A note for those of you reading: Mismatched Sox is a weekly blog hastily thrown together by Sox in the Basement Co-Host Ed Siebert and is written to present you with White Sox and baseball thoughts in a manner that, frankly, thinks it is funny in the way fortune cookies can be funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at Soxon35th.com nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult an old hermit and ask if this blog is right for you.
Adam Engel. Eloy Jimenez. Jace Fry. Tim Anderson. Billy Hamilton. Dylan Cease. Lance Lynn. Luis Robert. Garrett Crochet. Luis Robert again. Michael Kopech. Andrew Vaughn. Billy Hamilton, again. Nick Madrigal. Adam Eaton. Adam Engel, again. Jake Lamb. Evan Marshall. Aaron Bummer. Yasmani Grandal. Billy Hamilton, again. Carlos Rodon. Leury Garcia. Adam Engel, again. Lance Lynn. Tim Anderson, again. Lucas Giolito. Andrew Vaughn, again. Ryan Tepera. Brian Goodwin. Yoan Moncada. Ryan Burr. Lance Lynn. Garrett Crochet. Yermin Mercedes. Joe Kelly. Lucas Giolito. AJ Pollock.
For those counting up there, that’s 38 instances of a White Sox player being placed on the IL since the start of the 2021 season. That doesn’t count moving the likes of Robert and Marshall from the 10-day to the 60-day, or minor league injuries like Jonathan Stiever, or scares like Eloy getting an ankle burger or Josh Harrison getting a tight back. That’s just 38 times that the White Sox had to move a guy to the IL. Sure, AJ Pollock is really on paternity leave and evidently Billy Hamilton is made of glass, but the fact is that there have been 38 trips to the IL by White Sox in just over a season of baseball. Surely that’s an unacceptable number? Especially when the reigning World Series Champion Braves have had…31 trips to the injured list in that same time frame. Or the AL Champion Astros, who had…47?? Wow.
The Injury Problem
Much has been made of the injury bug to start the season and much has been made of the “had that guy been healthy all year” what-ifs for 2021. The fact is, that the health issues aren’t so much a rampaging pile of hurts that is running roughshod over the White Sox, its something else entirely. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time)
Indians, Lou Brown: “I gotta guy on the other line asking about some white walls.”
Wrong quote. Sorry. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time) Indians, Lou Brown (while naked) (him, not me): “Over 162 games and even tough guys get strains… Sore arms… Muscle pulls…“.
What has hurt the White Sox isn’t that they have had injuries – it is that the injuries come at bad times and to key players. Re-read the list. Going into May, 75%-100% of the team’s top four projected outfielders had been on the IL or were still on it. Eloy had torn his pec in spring, Luis had the hip flexor, Engel had all sorts of problems, and Adam Eaton was hurt and stunk. Even the emergency guys, like Andrew Vaughn, Jake Lamb, and Billy Hamilton were getting hurt. That’s one position that is strapped for live bodies. Conversely, while the pitching staff was more or less fine through the first half, only losing Evan Marshall and Jace Fry for any real time, by the stretch run Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Ryan Tepera and Carlos Rodon were nursing injuries ranging from hamstrings and lacerated fingers, to knee problems and shoulder problems. Nick Madrigal’s hamstring alone launched more angsty tweets than the renewed threat of nuclear war.
Even though the Sox are far from alone in dealing with injury, it remains a problem. After all, remember how in 2005 there were no major injuries? Besides Frank? And Dustin Hermanson? And El Duque? And Joe Crede? Nevermind. A problem is a problem, and the White Sox can ill afford a repeat of last year, when clearly injury was the reason the Astros handled them in the ALDS. Ummm… maybe ignore this paragraph.
Even though the Sox are far from alone in dealing with injury, they can’t afford too many at once or losing a star again. And, sure, the Sox are far from alone there, but in this case the concern is magnified because they are in a championship contention window and windows are dangerous. They could fall out of the window, cut themselves on a broken pane, have the window fall shut on them, or have it open in the weather and catch a nasty cold. More likely, a team that had been given up for dead like the Guardians can snipe them from the window if the Sox aren’t careful. To quote their legendary manager Lou Brown: “Forget the curveball Ricky. Give ’em the heater.”
