As the White Sox come out of the All-Star break, two things seem certain:
One, Ozzie Guillen’s teams will play under .500, and two, Kenny Williams will play toy soldiers.
In Guillen’s seven previous seasons, the Sox are a combined 13 games under .500 after the break. Guillen’s teams have finished with losing records in four of the seven second halves, and a fifth looks like a gimme when it starts with 12 straight games against the AL Central, a bad division that nonetheless still pantses the Sox.
Which brings us to Williams, who created this underachieving roster, so, now what? People ask whether Williams will be a buyer or a seller, and of course, the answer is yes. Anyone who has been paying attention realizes that Williams has a standing appointment in every trade rumor. He plays toy soldiers and will continue to do so until his cell phone batteries and Chairman Reinsdorf’s patience and finances hold out.
Problem is, teams are not going to buy what the Sox seemingly would like to sell (looking at you, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn). And teams won’t sell anything good to the Sox in exchange for what they’re most likely to buy.
Which brings us to Edwin Jackson, the Sox starter who is rumored to be all over the place. Jackson’s name came first in Gonzo’s list of likely trade possibilities in today’s Trib, and I can see why teams would call about Jackson. He often gives a team a chance to win, but mostly, he gives a team innings and can save the bullpen. That’s not what you see on a Hall of Fame plaque, but that matters in the second half of the year.
And it ought to matter to the Sox, who find themselves in an odd situation that might make Jackson one of their more untouchable players. Sounds kind of silly, I know, and that’s certainly not a new position for me. I mean, Edwin Jackson, untouchable? A guy with a 4.30 ERA untouchable? On a third-place team that could be in fourth place by next week?
Well, yes, and here’s why: If the Sox believe they’re in a postseason race --- stop laughing and let me finish --- then they seemingly can’t afford to trade any starting pitcher as long as the expensive, untradeable and increasingly achy Jake Peavy can’t pitch as often or as big as he talks.
The man who called out his teammates for lacking intensity from the first pitch on won’t be able to make his first pitch of the second half as scheduled. Originally slated to pitch Sunday in Detroit, Peavy will pitch Tuesday, which is about as far back as you can get in a six-man rotation that was created primarily to accommodate Peavy, as well as to ride the surprise that has been Philip Humber.
Peavy’s body apparently feels as badly as his ERA looks since his relief appearance against Washington almost three weeks ago. John Danks went down, Peavy came on to relieve and then had to pitch every fifth day. Forget it. Can’t do it. Peavy has lost velocity, sharpness and games, going 0-2 with a 7.72 ERA in his last three batting practice sessions that some charitably called starts.
Danks is coming back to give the Sox six starters, and people figure that’s the move --- the Sox have an excess of starters and starting pitching brings the most in a deal.
But no. The Sox don’t have an excess of starting pitching. With Danks healthy, they have five starters and Peavy. Any young arm you might want in place of a traded Jackson seemingly has already been traded or isn’t ready. Besides, a team that considers itself to be a contender, like the Sox do (stop laughing, please), will try to fortify its staff by bringing in a veteran such as Jackson.
Next question would be: What would Jackson bring you? A run-producer? That’s what the Sox need, right? Well, I’m not sure who that run-producer might be, but it’s insane to make a deal that costs you a starting pitcher before you see if Dayan Viciedo is that guy. I know the pipeline from the Sox farm system to The Cell usually achieves drought levels, and we’re all sick of the overhyped, overhaired, underwhelming Gordon Beckham, but Vicedo needs at-bats up here.
And again, how is Viciedo not here already? Guillen’s Juan Pierre bromance? Williams’ trying to slow Viciedo’s arbitration clock?
Whatever, it’s one of the most inexplicable situations in an inexplicably bad Sox season. The Sox refuse to embrace a prospect with a big bat while attaching themselves to Peavy’s surgically reattached right latissimus dorsi that accomplished the impossible: making Jackson pretty much untouchable.
Just in case you weren’t sure how screwed up this season continues to be.