything close to a .500 record, let along playoff contention.

As for Girardi, I'd be stunned if the Yankees don't offer him another contract. Even though New York will likely not make the playoffs, Girardi has done an unbelievable job of keeping a mediocre roster in contention deep into September.

Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson have barely played this season. Alex Rodriguez, as usual, has created a circus around that team. C.C. Sabathia has had the worst season of his career. New York's pitching, statistically, is worse than both of the woeful Chicago baseball teams this year. Despite all that, Girardi is going to squeeze 85 to 87 wins out of a team that had to give way too many at-bats to guys like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Eduardo Nunez. Girardi's a good manager. He's better than Sveum. There's no denying that.

But would he leave New York for Chicago? What would be his motivation to do that? His local roots, I suppose. He's from Peoria. He attended Northwestern, and he played seven of his 15 MLB seasons on the North Side. I can't imagine money would be a motivation. Whatever the Cubs can offer, the Yankees could surely match. I don't think the Cubs can offer Girardi a better on-field situation than what the Yankees have. New York contends every year. The Yankees will find a way next year, too, regardless of who the manager is. They'll open up their pocketbook this offseason and address their holes. They always do. The Cubs, in contrast, are at least another two years away.

Are the local ties enough to pry Girardi out of New York? I don't know, but that's really all the Cubs have to offer. And, if Girardi is sick of New York and ready for a change, he would have other options than Chicago. I hear Washington is looking for a manager, and the Nationals have a team that should be ready to win. Attractive jobs could come open in Texas and Anaheim, as well.

When it comes to the Cubs, it's always hard for me to tell whether some of the local reporting is legitimate news, or just cheerleading from the press box. When I read some of these articles, it almost strikes me as if the Cubs reporters are trying to woo Girardi to Chicago themselves. In the coming months, it will be interesting to see whether that story has legs, or if it's just another round of idiotic speculation at the end of another lost season on the North Side.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mental mistakes compound misery for White Sox

There's an easy explanation for the White Sox' 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon: Starting pitcher John Danks gave up hits to seven of the first 11 batters he faced and put the team in a 4-0 hole after two innings. Not a good start at all.

Danks settled down and retired 16 in a row after that, but the damage had been done. But, if you look a little deeper, you can't help but feel like the Sox would have come back and won that game against the woeful Twins if they had just done the little things right.

For example, take a look at what happened in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Sox were trailing 4-1 at that point when catcher Josh Phegley led off the inning with a double. Here was a golden chance to get at least one run closer. No. 9 hitter Leury Garcia stepped to the plate. Not being a power hitter, Garcia needed to be thinking about hitting a ball to the right side to get Phegley over to third base with less than two out.

Apparently, Garcia was thinking nothing of the sort. He rolled over on a pitch from Minnesota lefty Scott Diamond and hit a chopper to shortstop. Compounding Garcia's poor approach at the plate, Phegley foolishly thought he could make third base on a ground ball that was hit in front of him. The Twins threw him out by half a baseline, and there went an opportunity to cut into the Minnesota lead.

Later in the inning, Alejandro De Aza reached on an error, and Alexei Ramirez hit a deep fly ball to center field. If Phegley had been standing on third base with less than two out, he would have scored on either of those two plays. But, a rotten swing by Garcia and idiotic baserunning by Phegley prevented that from happening. The Sox failed to score in the inning, and they went on to lose by one run.

We've seen the White Sox make dozens of mistakes like this throughout the season. Is it any wonder the team has a 22-33 record in one-run games this year? Some people put the blame on the manager and the coaches for this kind of repetitive buffoonery. But I'll be honest, Robin Ventura and his staff shouldn't have to tell Phegley to stay at second base when a ground ball is hit in front of him to the left side of the infield. That's Baserunning 101, something my coaches taught me in Little League. That's a lesson that should be learned long before a player reaches pro ball.

In my world, mistakes like this are the fault of the player, not the manager or a coach. You're in the major leagues; play the game right.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

American League wild card race will be a wild one

With roughly a dozen games to go in the 2013 baseball season, the division winners in the American League are all but decided.

The Boston Red Sox lead the AL East by nine games. The Oakland A's are up 6.5 games in the AL West, and the Detroit Tigers lead the AL Central by 6.

