Showing posts with label Robin Ventura. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robin Ventura. Show all posts

Friday, July 14, 2017

White Sox reliever Nate Jones done for the season

Nate Jones
Lost amid all the Jose Quintana trade discussions Thursday was this bit of news: White Sox reliever Nate Jones will miss the rest of the 2017 season after having elbow surgery earlier this week.

Jones is arguably the Sox's best reliever, so this is a big loss. The right-hander was one of the top setup men in the game last season, when he went 5-3 with a 2.71 ERA, 0.892 WHIP and 80 strikeouts over 70.2 innings covering 71 appearances.

The elbow injury, which required nerve repositioning surgery (!?), limited Jones to 11 appearances this season. He hasn't pitched since April 28.

This makes three relief pitchers from the 2015-16 Sox bullpen who are out for the season after elbow surgeries. Zach Putnam and Zach Duke, who is now with the St. Louis Cardinals organization, are the other two. A fourth reliever, Jake Petricka, is on the disabled list with a strained right elbow. I hate to speculate, but I will anyway: You can't help but wonder if Petricka is the next guy on his way to the operating table.

I never agreed with the way former Sox manager Robin Ventura used his bullpen. He was beholden to lefty-righty matchups. He ran his guys into the ground, sometimes using four or five relievers just to get through one inning.

I don't think it's a coincidence that these four men are experiencing elbow problems right now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

White Sox manager Rick Renteria admits he stuck with Mike Pelfrey too long in loss to Angels

Mike Pelfrey
White Sox starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey has made it through the fifth inning only once in his first five starts of the season. Once the opposition begins its third time through the batting order, Pelfrey falls apart.

Case in point, Monday's 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Pelfrey worked effectively through four innings, and the Sox (17-19) took a 3-0 lead into the fifth inning -- thanks to a two-run homer by Jose Abreu and an RBI triple by Tyler Saladino.

But in the fateful bottom of the fifth inning, Pelfrey walked both Cameron Maybin and Danny Espinosa. Then, he gave up a long fly-ball out to No. 9 hitter Martin Maldonado.

It was decision time for Sox manager Rick Renteria. Two on, two out in the bottom of the fifth, Sox up by three, Pelfrey clearly tiring, but one out away from being eligible for a win. Left-hander Dan Jennings was ready in the bullpen, and the Angels were sending their left-handed hitting leadoff batter, Kole Calhoun, to the plate.

Calhoun also represented the start of the third time through the batting order, which has been poison for Pelfrey all season.

What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Calhoun hit a three-run homer on a 1-0 sinker to tie the game. The next hitter was the best player in baseball, Mike Trout.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak was ready in the bullpen. What's your move, Rick?

He stuck with Pelfrey, and Trout hit a 1-2 splitter out of the park to give the Angels the lead. That's your ballgame. After the Trout homer, Pelfrey (0-4) was removed from the game. Some might say he was removed two batters too late.

Interestingly, one of the people who believes that Pelfrey was left in too long was the man who made that decision: Renteria.

“I thought Pelf gave us a nice four-plus innings,” Renteria said in postgame remarks on CSNChicago.com. “Really, he gave us enough to do what we needed to do. I had those guys out there ready to pick him up, and I didn’t. I went against my better judgment. We had (Dan Jennings) ready for Calhoun, and we had our righty (Swarzak) ready. So that’s not any of their faults but mine. At least it would have given us a better chance. I couldn’t guarantee that the outcome would have been what we wanted, but I think the matchups would have been better, and pretty much that’s it.”

Isn't that refreshing? No excuses. No blaming of the players. No "tipping of the cap" to the other team. Just an acceptance of responsibility from a manager who realizes that he left a pitcher in too long. Robin Ventura routinely made mistakes such as this as a manager, never learned from them, and never changed his ways.

That said, I can defend Renteria's decision to stick with Pelfrey. Just last week, I criticized the Sox manager for overusing Jennings in middle relief. We're in the middle of May. There's still a long season ahead, and you want Jennings and Swarzak healthy coming out of the bullpen for the duration. You can't run them out there every day just because starting pitchers are not doing their jobs.

For long-term thinking, it wasn't unreasonable to try to squeeze one more out from Pelfrey in Monday's game. But, for purposes of trying to win Monday's game, sticking with him was the wrong move.

Oh, and with those home runs by Calhoun and Trout, opposing batters are now 9 for 12 with two home runs, two doubles and a triple when they face Pelfrey for a third time in a game.

Ugly, isn't it?

Sooner or later, a starting pitcher needs to work into the sixth or seventh inning, and if he cannot do that, then he needs to not be here.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rick Renteria impresses with answers to fan questions at SoxFest

Rick Renteria (center)
I went to SoxFest this past weekend without much enthusiasm toward the rebuilding project that is just beginning on the South Side of Chicago.

Guess what? I'm still not excited, but after listening to new White Sox manager Rick Renteria talk this weekend, I feel a little better knowing he will be the man leading the team through a 2017 season that is almost certainly going to be trying and ugly at times.

Renteria has been talking all week about doing things the "White Sox Way," so I stood up in the seminar room Friday night and asked him to elaborate on what the "White Sox Way" is, and to provide me with some examples of the things he wants to do differently than what we've seen in the past.

