The most relevant occurrence from Tuesday night’s bumbling firestorm of goofiness was probably Chris Sale touching 98 and averaging 96 mph on his fastball. It’s the height of summer, so velocity is naturally going to be up, but Sale’s 98.1 innings into the season and throwing as strong as ever.
To be an ace, Sale needs to tackle an ace’s workload. And while a conclusion that this season will wind up wasting a stretch of prime-time Sale is a sound one, it can still be an affirming year where all lingering concerns about his ability to head up a rotation can be cast aside.
For long, I have wanted to argue that the White Sox error problem is overblown. Errors are usually overblown, so why not these particular errors as well? But the dropped ninth inning pop-up on Tuesday gave the Sox their 32nd unearned run of the season, third-worst in the American League. That’s definitely enough to be considered an issue, but when do errors become systemic and not standalone gaffes?
We could say that the troubles of the season have rendered the White Sox defense into a constant state of playing tight, which is a decent-enough theory given how pained the reactions to every critical error are getting.
The pop-up offered the rare opportunity to see whatever dynamic is at work play out. Conor Gillaspie calls for the ball, Addison Reed is a reliever who quickly becomes an uninvolved spectator and Gordon Beckham is the detached aggressor; rushing in, tripping over the mound and form-tackling Gillaspie. Tepid hesitance literally met nervy over-aggression.
The recovery was immediate, but another inspiration for more angry, punitive drills has been found.
Since he screwed up the very last game the White Sox played, Ramirez getting the chance to play the hero immediately after was obviously therapeutic. The homer hands returned in his celebration–they don’t come easily anymore–and he participated in the post-game dogpile as fervently as ever, despite some apparent attempt to smack in the groin during the celebration. He still can’t hit at all, so locating one of his few singles in a clutch situation is nice bit of luck for him.
More importantly, it allowed Gordon Beckham to discuss the error in a way that was more open and bluntly self-critical, yet removed of the pain and blame that would have come with a loss.
Despite one-upping Ramirez’s error pretty significantly, Gordon will have a much easier next 24 hours.
They’re killing Hawk, though
Harrelson’s reacted emotionally to poor events before. He’s yelled and screamed and moaned before about a scarring moment, butTuesday night might have been the first time he erupted anew a full two minutes after the fact, raising his voice to a just got laid off at the factory level in the middle of a phrase that began at a relatively even keel.
Loud, immediate emotional responses to important events is normal behavior for the overzealous fan and pretty routine territory for Hawk these days. Rumbling anger that builds into an eruption is something else, it reflects that supplies of tolerance and forgiveness have been completely exhausted.
That’s a somewhat terrifying thought, since Hawk’s tone toward the team has always been that of the eternally forgiving parent. If he’s reached the point of feeling betrayed by their antics, who do they have left to apologize for them? That role will certainly need filling again.
Alexei’s single brought Harrelson back to the land of the living, but worse fates await him with half the season left, even if the game start to more blatantly not matter. There’s no saving Harrelson from embarrassment, but if possible, avoiding a career-altering incident would be nice.
Paul Konerko’s back
Suddenly being talked about as someone that teams would actually want to trade for in recent days, Konerko met that excitement by missing Tuesday’s game with back problems. Robin Ventura said that Konerko would have been able to pinch-hit, which is an odd distinction, since Konerko only played first base two times last week and in barely over half his games overall this season.
What’s the difference between pinch-hitting once and pinch-hitting four times in a game? Presumably the difference is Konerko’s already less-than-major league quality running ability is diminished even more, or has been rendered more painful. He’s due to return any day now, if Paulie’s going to be traded, sounds like anything to the National League would end unhappily for all.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan