ANAHEIM, Calif. – Mark Kotsay wasn’t about to apologize for his 2010 season.
Does the veteran designated-hitter/infielder wish he could have had a better start to the year? Absolutely. Maybe then what’s left of this regular season would have had more meaning. Maybe there would still be a pennant race between the Sox and the Central Division-winning Twins. Maybe the front office wouldn’t be in the complete disarray it now seems to be in.
So many maybes to dwell on with seven games left.
Kotsay, however, would rather focus on what the DH-by-committee helped accomplish rather than a bunch of what should have beens, and in his eyes the criticism of him being a key piece in the failure of that DH role is missing the big picture.
“Anytime you have an unsuccessful season, the finger gets pointed in every direction that it can be,’’ Kotsay said. “A failure? I think they’re generalizing it by strictly just putting the number together.’’
The number that stuck out as far as Kotsay critics were concerned was the .108 April batting average. Opinion was already made at that point. It didn’t matter what Kotsay did after that.
“If you look at the whole year from a Mark Kotsay standpoint it’s been criticism from the get-go,’’ Kotsay admitted. “I didn’t get off to a good start, I got buried, I slowly got myself out of that hole when the team was having success in the winning portion of the season, but even in that turnaround there was always talk that we needed a left-handed bat.
“Hey, you know what, it’s been the whole season. I think I was able to carry myself in a professional manor and realize, ‘Yeah, my success as a whole, if I evaluate my whole year, it’s not nearly where I wanted it to end.’ But I think I battled, I think I fought the whole season.’’
The numbers Kotsay chose to focus on was the fact that the team went 27-18 when he was the starting DH, as well as what the DH-by-committee allowed for players like Paul Konerko, Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios and even Mark Teahen when he came back from his injury.
The other side of that was Sox designated hitters entered the finale with the Angels hitting .244 with 17 homers [tied for 10th in the American League] and 60 RBI [13th in the AL].
“We were able to give Paul the DH position and hopefully most people would say that the first base position was played quite well defensively [between Konerko and Kotsay],’’ Kotsay said. “J.P. [Pierre] was an iron man, so he played almost every day in left field. Right field with Carlos, I mean Carlos played in as many games as he has in three seasons, so obviously [getting work as the DH] helped Carlos and his ability to stay on the field and stay healthy. Paul hasn’t had an injury all season, he’s been on the field and been healthy.
“All those things factor into the big picture. But when there’s failure it’s easy to say, ‘This is what happened.’ ‘’
Konerko said last month that the days he DH-ed played a key factor in him feeling fresh at the plate through most of the season, and he had MVP-type numbers to back it up, with the team captain entering this week with a .313 average, 38 home runs and 106 RBI. Was it because of that extra rest? That’s up for debate.
What can’t be debated was the uneasiness general manager Ken Williams had been with the DH-by-committee idea since January, until he finally stepped in and did something about it at the end of August, acquiring Manny Ramirez through waivers and picking up the $3.8 million the slugger was owed over the final month.
The result of that move was one homer, two RBI and a .242 average in 21 games for Ramirez. In other words, not a lot changed.
Since the Ramirez acquisition, Kotsay has played sparingly. In going 1-for-4 as the first baseman in Sunday’s win, however, he was hitting .310 over his last 27 games. A very quiet .310, as Kotsay knows that his run with the Sox is likely over.
“From a personal standpoint my future probably doesn’t lie in Chicago … ‘’ Kotsay said at the start of the Angels series, seemingly ready to clean the slate and ride off into free agency.
The debate over whether the DH-by-committee was a failure or not? That likely won’t be going away anytime soon.