First, Renteria praised me for asking a good question, then he gave a detailed, specific and thoughtful response. He talked about the need for players to play with maximum effort  -- back up bases, run hard out of the batter's box, etc. He talked about how it was his responsibility to hold players accountable for actions they take or don't take on the field. He talked about the importance of improving in several small but key areas, a better two-strike approach at the plate, better base running, understanding situations in the field, hitting the ball the other way when the situation calls for it -- all things that seemed to be lacking during the Robin Ventura Era.

The paragraph above is just a Cliff Notes version. Renteria spoke for about five minutes after I asked my question, and he gave similarly detailed responses to other questions posed by fans. It was a welcome change from previous SoxFests.

Some other highlights from the seminar room:

1. General manager Rick Hahn said repeatedly that all the prospects acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades are expected to start the season in the minor leagues. He added that the Sox still are actively looking to make more moves before the season begins, with the goal of stockpiling as much young talent as possible. Hahn noted that a deal fell apart for him on Christmas Eve, so yeah, all that Jose Quintana-to-the-Yankees stuff around the holidays probably had some validity to it. It just didn't happen.

2. A fan astutely asked Hahn whether he would try to include the declining and overpriced James Shields in a deal with one of his assets. How would that work? Say Hahn wants to trade Quintana. He could go to a team and say, "You guys want Quintana? Well, you gotta take Shields and his high salary as well." Under such a scenario, the Sox would get less return in prospects for Quintana, but they would be off the hook for Shields' bad contract. Hahn said he would not do that under any circumstance, because his goal is to acquire top young talent, and throwing a liability such as Shields into a trade would defeat that purpose. I was happy to hear Hahn say that. We won't have a repeat of the Mark Teahen situation with Shields.

3. Both Friday night and Saturday morning, fans asked Hahn and Renteria about the role sabermetrics play in decision-making. Renteria said there was no shortage of information for he and his coaches to digest, but I was most impressed when he noted that numbers represent outcomes, and while they can be instructive, it's important to stay ahead of the curve by looking at more than just the past. Renteria noted that he has to trust his eyes and his gut, as well, beyond just absorbing the numbers, and there needs to be an understanding of what individual players can and cannot do in certain situations. Good answer.

In summary, Renteria's words, of course, are merely that. He has to produce results on the field, as well, but he gave the die-hard fans at SoxFest reason to believe he might be the right man for the job.

That's no small statement coming from me, because I was skeptical when Renteria was hired, and critical of Sox management for not conducting a more thorough search.

And, hell, I'm still skeptical, but I'm at least a little more open to the direction they are going based upon what I heard from the new manager over the weekend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some numbers behind Robin Ventura's pitching mismanagement

Robin Ventura
The gripes are all too familiar. We made them routinely for all the years Robin Ventura was managing the White Sox.

He left his starting pitchers in too long, and once he did go to the bullpen, he misused his relievers. He'd use the same reliever three, four days in a row, sometimes even five days out of six. (Remember Addison Reed in August 2013?) He'd used five relievers to get three outs in the seventh or eighth inning, and he was a slave to "handedness"  -- always needing to bring in a left-handed pitcher every time the opponent sent a left-handed batter to the plate.

With that in mind, an article that appeared on South Side Sox this morning interested me, because it pulled out some notes on the Sox from the 2017 Bill James Handbook. These numbers were cited in the article, and they confirmed what we suspected about Ventura all along:

  • The White Sox were one of three teams to use three different relievers 20 times on consecutive days. Those three relievers, not surprisingly, were David Robertson, Nate Jones and Dan Jennings. I complained about the overuse of Robertson and Jones at different points during the season. The Sox would have been the only team with four such relievers had they not traded Zach Duke midseason. The left-hander had 17 appearances on zero days' rest with the Sox, plus nine more such appearances once he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Is it any surprise Duke had Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season? 
  • Ventura led the American League by using relievers on consecutive days 128 times, and no other manager was even close. James also noted that Ventura led the league in "slow hooks" for the fourth consecutive year and "long outings" for a second.
Indeed, it's not an accident that Ventura presided over four straight losing seasons. We all know the front office shares in the blame, but the manager exacerbated the problems by not properly handling the pitching staff. Should we be stunned the Sox bullpen had injury problems this year? Of course not. Should we be stunned that some pitchers, most notably Robertson and Matt Albers, got worse the second half of the year? Of course not.

The question is whether anything will change in 2017, with bench coach Rick Renteria now elevated to manager, and Don Cooper still entrenched as the Sox pitching coach. These are the same guys who were Ventura's top lieutenants in 2016. Are they smart enough to see that this was a problem?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Adam Eaton a Gold Glove finalist, and other assorted White Sox news

Adam Eaton
Catching up on a few White Sox notes from the past few days:

1. Right fielder Adam Eaton has been named a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award. Eaton led major-league outfielders with 18 assists and was second to Boston's Mookie Betts with 22 defensive runs saved.

Eaton is trying to become the first Sox player to win a Gold Glove since pitcher Jake Peavy won the honor in 2012. The last Sox position player to win a Gold Glove was third baseman Robin Ventura in 1998.

