South Side Memorial Day 5: Disasterpiece Theater

1. If forced to pick a single head-scratching moment from this weekend’s neverending bullpen meltdown–from which Robin Ventura might have come out looking better than expected since absolutely nothing worked–it would have been the fifth-year manager realizing that closer David Robertson was in a crisis on Saturday from which he could not pull himself out from, and deciding to turn to…Tommy Kahnle.

Perhaps a close second in terms of perplexing calls would have been having the career 5.4 walks per nine innings Kahnle intentionally walk two batters in a row to load the bases, but that only adds to the disconnect between the leverage of the situation, and the personnel involved.

Personnel that was promptly demoted Monday for outfield depth, as Kahnle was the eighth guy in an unnaturally large eight-man bullpen.

2. J.B. Shuck is that outfield depth, coming up and starting in Monday’s affair in New York after Austin Jackson was bothered by turf toe in Sunday’s series finale in Kansas City. Jackson not going straight to the disabled list is some mild comfort, but he was hitting .293/.356/.391 in May and finally was providing a viable No. 2 hitter option for Ventura, who for the most part has simply refused to condense the top of his order rather than persist with the massive hole at the front of it.

It’s of interest that Shuck is going straight to center field, since through last year, I considered him a tweener similar to Adam Eaton, who could be passable in center but exceptional in a corner. Eaton has seemingly gone from shifting to right field to accommodate a superior defender to entrenched, where they would rather set an inferior defender in center than move Eaton at all.

3. Robin Ventura as an in-game manager reads pretty similar to how he did in 2012. He shades traditional in his approach, leading to his quixotic approach for a No. 2 hitter “type” over No. 2 hitter production, and his bullpen use tends to be tedious and tinkering. He can at times seem focused on using secondary options and resting his best arms, so that he reacts too slowly when crisis breaks out like Friday, but also is committed enough to how a close and late game and save opportunities work to have a lot of three days in a row workloads for his elite guys. The same guy who used five pitchers to flip-flop handedness in the seventh inning Friday, once used Addison Reed in six-straight games in August of a 99-loss season.

But even setting tactics aside, while Ventura’s job is very nuanced, and his defenders would cite his unmeasurable poise and control of the clubhouse, there are some objective results he is challenged to deliver, and they have not been there. Even ceding 2013 and 2014 as rebuilding years, a 2015 season with high expectations cratered on his watch, the veteran-stocked division leaders for most of 2012 lost their ability to hit in the clutch at the worst possible time, and his current group is on a disastrous 4-14 stretch. If the work we can’t see Ventura doing is unable to prevent cascading failure from consuming the team, what is it delivering?

4. One hot weekend has been enough to push Tyler Saladino (.269/.282/.388) and his one walk all season ahead of Jimmy Rollins (.231/.288/.343).

So, play Saladino.

First of all, Saladino’s defense was already superior to the point where Rollins needed to be significantly superior with the bat to justify starting him. If anything, Saladino’s athleticism in the field and post-Tommy John surgery arm strength has exceeded expectations. Second, Rollins is not someone the Sox should wait on. His benefit to the team was to be someone who could provide immediate competence in case Saladino could not improve on last year, and serve as a stopgap while they waited on Tim Anderson, but waiting out slumps and slow starts of 37 year-olds is a losing game the Sox should not play.

5. To end on a positive note, Miguel Gonzalez delivered his second-straight solid start against the Royals on Friday night, and deserved a better final line than he wound up getting. He ate up 12.1 innings over his last two outings without any walks–albeit against the Royals, but then again success against the Royals probably means they should take DNA samples from his and splice it with the rest of the roster–and he has enough stuff to be just fine as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter if he fills up the zone and doesn’t create any additional problems for himself. He should be off the rotation chopping block, which means Mat Latos is on it.


Lead Image Credit: Kevin Jalraj // USA Today Sports Images

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