That said, nine of the 15 teams in the American League still have legitimate pennant hopes entering play on this, the 17th day of September. Six teams are fighting for the two wild card spots, and all of them are within 2.5 games of each other. This must be exactly what commissioner Bud Selig had in mind when he added that extra wild card position.

Take a look at the wild card standings entering Tuesday's play:
1. Tampa Bay  82-67 (+1.0)
2. Texas 81-68  (-)
3. Cleveland 81-69 (0.5 GB)
4. Baltimore 79-70 (2.0 GB)
5. Kansas City 79-71 (2.5 GB)
6. New York 79-71 (2.5 GB)

Only two of the six can qualify, and for the longest time, it looked like Texas would be one of those teams. No more. If you thought the White Sox were struggling, take a look at what the Rangers have done this month. They are 2-12 in September, and their starting pitchers have gone 1-12 in that time frame. Former Cub Matt Garza was the latest to get knocked around. He lasted only 4.1 innings Monday in a 6-2 Texas loss to Tampa Bay. This is a real critical time for the Rangers. They have three more games in a four-game set with the Rays before heading to Kansas City for a crucial weekend series against the Royals.

Speaking of Kansas City, the Royals got a big game from James Shields (pictured) in a 7-1 victory over Cleveland on Monday night. The Royals and Indians meet again Tuesday and Wednesday in the other big, head-to-head series between wild card contenders. Kansas City will send 22-year-old prospect Yordano Ventura to the mound to make his major league debut Tuesday night. No pressure, kid. Nothing at stake except Kansas City's first legitimate chance to make the playoffs in nearly three decades.

Even with Chicago teams dead and buried, there is still some good baseball left to watch. This AL wild card race could end up as one for the ages.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's hard to evaulate Erik Johnson's first two White Sox starts

No matter what happens the rest of the year, it has been a good season for 23-year-old White Sox rookie right-hander Erik Johnson.

The former second-round draft pick tore up both Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, going 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 24 combined starts. He earned his September callup to the White Sox.

Unfortunately, it hasn't gone well for him in his first two major league starts. Johnson has given up 11 runs and 14 hits in 9.2 innings. He has suffered losses to both the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

But, it's really hard to determine how much of that mess is Johnson's fault. Only five of the 11 runs he's given up have been earned. The White Sox committed four errors, including three by third baseman Conor Gillaspie (pictured), during Johnson's 9-1 loss to Detroit on Tuesday night.

Rookie pitchers are always nervous their first few starts in the majors. It's human nature. But young pitchers tend to settle down much quicker if all the plays are being made behind them. Johnson hasn't had that luxury. Instead, he's had to make a lot of extra pitches and been placed in some jams that were not of his own making. He's been asked to get a number of extra outs, and he hasn't been able to do that. I've seen much more veteran pitchers than Johnson crumble under similar circumstances.

It's unfortunate, because you'd like to get a good evaulation of Johnson coming down the stretch of this season. He's dominated hitters at the minor-league level, and it's time to find out whether he can challenge for a job in the 2014 starting rotation. Two starts in, I have no read on that whatsoever. Johnson's numbers are ugly, but it's hard to cast stones at a rookie who has received no help at all from his teammates.

Speaking of bad defense

Gillaspie on Tuesday became the first Sox player to commit three errors in one game since Andy Gonzalez on Aug. 30, 2007. That's not company you want to keep.

It has been a brutal September for the Sox thus far. They are 2-8 this month and have committed 17 errors in those 10 games.

The Sox now have a major-league high 108 errors for the season, leading to 70 unearned runs. Last year, the Sox committed a league-low 70 errors. The defensive regression in one year is really hard to explain, but poor defense does explain a 58-86 record; that much I know.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chris Sale vs. Max Scherzer

I've said it many times: I'm a bad American. I often don't care about things other Americans care deeply about. And no matter what ESPN says, I can't get excited about a supposedly critical early-season NFC East matchup.

Instead, my eyes were cast toward U.S. Cellular Field on Monday night as the two best pitchers in the American League this year went head-to-head.