Eaton was a finalist for the award as a center fielder in 2014. The other finalists among right fielders this year are Betts and Houston's George Springer.

Consider Betts the favorite, since he also had a big offensive season (yeah, I know it shouldn't matter, but it does) and plays in Boston.

2. No surprise: Pitcher James Shields will opt in for the final two years of his contract, according to reports.

Shields, who will turn 35 in December, is coming off a terrible season in which he posted a 6-19 record with a 5.85 ERA. After being traded to the American League, his ERA swelled to 6.77 in 22 starts with the Sox, during which he went 4-12.

The right-hander is owed $21 million for each of the next two seasons, although the San Diego Padres are on the hook for $11 million in both 2017 and 2018. That means the Sox will play Shields $10 million next year and the year after that.

There is a $16 million club option for 2019 on Shields, with a $2 million buyout, if he somehow manages to hold his roster spot for that long. The Sox would be on the hook for the buyout.

Great trade, huh?

3. The Sox claimed outfielder Rymer Liriano off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Liriano, 25, was once a top-100 prospect in the San Diego system, but his skills have never translated to the big-league level.

He made it to the bigs with the Padres in 2014, but couldn't stick, hitting .220 with a .555 OPS in 121 plate appearances in 38 games.

Liriano missed the entire 2016 season after being struck in the face by pitched ball in spring training. The move brings the Sox's 40-man roster back up to 40 players, but this acquisition is for nothing more than organizational depth.

Friday, October 14, 2016

New White Sox manager Rick Renteria's coaching staff will feature familiar people

Joe McEwing
If you were hoping for significant changes to the White Sox coaching staff this offseason, prepare to be disappointed.

The only hope I have is that new manager Rick Renteria was allowed to make his own choices with regard to the coaching staff. I have no evidence one way or the other, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't suspect that these selections were made for him.

In any case, third-base coach Joe McEwing has been promoted to bench coach, taking the role vacated by Renteria when he accepted the job as manager. McEwing, 44, served as third-base coach for each of the five seasons Robin Ventura was manager. He also managed in the Sox's minor-league system for three seasons. He has been with the organization for nine years.

The McEwing move, of course, creates a need for a new third-base coach, a role that will be filled by Nick Capra, who had been serving as the team's director of player development. Capra has been in that front office role for five years, but he also has been the minor-league field coordinator, the assistant director of minor-league instruction and the minor-league hitting coordinator. Before that, he managed in the Sox's system for 10 seasons. Capra, 58, has been with the organization for 21 years.

Minor-league pitching coordinator Curt Hasler will replace Bobby Thigpen as the team's bullpen coach. Hasler, 51, has been the minor-league pitching coordinator for six years. He pitched in the Sox organization from 1987 to 1991, and he pretty much never left. He's been a pitching coach or coordinator somewhere in the organization for the past 25 years.

Don Cooper will return for his 30th year with the Sox and 16th as pitching coach. Hitting coach Todd Steverson and assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks also return. Daryl Boston remains as the first-base coach.

The organization men have been shuffled around a little bit, but basically, the gang is still all here -- except for Ventura. Typically, you'd expect bigger changes after four consecutive losing seasons, but as we've learned, that's not the Jerry Reinsdorf way.

Monday, October 3, 2016

White Sox introduce Rick Renteria as manager at uninspiring press conference

Rick Renteria (center)
Sunday wasn't your typical Game 162. At the last home game of the season, win or lose, White Sox players usually come out of the dugout and interact with the fans before everyone leaves the stadium for the final time.

That didn't happen after Sunday's 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. It seemed like something was up. Sure enough, Robin Ventura announced immediately after the game he would not be returning as manager for the 2017 season. He called his departure "a personal decision," and added that he believes the organization would benefit from a change in the manager's chair.

"I enjoy this place," Ventura said. "I love this place. At the end, it probably needs a new voice … and I have to be big enough to understand that and go down and voice that."

Fair enough. I agree with Ventura on that, but here's the thing: The Sox turned around Monday and hired bench coach Rick Renteria as their new manager at a press conference that didn't exactly get me fired up for the 2017 season.

Is Renteria really "a new voice" considering that he's been around all year as a coach during this disappointing 78-84 campaign?

Here's a few other takeaways from what we've heard these past couple days:

1. It seems as if Ventura fired himself: General manager Rick Hahn said Monday that Ventura approached team brass about a month ago, saying it would be best for him to step aside at the end of the season. It was at that point that the wheels went in motion for Renteria to take charge. OK, so why was it leaked to the press last week that Ventura could return if he wanted?

If everyone is on the same page, as Sox brass claims, then this should have been handled much more smoothly. It's concerning that the first person to realize the Sox needed a managerial change seemed to be the manager himself. If this is actually how it all went down, then Ventura essentially fired himself. Give him kudos for being the only person in the organization with the courage to take decisive action. The higher-ups in the front office either aren't on the same page, or don't have the wherewithal to make changes when necessary.

The lack of leadership here is alarming.

