Showing posts with label Avisail Gacia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Avisail Gacia. Show all posts

Monday, May 19, 2014

Best-laid plans (and platoons) going awry for Sox

One of the big ways the White Sox were hoping to improve their offense this season was by taking a group of guys that were each a net-negative when playing full time, and partnering them with someone who could perhaps compliment the other's weaknesses.

Thus Adam Dunn, who has struggled to hit left-handers, would be joined with Paul Konerko as a two-headed designated hitter. Alejandro De Aza's defense would look better in left field than in center, and with his own slight deficiency against lefties, could maybe be combined with the poor-fielding-but-southpaw-mashing Dayan Viciedo.

Things started out well. Dunn is hitting a respectable .246/.388/.458, even with a recent power outage. Konerko has flailed in his new role (.192/.241/.309), but that was somewhat made up for by Viciedo, for now excelling (.291/.352/.447) while being pressed into a bigger role when right fielder Avisail Garcia was lost for the season.

Unfortunately that's left De Aza to struggle miserably (.190/.248/.306). First he was needed in left field, but even with Moises Sierra (.303/.351/.424) added, De Aza was still the best choice to fill in when center fielder Adam Eaton missed time on the disabled list.

Eaton is back, and De Aza with his track record probably remains the best option to play as a fourth outfielder on this team, at least as long as the Sox are on the fringes of contention. He's otherwise having a season that would have him designated for assignment (which might yet happen).

Now a new crisis has emerged. First baseman Jose Abreu -- the team's best and most exciting hitter -- is headed to the DL. In the meantime, it looks like Dunn and Konerko will be pushed back into the full-time roles in which they struggled to produce value a year ago. And if Viciedo and Sierra both cool off along with that surprising catching tandem of Tyler Flowers and Adrian Nieto?

Things could get ugly fast with Abreu gone.

That's not to say it was the wrong idea for the Sox to try cobbling together something from what they had on hand instead of overpaying for a free agent who might not do any better than a healthy platoon pair. They've been one of the highest-scoring teams in the American League by effectively playing a shell game around injuries and the limitations of the guys populating their roster.

There might just be so many injuries now that the Sox are looking at turning over a series of empty shells.

It goes without saying the Sox hope Abreu is back soon, and that Eaton stays healthy, because the chewing gum that's holding together the rest of the offense is getting stretched too thin.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The White Sox can't be 'Paul Konerko's team' any longer

Paul Konerko's leadership skills will have only a minimal impact on the success or failure of the 2014 White Sox.

There, I said it.

It won't be a popular opinion, especially among lazy reporters who plan to spend the spring and summer beating the "Paulie as mentor" story to death because they can't think of anything else White Sox-related to write about.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Konerko invited center fielder Adam Eaton over to his house for some batting practice, a couple beers and a shoot-the-bull session. Sox management has asked Konerko to take the young players on the roster under his wing, and to try to pass on some of the wisdom he has gained during his 21 years in professional baseball.

I have no doubt Konerko will perform this task to the best of his abilities, and his efforts can only help these young guys. I don't see how it can hurt.

That said, there's only so much a veteran player can say or do to help age 20-something players who are trying to prove themselves at the big-league level. If it were as simple as having a guy like Konerko pull a young prospect aside for some chit-chat and sage advice after a batting practice session, you wouldn't see so many once-promising players wash out in the major leagues.

Take the case of second baseman Gordon Beckham, who is good friends with Konerko. The two are close enough, in fact, that Beckham's teammates give him a hard time about Konerko being his "dad." Heck, Konerko stood up in Beckham's wedding over the offseason. Think Konerko hasn't been generous with the "fatherly advice" when he's talking with Beckham around the batting cage or in the clubhouse? I'll bet you he has, but that hasn't stopped Beckham from struggling. Despite Konerko's help and good intentions, Beckham has posted a disappointing .249/.314/.380 slash line in five seasons with the Sox. He has never lived up to the potential he had coming out of the University of Georgia as a first-round draft pick.

And you know what? That's not Konerko's fault. Beckham is a grown man and a professional baseball player. He's responsible for his own performance.

That's one thing that is getting lost amid all these stories of Konerko helping out the young guys. He can share what he knows, and he will. But he can't get in the box and hit for these guys. He can't make them establish themselves as major league hitters. He can't make them accept leadership roles. He can't make them take responsibility for their own futures or the future of the White Sox. They have to do that themselves.

It's also worth noting that Konerko can only do so much "leading" from the bench. He's only going to play two or three times a week. We all hope there are a few more big hits in his once-mighty right-handed bat, but he's no longer the cornerstone middle-of-the-lineup presence that he was from 2004-12. He knows it, too. Konerko is still playing to erase the bitter taste of 2013. Hopefully, he'll go out on a decent note, and it will be one last season for the fans and the White Sox to thank him for all he's done for the organization. 

However, his activities both on and off the field are really just a sidebar to what is going to be most important for the White Sox in this 2014 season. This is the year the torch needs to be passed from Konerko to somebody else.

Konerko won't be around to be the "leader" in 2015, so now is the time for other guys to get used to the idea that it's going to be their team for the next several years. Guys like Chris Sale, Beckham, Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Jose Quintana, these are the guys the Sox are counting on to be those cornerstone players in coming seasons.

They cannot and should not sit around deferring to Konerko's leadership any longer. If something needs to be said in the clubhouse, in the dugout or on the field, one the younger guys shouldn't be afraid to say it. Moreover, if something needs to be done on the field, one of the younger guys needs to do it.

Why? Because Konerko is going to be 38 years old, and he's not physically capable of doing it day in and day out anymore. His time is past. For some of these other guys, their time is now. It's their responsibility to seize the day, not Konerko's.

The White Sox have been Paul Konerko's team for the last 15 years. It can't be his team anymore. It's Chris Sale's team now. It's Gordon Beckham's team. It's Adam Eaton's team. It's Avisail Garcia's team.

I just hope they all realize it.