Whether the White Sox choose Carson Fulmer or Hector Santiago as the White Sox fifth starter points to a larger question – what’s the goal in mind?
As I experience so often in my corporate career, the question arises, “What’s the objective?” If the objective is to win this year, you go with the pitcher who’s had the better spring and looks to contribute more to the Major League club. But this is a rebuilding year. There are more strategic objectives underway, which is developing their young talent to fuel greater success at a point in the future.
What to do with Fulmer?
As I see it, the team has three choices with Fulmer. They are:
Keep Fulmer in the rotation to learn regardless of the results.
Have him break camp with the Sox but start the season in the bullpen – remember how guys like Sale and Quintana started out.
Send him to Charlotte to continue building his starting experience in an environment which negative results will not penalize the Major League club.
Fulmer is a young guy who has the talent to contribute. Do you perhaps embarrass him with a demotion to Triple A Charlotte? Would you risk discouraging him with a move to the bullpen in acknowledgment of an underperforming spring? Do take him into the season as the #5 starter and risk really injuring him in front of fans and the media if he’s James Shields-like ineffective?
Youth vs. Experience
That’s not a bash on James. He’s been around and can take it. Young people are very optimistic and can be sensitive. It’s why we love them. If you have kids, you know exactly what I mean. This is also why we love a rebuild. These kids have everything at stake, and personal development as they learn to adapt and withstand stress is just as important as professional development in playing the game.
There is nothing more disheartening than being positioned for failure and feeling you’re alone and under attack. Again, most of us know what this is like.
Understanding the suck of rebuilding
So in answering the question of what is the team’s objective, I’m reminded of the words of a friend and Sox fan who offered these sage words of wisdom: “Don’t forget, our job this year is to suck!” To flesh out what he meant, I consulted the fictional industry staple Guide To Baseball Slang by Dr. Phun Goh, PhD., E.G., B.S.
According to Dr. Goh, to “suck” in my friend’s baseball vernacular means, “to underperform in a year of low expectations within a risk-free environment to allow talent to develop effectively without fear of failure or accountability while positioning for the best possible position in the 2019 Amateur Draft”.
Embracing the ups and downs
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Hmmm. Friends like doctors often see things we do not, and I think the answer of what the team’s objective is lies within that wisdom. In that sense, I would let Fulmer be the fifth starter. Why not? If the objective is to develop the talent, why would a poor spring impact the objective of developing the talent with low expectations? Equally, how does a veteran with a stronger spring advance the rebuild?
My hunch is they keep developing him as a starter at the Major League level and he lands the fifth spot. Like all of the team’s young starters, he will have good outings and bad. The key is to observe his development and assess his ability to progress and deliver sustained results. I would actually line up Santiago as Fulmer’s mentor, imparting as much wisdom and generating as much confidence as possible without the kid feeling like the veteran is trying to take his job.
Santiago is pitching great, is only 30, and has good market appeal. On a team in the midst of a rebuild, he like Dr. Goh and everyone else understands what that means.
Which brings us full circle. When the objective is the rebuild, it’s pretty obvious what the team does in this situation: Fulmer should make the rotation and Santiago should travel lightly this season.