2. It's disappointing the Sox did not conduct an outside search: Renteria is not an unreasonable choice. He has previous manager experience with the Cubs, and as Hahn notes, he has some other selling points -- a good reputation around the game, a good work ethic, a track record of developing young players, an ability to communicate with both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking players, etc. Hahn said if Renteria were to hit the open market, he would be a candidate for other open managerial jobs. I do not disagree.

However, how can the Sox be so certain Renteria is the best man for the job when they haven't interviewed anyone else? You don't know what could happen in the next 7-10 days, or in the next month, with comings and goings around the league, or changes as a result of what happens in the playoffs. There's no way of knowing who might or might not be available without asking questions, and having a thorough search and interview process. The Sox just aren't doing that for reasons I don't fully understand.

I would be more comfortable with the Renteria hire if he had emerged as the top candidate after an interview process involving multiple people.

3. Neither Hahn nor Renteria tipped their hand about the Sox's offseason direction: Hahn was asked directly during the press conference about roster changes and whether Renteria would be given a good enough team to compete immediately. He declined to answer, again reiterating that everything is on the table, and that he would not be telegraphing the organization's plans before he starts making whatever offseason transactions he's going to make.

Renteria was asked whether there is any direction the front office could be taking that would make him uncomfortable managing the team. He did not take the bait, saying that his job as manager is to get the best out of the players he is given, whether it's a veteran group or a younger team. It was an artful dodge by Renteria, to say the least, and no doubt that will endear him to Sox brass.

Taking a guess, I'm expecting the Sox to go for it 2017. I could be wrong. I've been famously wrong before. But owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never had a long-term rebuild in his playbook, and I can't imagine he would change now at age 80. Not to mention, if the Sox were going to start a full-blown rebuild, shouldn't that process have begun at midseason this year? I believe so. The Sox opted to stand pat, so until I see otherwise, I'm anticipating they are going to add to the core that's in place this offseason with the hopes of righting the ship next season. We'll see.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Let's speculate some more about Robin Ventura's future

Robin Ventura
Before we go any further, let's put away our visceral fan anger about yesterday's rumor that Robin Ventura will return as White Sox manager next year if he wants.

As most of you know, I'm a journalist by trade, so I'm taking off my fan hat and putting on my journalist hat here. My journalist brain has three questions in response to this news: Who leaked this rumor? Why did they leak this rumor? And why did they leak it now?

Of course, I'm not a beat writer. I don't have the opportunity or the means to investigate, but as a blogger, I'm free to speculate, so speculate I will.

My first thought was this leak is perhaps yet another sign of a rift in the Sox front office about the future direction of the team. Around the trade deadline, we heard talk that general manager Rick Hahn was looking to make significant changes, but that he was not allowed to do so by either owner Jerry Reinsdorf and/or senior vice president Ken Williams.

If the front office wasn't in lockstep on trade deadline moves, could it be possible they are not in lockstep on Ventura's future? For the sake of argument, let's say Reinsdorf and Williams want Ventura to stay (pure speculation, again, no basis in fact here), while Hahn does not. Under that scenario, maybe Hahn goes to the press and leaks that Ventura is likely to stay, in hopes of provoking a visceral anti-Ventura sentiment among the fan base.

As expected, the fan anger and backlash over the past 24 hours has been quite overwhelming, and that can be used as a powerful argument for a front office person who wants Ventura gone. You can say, "Hey, this is proof we need a change here. Everyone is fed up with the status quo. We're not selling any tickets for 2017 if Ventura stays. He's had his chances. It's time to move on."

Maybe I'm reaching, but it's a theory.

Here's another theory: The Sox are trying to create a soft landing for Ventura. They floated the "he can come back if he wants" thing, already knowing he isn't going to come back. Perhaps they want it to look like he's leaving on his own, as opposed to them kicking him to the curb, when in reality the decision has already been made.

That probably sounds a little stupid, and it's definitely passive-aggressive, but that fits the way this White Sox regime does business.

For his part, Ventura refused to answer questions on the topic Wednesday. He wouldn't say that he wants to return, which is different from what we've heard from him in the past. Hahn didn't take questions at all, which makes this even more weird.

It's really hard to figure out why someone in Sox brass would leak this to USA Today and create such a media storm with just five days left in the season. Couldn't it wait until Monday?

As far as USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale's part in this, I was shocked to see him criticize Sox fans so harshly in his column. I don't know if he's acting as a mouthpiece for Sox management, or if he's just out-of-town stupid (keep in mind, he covers all 30 teams, not just the Sox), but I emailed him today to remind him that Ventura has a .426 winning percentage against AL Central opponents over his five years at the helm.

We've chronicled Ventura's weaknesses over and over and over again on this blog. No, it is not all his fault, but some of it is, and he should be held accountable for those failures.

Ask yourself, can you see the Sox winning the World Series with Robin Ventura as their manager? Ever? My answer is a resounding no, and I challenge anybody who would answer yes to find a credible argument to support that position.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Rumor: Robin Ventura can return to the White Sox, if he wants

USA Today's Bob Nightengale is reporting Robin Ventura can return to manage the White Sox in 2017, if he wants.

Here's a link.

And here's our reaction:


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why is David Robertson pitching four days in a row?

