Saying “the games don’t matter” for a last-place club is comparable telling your kids they can eat “whatever they want” for dinner–it’s as true as your parameters for what is reasonable are wide. Just as “Let’s eat bubblegum,” might be an unforeseeably absurd answer, 10-game losing streaks seem to break the diminished expectations of even those who cheered the returns of a deadline (mini) sell-off.
In the immediate wake of the defeat, Chuck Garfien–a trained reporter who doesn’t make much of a secret of his White Sox fanhood on a network that employs journalists but doesn’t waste time hiding the fact that the White Sox are one of their minority owners–expressed exasperation at Robin Ventura admitting that he had considered shaking up the lineup prior to the game but ultimately had not acted.
What is he waiting for?
Since the White Sox have been grappling for the designation of being the worst offense in the American League all season, why things have remained strangely static is an obvious question but it also quickly becomes irrelevant.
What the hell do you care for anyway?
The White Sox are 29 games under .500. 28 wins in a row and they would still be a losing team, and if every team kept their current win percentage intact, they’d still be in fourth place in their division. Salvaging any kind of respectable finish for the season is a farcical goal and if the organizational strategy had actually shifted toward tanking for the No. 1 draft pick, they’d be doing an excellent job. The game results have ceased to matter in any tangible way, so as long as the youngsters are getting a shot and developing, then what’s the point in stressing Robin, who can’t do much with what is apparently the second-worst team in baseball…or worse.
Well, because that’s when things start breaking down for Ventura. When the franchise has not developed any hitter worth buying the jersey of since raising a World Series trophy and the team has become particularly renowned for playing the ugliest, sloppiest brand of baseball since the early days of Morris Buttermaker’s managerial career, the typical assumption of confidence that things are progressing appropriately gets pulled away.
Unfortunately for any assessment of Ventura, there’s not an obvious fix simply present in these lineups he’s complicit in trotting out or any other decision that its easy to conduct benefit analysis of. What few “kids” he has–Dayan Viciedo, Josh Phegley–are being played hell or high water, his primary batting order foible of rooting the punchless Alexei Ramirez to the No. 2 slot has become slightly less grating now that Gordon Beckham has cooled off, he seems to recognize the need to platoon Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie most of the time. He uses Ramon Troncoso way too much, though. Using Ramon Troncoso at all is problematic, frankly.
The absence of any easy personnel solution lends itself to the idea that there’s nothing to be done. “Nobody can win with these players” is an easy defense, since players have no credibility, at least not these ones. Dayan Viciedo and Josh Phegley might not be able to ever figure out what pitches are coming, Paul Konerko is probably old and hurt enough to be washed up, Alex Rios has checked out on other managers, Alejandro De Aza doesn’t appear to have a natural sense of what he should be doing on the basepaths, and it certainly doesn’t look like Jeff Keppinger excels at any specific area of the game.
It’s the larger totality of failure, where every single position player is on a down year at once, where unpredictable elements of performance like errors, rehearsed set plays and baserunning all have trended drastically downward at once, that inevitably provokes appeals to authority.
Who’s responsible for this mess? Are these players just bad or ill-prepared?
Without tangible evidence to cite as to why they’re doing unsatisfactory work, I’ve always been uncomfortable to jump down the throats of guys like Ventura, or even hitting coaches like Jeff Manto, but with the track record of performance that their stamp is being applied to, there’s no standing in the way of someone who would. People get blamed when things get this bad, and Robin’s the one guy who gets paid to take it.
Let ‘er rip on those manager rants, if you have a means to, it’s not like it matters anymore
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan