By Chris Rongey–
We’re 6% of the way through the White Sox season.
Ten games in and a record of 6 and 4. Granted, this team could very easily be 9 and 1 (8 and 2, if you take away the one the stole from Joakim Soria in Kansas City). As a fan, you have every right to be annoyed/frustrated/upset/disappointed in the outcome of Friday and Monday nights’ games. I’m right there with you.
I do hope, however, that Sox fans will exercise their right to remain calm, though I know that can be difficult to do when you care so much. However, taking a step back will allow you a moment to tap into rational thought.
Most of the ire has been directed at the lack of early success from closer Matt Thornton. That’s understandable. He hasn’t gotten the job done in his first 3 save opportunities. While some has been aimed at the misplays of Juan Pierre in both of the games in question.
So speaking of questions, let me address the big ones:
“Why is Thornton still the closer?”
There is no debating that Thornton has been the Sox best reliever over the last few years and that he can be considered one of the best relievers in the game. The guy was an All-Star last year, after all.
Heading into the spring, I was of the mindset that being able to leave Thornton in the setup role would be best for the bullpen and the team. That, of course, was dependent upon there being somebody that could replace Bobby Jenks in the 9th. I was a proponent of the idea of maybe allowing Chris Sale to assume that role, while the rest of the back end of the bullpen remained the same with Thornton, Sergio Santos, and Jesse Crain (essentially replacing JJ Putz). As I’ve been told, there were also many within the organization that would have been happy with that plan, as well.
However, confidence issues for Sale during the spring dictated that the Sox couldn’t go into the regular season with that configuration. Thus, the guy with the most experience and the most success was given the chance to lock down the last inning of White Sox wins this season. That guy is Matt Thornton.
Now, why haven’t they replaced him yet? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) It’s April 12th, and 2) The last two blown chances haven’t been entirely his fault. Friday’s game was as good as over, if consecutive plays are made behind him in the field. Last night’s game may have gone differently had the fly to left been caught. Two out with a runner at second and a 1-run lead is a much different situation than a tie game with a runner at second and 1 out. Much different.
Who knows how that game wouldve turned out had the out been made, but there is no denying that Thornton wasn’t getting a lot of assistance in the last two blown saves.
“Why didn’t Ozzie leave Buehrle in for the 9th?”
Because it’s not a good idea. It wasn’t a no-hitter and the Sox had a well-rested bullpen. No need to extend a pitcher who has had a recent history of wearing down by the end of the season. Buehrle did his job and it was time to turn it over to the pen. He needs to be protected as much as possible.
Plus, we all know that had Ozzie left him in and the first two hitters reached base, we’d be talking about Buehrle being out there too long. That’s a fact.
Finally, relievers are paid to finish games, and some of them are paid pretty well. It’s their job.
“Why didn’t they replace Juan Pierre in the 9th for defense?”
Uh, why would they? The dude made 1 error last year and never drops flyballs. What’s happened here in the last couple of games is a fluke. It won’t continue like that.
It’s a long, long season and we’ve hardly gotten going. 94% of this season is left to play and, by the end of May, we’ll probably forget everything about which we were angry in April. That’s the way it goes just about every year. There may be some changes coming with this team and they may have to make some alterations with teh closer position. That has to be conceded. But, it is just much too early to do that now.