David Robertson
I don't much care for the Detroit Tigers, so I was happy the White Sox recovered from a Labor Day loss to take two out of three games at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The Sox won, 2-0, on Tuesday as Miguel Gonzalez came off the disabled list to fire 6.1 innings of shutout ball. Jose Abreu backed him with his 23rd home run of the season.

A fourth-run eighth inning Wednesday lifted the Sox to a come-from-behind 7-4 win. The Sox trailed, 4-3, entering the inning. Abreu singled and scored the tying run on a double by Justin Morneau. Avisail Garcia delivered a go-ahead RBI single, and Tyler Saladino and Adam Eaton tacked on RBI hits.

But here's what I didn't like about this series: Closer David Robertson pitched four straight days.

What is the point of that?

This is September. The rosters are expanded. There are plenty of other relievers available. The Sox are out of the pennant race. While Robertson is one of the few reliable relievers the Sox have, there's no reason to be pushing him this hard in relatively meaningless games.

Robertson blew a save Sunday in an extra-inning win over the Minnesota Twins. He pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning in Monday's loss to the Tigers. And he picked up his 34th and 35th saves of the season in games Tuesday and Wednesday, although he was shaky in both outings.

Knowing that Robertson has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract, I would not be doing anything that puts extra wear and tear on his arm. If the Sox were pushing for a playoff spot, you could justify the workload. However, that's just not the case here.

The Sox need to protect their assets and make sure they have a healthy Robertson going into the offseason.

This overuse is yet another reason the Sox need to move on from manager Robin Ventura. He just doesn't seem to have a feel for what is going on.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Carlos Rodon ties Mat Latos for third on White Sox in wins

Carlos Rodon
Mat Latos pitched his last game in a White Sox uniform June 7. He was given his release June 17. He has not since appeared in a big league game with any team.

Nevertheless, Latos has ranked third on the Sox in wins all summer long with six, trailing only All-Stars Chris Sale (15-7) and Jose Quintana (11-10).

But Friday, one of the other Sox pitchers finally reached the exalted six-win plateau. Left-hander Carlos Rodon won his fourth straight decision, going a season-high seven innings in an 11-4 win over the last-place Minnesota Twins.

Rodon allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits. He struck out five and walked one while improving his record to 6-8. He is now tied with the erstwhile Latos for third on the team in wins. Hooray!

The Sox's offense solved a nemesis. They knocked around Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson (5-9) for five runs on nine hits over 5.2 innings. Gibson had allowed only one earned run in 12.2 innings in two previous starts against the Sox this year, including seven innings of shutout ball in a Minnesota victory on June 28.

In this game, the Sox pounded out a season-high 16 hits. Adam Eaton went 4 for 5 with four runs scored. Jose Abreu and Melky Cabrera both went 3 for 6 with three RBIs, and Todd Frazier hit a two-run homer, his 35th of the season. With the home run, Frazier sets a new record for homers by a Sox third baseman in a single season. The previous record (34) was set by Sox manager Robin Ventura in 1996.

But more importantly, Rodon looks poised to finish the season strong. He's 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA over his last six starts. With about five starts left, he appears to be in good position to push Latos farther down the team rankings in wins.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maybe the White Sox should give Nate Jones a break

Nate Jones
White Sox relief pitcher Nate Jones is tied for the American League lead with 62 appearances.

The team is asking a lot from him, especially since this is his first full season back after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. Whether the Sox want to admit it or not, they are out of the pennant race, and they would be well-advised not to overuse Jones over the final 32 games of the season, which are relatively meaningless.

Jones has been the Sox's best reliever this season, and it's not close. It's important to get him through this season healthy, because he could be a valuable member of the Sox's 2017 bullpen, or he could be traded for something of value as part of a rebuilding plan this offseason.

Unfortunately, Sox brass doesn't seem to be giving any consideration to that strategy. They still are selling out to try to win games, and they are being reckless in the process. Jones was on the mound for the third straight game Monday night in Detroit, and he failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer off him that lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 win.

You can see where the problem is here. The Sox have eight relief pitchers on their roster, and only three of them belong in the major leagues: Jones, David Robertson and Dan Jennings. The Sox play a lot of close games, and Robin Ventura -- who is on an expiring contract and is managing for his job -- keeps calling for the only relievers he trusts. Even on days where Jones doesn't get in the game, it seems like he's warming up at some point.

The seeds for Monday's loss were sown in Saturday night's game. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into the ninth inning. Jacob Turner, one of the five Sox relievers that does not belong in the major leagues, could not close it out. Seattle scored a run and had the bases loaded with only one out. Jones relieved and got a double play to extricate the team from that mess, but the point is he never should have appeared in that game. Somebody else should have been able to get two outs with a six-run lead. It's just not that hard.

Jones was rightfully used in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead Sunday, and he got the job done as part of a 4-1 Sox win. It's one thing to use a guy back-to-back days, but three in a row during garbage time is unnecessary, especially for a pitcher with an extensive injury history. I would have been OK with Jones being out there Monday if he had not been used Saturday, but he was foolishly and needlessly used in a lopsided win against the Mariners.

Who knows? If Jones gets the night off Saturday, maybe he's a little fresher and able to protect the lead Monday.