So what can the Sox do to fix this issue?
1. Fire the training staff. This is, of course, an idea that is fraught with potential problems. Firing an entire staff and replacing them on the fly is bound to leave a gap in coverage. Plus, there’s a chance that whoever gets hired will be worse. In the likely fictional but possibly real town of Springfield, where the Simpson family has experienced bizarre time anomalies and jaundice since 1989, there’s but two medical practitioners in Dr. Julius Hibbard and Dr. Nick Riviera. The lesser is a massive drop off in skill if not a bump in charm. The Sox have plenty of charm already. Maybe the training staff is fine. Maybe the Sox need something…better.
2. Hire “Golden Gorger” Suntunavick, a high level cleric of legendary status, a healer, a Deep Gnome of Svirfneblin. Supposedly there’s a great story about the Svirfneblin city-state of Blingdenstone, ruled by a monarch named King Schnicktick, and the plight of the Deep Gnomes. This level of magic and potential for supernatural protection of the White Sox players and any adventurers Jerry Reinsdorf has in the field is an advantage that the team should take. Why they haven’t before is unclear…though…evidently this is a Dungeons and Dragons character and totally fictional so that’s out.
3. Lucky Charms. Not the typically crowd-pleasing breakfast confectionery cereal, though that couldn’t hurt. Rabbit’s feet are kind of cruel, so not those. Everyone can’t wear the number 7. Four leaf clovers are rare, and there are very few anecdotes as to whether genetically engineering them removes the beneficial properties. There are horseshoes, but where lucky people are said to have them would make running awfully difficult. And they already have hamstring issues.
4. Prayer. When combined with thoughts, many people on social media view this as a cure all for everything from a sub-par brunch to a genocidal act of war. Certainly the mental powers at play could keep AJ Pollock’s hamstrings supple for 135 games. Of course, brunches remain sub-par and war remains hell, so…
5. Depth and managerial strategy sufficient to keep players rested and fresh for the whole season. Wait, really? Have bench players that can take the pressure off of starters with an eye towards the playoffs? Rest veterans while relying the positional versatility so craved by the front office that they perhaps overpaid for a utility guy and technically signed a career utility guy to be a starter? Be thankful that an ace pitcher’s knee is being repaired in April when a castoff like Vince Velasquez can catch a team still scuffling out of the gate? It’ll never work.
Really, the Sox seemingly never-ending injury woes are bad luck only to the extent that they lampoon a playoff spot like the 2001 White Sox losing Frank Thomas, James Baldwin, Jim Parque, and David Wells for much of the season. Or cause a playoff team to be compromised in the playoffs, like Carlos Quentin taking a big piece of the 2008 team’s offense with him when he broke his wrist and missed the playoffs. Lucas Giolito missing a few starts is probably a good thing in the long run, and figure Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech to take a 2-start breather at some point too. Lance Lynn in the best shape he can be in come October is a good thing, so long as the Sox don’t pile up the losses in his absence (early results are good). AJ Pollock has always been a guy that gets a tweaked this and a twinge there, but if he misses games sporadically from April-July, that just means Adam Engel getting ABs and Andrew Vaughn/Gavin Sheets getting some OF reps. So far, they have had some notable IL stints, but by all accounts Pollock is fine, Giolito is mostly precautionary, Lynn is on schedule if not ahead of schedule, and Moncada has been well covered by Josh Harrison and Jake Burger. Joe Kelly at least came pre-injured, so there’s that courtesy, but when he’s healthy he’ll simply replace, say, Matt Foster. Upgrade!
Now isn’t the time to panic over health. That time may come of course, but not yet. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time) Indians, Lou Brown: “I love this s#%t, I may move to England.”
Sorry. Wrong quote…
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