White Sox left-hander Chris Sale struck out eight over eight innings and allowed just a solo home run to Victor Martinez and four hits to lead the South Siders to a 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers and right-hander Max Scherzer (pictured).

Sale's strikeout of Austin Jackson to end the third inning was his 200th of the season. He became the first pitcher in Sox history to record 200 strikeouts before hitting the 200-inning plateau. Previously, Javier Vazquez was the fastest Sox pitcher to 200 Ks in one season. Vazquez recorded his 200th strikeout of the 2007 season in his 207th inning. Sale got there in just 190.2 innings.

This was not a good night for Scherzer (19-3). For the third consecutive start, he was denied in his bid for his 20th victory. He allowed five runs (four earned) and needed 90 pitches to get through four innings. By the fifth inning, he had been removed from the game.

That said, Scherzer is still going to win the Cy Young Award in the American League this year. His team is in first place, and how can you argue with a 19-3 record? He's been awesome. But if you look at the statistics as a whole, the only category Scherzer has a significant advantage over Sale in is the won-loss column. Sale is just 11-12 because, well, the White Sox stink. Sale has posted a quality start in seven of his 12 losses. If he had a real team behind him, he'd have 18 or 19 wins, too, and we'd have a neck-and-neck race for the Cy Young. Let's look at some of the other stats besides the won-loss record:

Sale's ERA is 2.90; Scherzer's is 3.01.

Sale has four complete games this season; Scherzer has none.

Sale has a shutout to his credit; Scherzer does not.

Sale has thrown 195.2 innings; Scherzer has pitched 194.1.

Scherzer has 215 strikeouts; Sale has 207.

Scherzer's WHIP is 0.962; Sale's is 1.037.

Scherzer strikes out 10.0 men for every nine innings pitched; Sale fans 9.5 for every nine innings pitched.

Sale's K/BB ratio is 5.05; Scherzer's is 4.48.

These two men have similar numbers in every category except one: wins and losses. They have both been just outstanding. Scherzer will get to show his stuff in the postseason again this October. It is too bad Sale's brilliant season has gone to waste on the 2013 White Sox.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charity event in Schaumburg to feature former White Sox, former Cubs

If I didn't already have plans for the weekend, I might be tempted to attend the Inaugural Larry A. Pogofsky Chicago All-Star Softball Challenge.

The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. Former White Sox players will take on former Cubs players in an softball game to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities, Chicago Cubs Charities and the Special Kids Network.

There are some several good names on the list of scheduled attendees, former All-Stars from both teams, at least one future Hall of Famer and even an former World Series MVP (pictured). Here are the rosters:

White Sox: Frank Thomas, Jermaine Dye, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Lee, Ray Durham, Ron Kittle, Magglio Ordonez, Cliff Politte, James Baldwin, Tony Phillips, Norberto Martin, Chad Kreuter and Brian Anderson

Cubs: Derrek Lee, Lee Smith, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Jamie Moyer, Michael Barrett, Bob Dernier, Brian McRae, Bill Madlock, Steve Trout, Scott Eyre, Willie Wilson, Gary Matthews Jr., Manny Trillo and Adam Greenberg.

I did notice they have 15 former Cubs listed and only 13 former Sox. Trout played five years on both sides of town, so maybe they should have him play for the Sox to even out the sides. 

In any case, it sounds like a good time. Tickets start at $15. They're saying this is an inaugural event, which implies they are going to do this again next year. Maybe I'll put it on my calendar for 2014.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Adam Dunn claims he is considering retirement

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Tuesday that White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn is thinking of retiring at the end of the season.

We all know there's no way that's going to happen, so let me pause for a moment while you finish chuckling at the absurdity of it all ....

OK, now that you're done, I'll point out that Dunn has one year left on his contract with the Sox, and that contract is worth $15 million. That means Dunn has 15 million good reasons to come back and play next year, no matter how bad the Sox are going to be.

The 33-year-old Dunn has a legitimate shot at 500 home runs. He needs just 64 more. But, he claims neither money nor milestones will cause him to continue playing.

“I’m not coming back just to come back for money or because I have one year left (on his contract),” Dunn told Fox Sports on Tuesday. “I’m not coming back to chase home run numbers or whatever. If I end up with 499 and I’m not having fun, see ya -- 499 it is.”