It's too bad, because the Sox got a rare quality start from James Shields on Monday. He went six innings and allowed only two runs. It would have been nice to finish that one off, but the Sox have way too many holes in their pitching staff to have visions of a September run.

The smart play here is to back the workload down for the pitchers who have value -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Robertson and Jones. If that causes the team to lose more games down the stretch, so be it. We can't trust Ventura to do that, sadly, because he's trying to win enough games to convince team brass to let him return in 2017.

For most Sox fans, including me, there's nothing that will convince us that Ventura should be allowed to manage next year's club. He's had his chances. He's overmatched. It's time to move on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cleveland's Corey Kluber moving up the list of Cy Young candidates

Among American League starting pitchers, I'm not sure I can find a real obvious favorite for Cy Young. The award might go to the pitcher who gets hot over the last six weeks of the season.

One guy to keep an eye on: Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber
The Indians right-hander picked up his fourth consecutive win Tuesday, when he defeated the White Sox, 3-1.

Kluber is now 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last seven starts. For the season, he's 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA and a league-best 3.01 FIP. He ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 163, and he plays for a first-place team.

Yeah, I like his Cy Young chances if he keeps winning.

Thing is, the Sox had their chances Tuesday night. They got seven hits in six innings off Kluber, including four for extra bases. But, as so often has been the case, the big hit was lacking, and Justin Morneau's solo home run in the sixth represented the only run the Sox could muster against the Cleveland ace.

The "beneficiary" of the offensive misery was once again Jose Quintana (9-9). The Sox left-hander allowed just two runs over six innings, but got saddled with another hard-luck loss.

The second Cleveland run wasn't Quintana's fault. He had Rajai Davis picked off in the third inning, but Sox first baseman Jose Abreu threw high and wide of second base. Davis should have been the first out of the inning, but instead he was safe with a "stolen base." (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense) Two outs later, Mike Napoli's RBI double gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and that was all Kluber and the Indians bullpen needed.

Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Cody Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save for the Tribe, who enter Wednesday's play with a six-game lead in the AL Central.

The Sox? They've lost 12 out of 18 overall, and have dropped their last seven head-to-head meetings with the Indians. During those games, they've been outscored, 36-13.

Have we mentioned that the Sox have a lot of problems with divisional opponents during the Robin Ventura Era? I believe we have.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why won't the White Sox play Justin Morneau vs. LHP?

Justin Morneau -- in younger years
The White Sox wasted more good pitching Thursday night, falling 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals.

After starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez left with an injury in the second inning, there was reason to believe this game could get out of hand. It did not, because relievers Michael Ynoa, Carson Fulmer and Tommy Kahnle combined to pitch seven innings of two-run ball.

Ynoa was particularly impressive. He worked three scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not allow a hit.

Too bad the Sox could muster only one run against Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched his first complete game in 97 career starts.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised given that the Sox fielded this weak lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Melky Cabrera, LF
4. Jose Abreu, DH
5. Todd Frazier, 1B
6. Dioner Navarro, C
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Carlos Sanchez, 2B
9. Jason Coats, RF

Noticeable by his absence is Justin Morneau, who has turned out to be a nice addition for the Sox. The veteran is hitting .289/.337/.474 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games and 83 plate appearances since his return from the disabled list.

It's a small sample size, but that .811 OPS is better than anybody else on this team.

Given the fact that Morneau has been productive, why is manager Robin Ventura using him as a platoon player? Sure, Duffy is left-handed, and Morneau is left-handed, but what baseball universe are we living in where the light-hitting Sanchez gives the Sox a better chance to win against a pitcher such as Duffy?

Morneau has been allowed only 12 at-bats against left-handed pitching thus far, but he has four hits, including a double and a home run. For his career, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.411 against lefties. That's not world-beating, but it's respectable, and while that .710 OPS pales in comparison to his .891 career OPS against righties, Morneau is a threat every time he steps in the batter's box against either right-handers or left-handers. That's more than we can say for about half the guys listed in the lineup above.

I had one person tell me that Ventura made the right move by sitting Morneau on Thursday, because the Sox are out of the race and they need to "play the kids."

Please.

I could buy that explanation if I actually thought that was what Ventura was doing. But this is a manager who is playing J.B. Shuck over Coats. He's playing Navarro over Omar Narvaez. He's using Matt Albers in high-leverage relief situations instead of Ynoa or Fulmer.

He's not "playing the kids." He's still trying to win games with his veterans. If that's the philosophy he's taking, he needs Morneau to be the DH regardless of who is on the mound. The lineup the Sox trotted out Thursday against Duffy isn't going to cut it.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There isn't much more Jose Quintana can do for the White Sox

Jose Quintana -- hosed again
"It's bad when you try everything and you lose."

That's what White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana had to say after Wednesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Quintana did what he almost always does -- pitch outstanding baseball. He went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. His ERA is down to 2.85, which is brilliant in the hard-hitting American League.

Quintana's teammates also did what they almost always do -- find a way to squander his terrific performance.

In many ways, this was the prototypical Quintana no-decision. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Sox could have had more runs than one. They gave away three outs on the bases, went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. They failed to deliver the big hit with men on base in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Inept offense.

