White Sox

The White Sox and closer turnover

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The White Sox and closer turnover

Only four closers in baseball -- Brian Wilson, Carlos Marmol, Joakim Soria and Mariano Rivera -- have finished off games for two years or more with the same team. Half of baseball will open 2012 with a new ninth-inning guy, including the White Sox.

That may seem startling, but there are two perfectly good explanations for that kind of turnover: The up-and-down nature of closer performance and the high cost of paying for premium talent.

A typical closer will throw 60-70 innings per season, which is a number that is quite prone to luck-fueled fluctuations. One bad stretch can cast a pall on an entire season, and it's rare to find a pitcher who is good enough to sustain a high level of success closing games over a three or four-year span.

The White Sox had that in Bobby Jenks. From the back end of 2005 through 2009, Jenks was reliable as a game-finisher, although he began to slip in 2009 after putting up elite seasons in 2006 and 2007. Even when he saved 27 of 31 games in 2010, his season was deemed a failure.

Before Jenks, the Sox didn't have much stability in the ninth inning. And it didn't matter. Shingo Takatsu was marvelous in 2004, saving 19 of 20 games after Billy Koch failed to rebound after a miserable 2003.

When Takatsu fell apart in 2005, Dustin Hermanson stepped in and saved 34 games for the eventual World Champions. And then when Hermanson ran into some injury issues, Jenks -- a former top prospect who had a high-profile flameout with the Angels -- stepped in and saved the game that won the Sox their first title in 88 years.

Not everyone can be a closer -- there's a certain ability to forget a bad game, a loss that seemingly falls directly on your shoulders, that isn't found in every pitcher. That being said, serviceable closers have proven to be fairly easy to find. It's just that if your team doesn't have one, all of a sudden it becomes your most glaring weakness.

But going into a season without certainty in the ninth inning -- as the Sox have done the last two years now -- is something that quite a few teams are doing. Despite the availability of cheap, young power arms with the ability to close, plenty of teams still pay out the nose for closers.

Philadelphia didn't need to pay Jonathan Papelbon 50 million. Miami probably didn't need to include Heath Bell in their spending spree. Both those guys may work out, but both teams probably could've found options who could produce similar results for a fraction of the cost.

Kenny Williams hasn't sought out a high-priced closer since Koch bombed in 2003 and 2004. He and the White Sox have handled the ninth inning perfectly, seeking options on the cheap and spending their money elsewhere.

If Matt Thornton struggles as the team's closer, the Sox have Addison Reed waiting in the wings. If Reed struggles, Jesse Crain is there. And down the road, power arms like Jacob Petricka, Simon Castro or even Jeff Soptic could be in line for a ninth-inning role.

Of course, even a short stretch of blown saves might be enough to lead some to call for the Sox to sign someone to a Jonathan Papelbon-type contract. They'd be smart to avoid that, and if recent history is an indication, they won't go that route.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Manny Machado Mania

Manny Machado to the White Sox?? It's been the dream for many White Sox fans for months.

With Machado in town to the play the White Sox, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber discuss the White Sox chances of signing the soon-to-be-free agent.

Garfien also talks with Nicky Delmonico who played with Machado and fellow free agent to be Bryce Harper on the U.S.A. 18-under national team.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria issues another benching after Welington Castillo doesn't hustle on popup

One thing you better do if you play for Rick Renteria is run to first base.

Yet again, Renteria benched one of his players Monday for the sin of not hustling down the line.

Welington Castillo, a veteran, not a developing player in need of ample “learning experiences,” popped up to first base with two runners on and nobody out in the sixth inning of Monday’s eventual 3-2 loss to the visiting Baltimore Orioles. He did not run down to first, instead staying at home plate.

So when the inning ended and the White Sox took the field, Castillo stayed in the dugout.

Ricky’s boys don’t quit, or so the slogan goes. But what happens when a player doesn’t live up to that mantra? What happens when they don’t play their absolute hardest for all 27 outs, as the T-shirts preach? This is what happens. A benching.

“It was towering fly ball in the infield at first, probably had 15, 20 seconds of hangtime,” Renteria explained after the game. “I assumed the dropped ball. It has occurred. He could, at minimum, at least start moving that way.

“That’s uncharacteristic of him, to be honest, it truly is. Maybe he was just frustrated in that he had the fly ball and just stayed at the plate, but there was no movement toward first at all. And you guys have heard me talk to all the guys about at least giving an opportunity to move in that particular direction.

“Everybody says, ‘Well, 99 out of (100) times he’s going to catch that ball.’ And then that one time that he doesn’t, what would I do if the ball had been dropped? Would it have made it easier to pull him? Well, it was just as easy because you expect not the best, but the worst.

“That is uncharacteristic of that young man. I had a quick conversation with him on the bench, and he knew and that was it.”

It might seem a little overdramatic, a little nutty, even, to sit down a veteran catcher brought in this offseason to provide some offense and to do it in a one-run game. But this rebuild is about more than just waiting around for the minor league talent to make its way to the South Side. It’s about developing an organizational culture, too. And Renteria feels that if he lets this kind of thing slide at the big league level, that won’t send the right message to those precious prospects who will one day fill out this lineup.

“There’s one way to do it, you get your action, you start moving toward that direction in which you’ve got to go,” Renteria said. “What would’ve happened if everybody’s watching it — and I’m setting the tone for not only here, our club, (but also for) everybody in the minor leagues — and they’re saying, ‘Well, at the top, they said they’re going to do this and then they don’t do it.’

“It’s really simple. And people might like it, not like it. I’ve got to do this, do that so everybody understands what we’re trying to do here. We’re not done with what we’re trying to do.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened in 2018. Avisail Garcia was taken out of a game during spring training for not giving maximum effort. Leury Garcia was removed from a game earlier this month for not busting it down the first-base line on a weak grounder that went right to the first baseman.

It’s become a somewhat common tactic for Renteria, and while it might strike some as taking things a little too seriously, what good is this developmental season if a culture goes undeveloped? The White Sox have placed their bright future, in part, in Renteria’s hands, and they’ve talked glowingly about how the players have bought into his style and how the team played last season under his leadership.

If Renteria truly is the right man for the rebuild, things like this are how he’s going to establish his culture. And it will, he hopes, impact how all those prospects play when they’re no longer prospects and the White Sox are contending for championships.