I don't buy it. I think Dunn is speaking out of frustration. The Sox are 56-81 this year, far worse than even the biggest pessimist could have imagined. Dunn's buddy, Jake Peavy, got traded to a contending Boston team midseason. Other veterans, like Alex Rios, Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, were also moved to clubs that are in the hunt.

You can bet your life the Sox tried to trade Dunn as well, but found no takers. Dunn is stuck on a losing team with an increasingly young roster, and he's jealous of Peavy and others who were traded to teams that are in a more favorable situation. More than anything, that is the source of Dunn's torment.

Count Sox manager Robin Ventura among the people who believe Dunn will play next year.

“I don’t see him not playing (next season). I’ve heard a lot of guys say that, and they still play," Ventura told Fox Sports. "“It’s tough. For (veterans) like that, it’s hard to go through. You’re frustrated. Sometimes, it’s you. Sometimes, it’s the way the team is playing. But it doesn’t guarantee anything for next season. He has been around long enough to know next year could be different. It can be better than it is right now."

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see Dunn retire. I'd love for the Sox to have $15 million more to spend on someone or something else. But that just isn't going to happen. If I had to take a guess, I'd say the Sox and Dunn are mutually stuck with each other through 2014.

See you next spring in Glendale, Adam. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tyler Flowers' disastrous 2013 is thankfully over

It's no secret I was never on board with the White Sox decision to make Tyler Flowers their starting catcher.

Yes, I wanted to keep A.J. Pierzynski for another year or two, and it wasn't because of 2005 nostalgia. It was because Pierzynski is still a far superior player to Flowers, even at his advancing age, and I didn't think it took a brain surgeon to figure that out.

I understood the reasons the Sox cut the cord with Pierzynski. He's a 36-year-old catcher. He wasn't going to duplicate the 27-homer season he had in 2012, and there was talk that he wasn't on the same page with manager Robin Ventura and the coaching staff last season.

That said, if you are going to jettison a productive player, you better have a replacement lined up. And that somebody needs to be better than Tyler Flowers. I knew going into the season Flowers was incapable of being anything more than a backup at the big-league level. He has tantalizing power, but that's his only real plus. He has holes in his swing like Swiss cheese, strikes out way too much and isn't as good defensively as Sox brass claims he is. I figured given a whole season, Flowers might bat .220. Actually, he batted .195 in 84 games this year before going on the disabled list this week to undergo right shoulder surgery.

Reports indicate Flowers first tweaked the shoulder about a year ago. The pain intensified before spring training, and he found out a couple months ago he would need the surgery.

So, the Sox knew before spring training Flowers wasn't healthy, yet they were willing to start the season with him and career minor-leaguer Hector Gimenez as their two big-league catchers. Given what we know now, it's even less of a surprise that the catching position has been a complete disaster for the 2013 White Sox. An injured Tyler Flowers was considered the best option in the organization. That's brutal.

Meanwhile, Pierzynski (.280 avg., 16 HR, 58 RBIs) continues to display competence as the starting catcher on a Texas Rangers ballclub that is tied for first place in the AL West entering Tuesday's action. Thud.

The Sox are left to hope and pray rookie Josh Phegley shows them something the last month of the season. Since an electric first week that included three home runs, Phegley has slumped to a .214 average. His defense has been poor. He dropped a routine pop up Monday against the Yankees, and I've been unimpressed with his receiving ability. Too many wild pitches and not enough pitches being blocked. Phegley will need to hit a lot to overcome his defensive shortcomings. While I'm more optimistic about his offensive abilities than I was about Flowers, the Sox need to see more before they can comfortably go into 2014 thinking Phegley is their catcher.

No matter what, the Sox would be smart to cut their losses with Flowers. He's damaged goods now, and I wouldn't want him in even a backup role. If they want to give Phegley a full-time shot, fine, but sign a serviceable veteran this offseason just in case Phegley fails as well.

I know the list of potential free agent catchers isn't exciting (except for Brian McCann, who is likely out of the Sox price range), but think about it: Anybody who can hit .230 and catch the ball is an upgrade behind the plate over what the Sox have right now. The standard for improvement at that position is not high.