Nevertheless, there was Quintana, industriously protecting a slim lead all game long. He got one out into the eighth inning before a double by Paulo Orlando ended his night after 97 pitches. I would argue that Quintana had earned the right to try to pitch around that, but it was a hot night, and manager Robin Ventura elected to go to the bullpen.

It took Nate Jones exactly one pitch to blow Quintana's chance at victory. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to tie the score. Have I mentioned that the Royals have a lineup full of guys who love to swing at the first pitch? The Sox still haven't figure that out yet. #typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

The Sox had another chance to win the game in the 11th inning after Tim Anderson's two-out RBI single staked them to a 2-1 lead. Alas, closer David Robertson still isn't able to close. He gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning for his fourth blow save in eight chances since the All-Star break.

There have been five meetings between the Sox and Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium this year, and the Sox have had the lead in the seventh inning in all five of them. Yet, their record in those five games is 1-4. It's fitting that both Jones and Robertson were charged with blown saves in this one. You get the feeling the Sox bullpen couldn't protect a 10-run lead against the Royals in that stadium.

After the second Sox lead was blown, the game took on the feel of an inevitable loss. The Sox lost, all right, when Lorenzo Cain delivered a two-out RBI single off the increasingly useless Matt Albers in the bottom of the 14th inning.

One wonders why Albers (2-5) and his 5.91 ERA continue to appear in high-leverage situations. With the Sox out of the race, would it would be wrong to see how a younger pitcher would react in that spot? Carson Fulmer? Even Michael Ynoa?

Of course, it's not uncommon for me to be puzzled by some of the in-game decisions the Sox make. Nothing new under the sun there.

Monday, August 8, 2016

White Sox drop two out of three to first-place Orioles

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox threw the back end of their starting rotation against one of the American League's most powerful lineups this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.

Predictable results ensued, as the hard-hitting Baltimore Orioles maintained their slim lead in the American League East by taking two out of three games from the South Siders.

Let's reflect back on the weekend's action:

Friday, Aug. 5
Orioles 7, White Sox 5: Baltimore never trailed in this game as it jumped on Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez for a run in the second inning and three more in the third to take an early 4-0 lead.

The Sox got two back in the fourth, highlighted by Jose Abreu's 13th home run of the season, and to his credit, Gonzalez (2-6) settled in and kept the score close at 4-2 through six innings.

Unfortunately, attrition has taken its toll on the Sox bullpen, and the unreliable arms now outnumber the reliable ones. That means manager Robin Ventura at times has to roll the dice and hope some lesser relievers can keep games such as this one close in the late innings.

This was one of those times where that completely blew up on the Sox, as Tommy Kahnle allowed three runs on four hits in just one-third of inning. The Orioles increased their lead to 7-2, and wouldn't you know it, the Sox countered with three of their own in the bottom of the inning to make it close again. Too bad Kahnle failed to keep the score at 4-2, huh?

The Sox ran themselves out of the inning in the bottom of the eighth. They scored three runs to make it 7-5, and had runners on second and third with only one out for Adam Eaton. The Sox outfielder grounded out to first for the second out, and Dioner Navarro -- the runner at third -- strayed too far off base and was thrown out trying to get back to bag.

That was a bad baserunning double play, and with it, the Sox squandered their best chance to tie the game. Typical White Sox nonsense.

Saturday, Aug. 6
White Sox 4, Orioles 2: Sox lefty Carlos Rodon got a no-decision in this game, but his performance was the most encouraging part of the win.

Rodon was in big trouble in the top of the first inning with runners on first and third and nobody out -- and a 3-0 count on Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado. Using a fastball that hit 100 mph and a devastating slider, Rodon rallied to strike out Machado. Then, he struck out Mark Trumbo and Steve Pearce to escape the inning with no runs allowed.

Rodon ended up with five consecutive strikeouts after he began the second inning by fanning Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. He went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He finished with seven strikeouts and walked just two. He left the mound with the score tied at 2.

The Sox hung a rare loss on Baltimore ace Chris Tillman (14-4) by scoring a run in the seventh on an RBI single by rookie catcher Omar Narvaez. Eaton added his ninth home run of the season for an insurance run in the eighth, making a winner of Nate Jones (5-2), who worked 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.

Closer David Robertson got three outs for his 27th save in 31 opportunities.

Sunday, Aug. 7
Orioles 10, White Sox 2: I had to back off my criticism of the James Shields trade for a little while after he put together six consecutive quality starts. But now that Shields had allowed 14 runs over his last 2.1 innings, I think I can go back to talking about what a stupid decision it was to acquire him.

The Sox were trailing 10-0 after three innings, thanks to the latest Shields meltdown. On Sunday, he gave up as many home runs as he recorded outs (four). He lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing eight earned runs on six hits. Not a single one of those hits was cheap.

Machado made a little bit of history by homering three times in three at bats in the first three innings. He drove in seven of Baltimore's 10 runs. The first two homers were off Shields, the last was off Matt Albers.

There were few positives for the Sox, although Abreu homered for the third time in four days. He's up to 14 on the season now.

After three innings, and given the thin nature of the Sox bullpen, I thought this one might end with Baltimore scoring 20-plus runs and the Sox using position players to pitch.

