Friday, August 15, 2008

What's Kenny Williams Thinking?

Well, I’ve been promising an editorial on Griffey as a Sox player for about a week now, and as I began writing it yesterday, after busting out my calculator, making some stats of my own and the like, I realized I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had no conclusion. Maybe because there haven’t been enough games for him to play in, maybe because his performance is making little to no impact, maybe because there are bigger fish to fry. Because of this, I’ve begun to ponder a bigger question: What does it all mean? And I don’t mean, “Why did God create man?” I just mean that all these changes occurring to our roster since, roughly, July, have led me to question about the man behind the curtain: Kenny Williams. It is the mystery of Kenny Williams and his choices that I want to explore.

The first mystery (the one we are currently most concerned with) is that of the 5th starter. Since Contreras went down in that traumatic second inning against Boston, the question on everyone’s mind has been, “Who will replace Grandpa Jo?” Signs pointed to long-term reliever D.J. Carrasco, who was quite the pitcher when he took over for Contreras. Him, or recently called-up Charlotte starter Lance Broadway who had had one previous successful, shut-out game against the Royals last year. Or perhaps it would be a second showing of Clay Richard. Or perhaps Horacio Ramirez, who Kenny was quick to acquire from the Royals as soon as Contreras went down. The truth is that I hadn’t been too hopeful about Contreras’s return in the first place, so I had hoped he would have found another before the trade deadline (especially after it seemed like previous temporary replacement Clay Richard- while not abysmal- wasn’t quite ready to permanently fill those shoes). Weren’t there rumors that the A’s DuckSherbert (DoucheShearer? His name is clearly more complicated to spell than Buehrle’s!) was on the market? And so many others that could have been snagged before the trade deadline- even after! And while Broadway won the role for the 5th starter for the August 14 game, he was soon mailed back to Charlotte, leaving the 5th starter spot- once again- undeclared.

Which leads us to the second mystery: Why was Lance Broadway sent back to Charlotte? He was optioned back (therefore becoming ineligible to return to the Sox for another 10 days) and Clay Richard was called up. Ozzie made a statement saying Broadway couldn’t do anything for 5 days because he’d pitched and he really needed help in the ‘pen. Not sure if Richard can be what you need in the ‘pen, but mmk. If Broadway had made a poor showing on Thursday, it would have been understandable, but with him throwing what should have been 5+ shutout innings, he’s not being sent back as a punishment. Is he being sent back because it will be Carrasco’s turn to pitch and they need backup for Carrasco? Is he being sent back just temporarily and will return soon and Ozzie/Kenny are just making a spot on the roster available for backup in the meantime? And if it’s a matter of making room on the roster, why don’t Williams and Guillen make a simpler move; moving Dewayne Wise (or Brian Anderson, if you’re so inclined) to Charlotte for the time being?

And this leads me to the third mystery: Dewayne Wise’s “value” to the White Sox. I won’t deny that Wise has done some good things for our team. He has had limited at-bats with the Sox this season, so his .286 AVG doesn’t mean much, but he’s had a couple of well-placed home runs, 6 stolen bases and the same amount of RBIs, and despite his advanced years (sure, he’s not 38, but he is 30- not exactly the age you associate with the type of player he is) can run the bases quite well. Nevertheless, I don’t see what Kenny and Ozzie see in him. We kept him on the roster for Pablo Ozuna (no, I never liked Ozuna, and with Uribe we can do without, but when you compare him to Wise, a utility infielder still seems more useful to me than an extra extra outfielder), but I couldn’t really tell you why. His career average is a whopping .214 (which is only bumped up because of this year’s outlier. Otherwise, it would have been .201) and nothing truly stellar stands out about him- hence no starting role. In terms of him being the 4th outfielder, I’ve already said we had B.A. I won’t go over this again because it’s fine that he’s on the roster most of the time- just not right now. Why not send him down instead of Broadway when there is so little use for him? Why is he such an asset? Sure, he may be out of options if he is optioned to Charlotte, but other than his hurt feelings, there is not reason for him not to be.

And the mystery of the overcrowded outfield brings me to the fourth mystery: The trade for Griffey. I mentioned before that we were looking for pitching. Instead, we got Griffey. And while the argument is that he is insurance in case Konerko or Swish go down, you are lying to me if you are saying that he will take the bench until Konerko and Swish need a day to rest. You’re also lying if you’re saying that we got him in exchange for Massett and some Charlotte guy we didn’t plan on using; we got him in exchange for playing time from Swish and Konerko- who are quite valuable on their good days. I’m sure he was traded with the understanding that he will get playing time. But where? He’s old (blunt, but true), so DH would be ideal, but Thome’s been doing well lately, so it would be a big mistake to replace him. He’s a right fielder, technically. Well, we don’t need one of those; we have the Great Dye, who is indispensable to the team. There’s Quentin on the other side of the field and Swish dead center- and take a number behind Anderson and Wise if you want that position- hell, even Alexei’s been out there before. To be honest, Griffey ranks below all of them defensively in this position. Regardless, it seemed like one of these many outfielders may be part of a second trade. Seemed, but weren’t. So someone’s out of a job- Konerko! Yes, Griffey was acquired to cover Konerko’s spot in the batting lineup (Or, bat while Paulie was failing.) while Swish covered 1B. But Griffey himself isn’t a star center fielder, and his batting average with the Reds wasn’t too impressive this year. His numbers with the Sox were about as good as Josh Fields’s, so no magic here either. Besides, any insurance he provides for Konerko would go against everything Kenny and Ozzie have said. They’ve been broken records, stating over and over that they had nothing but trust and support for him, that the only way he’d grab some bench would be if he was injured or just to get time to pull himself together. Then why did Williams acquire Griffey?

The other mystery is whether or not Griffey is having an impact on the team. Starting with Paul Konerko, who is doing better, according to everyone, because “Griffey’s arrival lit a fire under his butt.” He has never had such an unproductive year. It’s not that he was struggling to get his game back after going on the D.L., it’s that he’s been struggling consistently all year. His average was never over .250 this year and under .200 for quite some time this year. And you could argue that people get older and so they get worse, but this isn’t a decline, it’s a plummet. Recently, however, Konerko’s been improving drastically. He is hitting .333 this month with 3 home runs, 6 RBI, 8 walks. In just 10 games. A vast improvement. And Anderson, who is practically out of a job since Griffey’s arrival (back to playing an inning or two once every three games when he won’t really have to bat anymore) seems to be bitten by the same bug. He’s been hitting .500 this month. Granted, he’s had 6 or 7 plate appearances, but he’s made them good ones (and even accounts for a HR in this time frame). But really, his arrival doesn’t seem to affect the team much.

This is why I haven’t been able to write an article. There are so few things to write with such inconclusive fact and stats. Here are some stats I gathered about the team since Griffey’s arrival, trying to find his impact on the team. Griffey’s AVG with the Sox: .219 in 32 AB with 7H, 3BB, 3RBI, 8SOs, one silver sombrero. The Sox’ record when Griffey played? 6-4. The record with Griffey playing CF is 5-2, so his defense can’t be hurting the team THAT much. The record with Swish in CF is 3-2 and their record when Swish hasn’t had any hits is 3-1. The record with Paulie on first (where else?) is 7-3. Their record is 4-2 on days when Griffey’s had hits and 2-2 on days he hasn’t. Will we see an impact in the long-run? Perhaps, by then, we’ll figure out what Kenny Williams was thinking would happen with Griffey’s arrival. In the meantime, I am left wondering… what is Kenny Williams thinking?

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