Mercifully, Kahnle, Carson Fulmer and Michael Ynoa combined to throw six innings of garbage-time, scoreless relief.

Don't worry, folks, the Sox will be out from underneath Shields' contract at the end of the 2018 season.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Charlie Tilson injured in first game; White Sox outclassed by Tigers

Robin Ventura
We've once again reached that time of year where we separate the die-hards from the fair-weather fans.

The calendar has turned to August. The dog days of the season have arrived. The trading deadline has passed, and the White Sox appear well on their way to their fourth consecutive losing season.

The Sox were outclassed by a division rival Tuesday night -- a common theme during the Robin Ventura era -- losing 11-5 to the Detroit Tigers in the first of a three-game set.

James Shields held the Tigers scoreless through the first four innings, but the Detroit offense erupted for six runs in the fifth. Relievers Matt Albers, Michael Ynoa and Carson Fulmer provided little relief, combining to give up five more runs over three innings of work.

Ho hum, another run-of-the-mill loss, but the real sorrow here is that newly acquired center fielder Charlie Tilson got hurt in his first game with the Sox.

Tilson collected his first major league hit, a single up the middle off Anibal Sanchez, leading off the third inning. Unfortunately, two innings later, he had to be helped off the field after falling awkwardly while chasing Miguel Cabrera's liner into the right-center gap.

The rookie appeared to roll his left ankle as he fell to the ground, although the Sox are calling it a "strained hamstring" for now. By the looks of the injury, it almost certainly is more than that, and Tilson is more than likely headed to the disabled list.

In a strange twist of fate, Tilson becomes the fourth Sox rookie to succumb to injury in his major league debut this season. Kevan Smith (back), Jason Coats (face) and Matt Davidson (foot) also did not make it through their first games.

I have no idea whether Tilson can be part of the solution for the Sox in the outfield, but I would have liked to have seen a 50-plus-game sample size from him here at the end of the year in order to form an opinion. However, if this injury is as serious as I fear, we'll be back to looking at J.B. Shuck in center field by the end of the week. Not good.

Of course, Avisail Garcia came off the bench to replace Tilson and homered in both of his ABs, one of which was a massive 466-foot shot off Detroit reliever Mark Lowe. The Sox keep trying to replace Garcia, but he always seems to find his way back into the lineup through a fluke injury or some other odd occurrence.

It would be just like Garcia to have a fools' gold hot streak during garbage time, wouldn't it?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Anthony Ranaudo's White Sox debut memorable, but unfortunate

Anthony Ranaudo
With Carlos Rodon still stuck on the disabled list, the White Sox turned to Anthony Ranaudo to make a spot start Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Ranaudo held up his end of the bargain. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and even became the first Sox pitcher to hit a home run since Mark Buehrle in 2009.

But from the sixth inning on, it all unraveled, and the Sox lost 8-1 -- although very little of that damage was Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox led 1-0 into the sixth inning before Kris Bryant ended Ranaudo's no-hit bid and shutout with a solo home run on a 3-1 hanging curve ball. To Ranaudo's credit, he did not get rattled. He retired the next two hitters and got the game into the seventh inning with score tied at 1.

After the first two Sox hitters made outs in the seventh, manager Robin Ventura allowed Ranaudo to hit for himself. I thought that might have been a spot to give Justin Morneau an opportunity to pinch hit against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, but given the Sox's thin bullpen, Ventura decided to try to get another inning out of Ranaudo. A questionable decision, but not indefensible by any means.

It looked like it would work out, initially, as Ranaudo retired Miguel Montero and Addison Russell on groundouts to start the bottom of the inning. That's where things got dicey, and frankly, what occurred the rest of the seventh was not Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox right-hander snapped off beautiful curve ball to Jason Heyward on a 2-2 pitch. It was right at the bottom of the zone and over the plate. It fooled Heyward, and he took it for what should have been strike three, inning over. But catcher Dioner Navarro's lousy framing skills once against cost the Sox. As Navarro caught the pitch, he snapped his glove downward, making it seem like the ball was in the dirt. The Sox didn't get the call, the inning continued, and Heyward walked on the next pitch.

Ranaudo was at 101 pitches at that point, and that should have been the end of his night. Javier Baez was the next Cubs hitter, and Ventura should have gone with one of the power right-handed arms in his bullpen. It would have been nice to see Carson Fulmer, or even Tommy Kahnle, in that spot to give Baez a different look.

Instead, Ranaudo remained, and he hung a 3-2 curve to Baez, who hit one out to give the Cubs the lead for good at 3-1. Then, Ventura emerges from the dugout to make a pitching change.

A day later and a dollar short there, Robin.

Fulmer and Jacob Turner struggled in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing the Cubs to blow it open with five more runs, but the game was lost with the lousy receiving of Navarro and the questionable decision-making of Ventura in the seventh inning.

Ranaudo deserved a better fate, and to add insult to injury, he was the one who was sent to the minors after the game to make room on the roster for Chris Sale, who is returning from his five-game suspension.

Between the home run and limiting the Cubs to two hits over 6.2 innings, I'd say Ranaudo's debut was a memorable one, but he unfortunately became a victim of the usual White Sox nonsense.