By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) With all the cursing and moaning that rightly came from White Sox fans Thursday afternoon, “lousy” wasn’t a popular choice to describe the situation even from any of the most pious of clergy in the many South Side churches.
“This is a lousy day,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday after the team announced that outfielder Avisail Garcia would miss the rest of the 2014 season with a torn labrum after suffering the injury diving for a ball in Colorado on Wednesday. “This stinks for Avi. This stinks for White fans who are going to be deprived of seeing this kid.”
Even “stinks” seems too gentle, but I get that a GM can’t do an interview swearing through a bottle of Thunderbird and imploring fans to jump off the ledge. But losing Garcia sucks. A lot. Other than basking in what should be the consistent glows of Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, observing what was hoped to be a maturation of Garcia’s play was a focal point of 2014. Hawk Harrelson made a point twice during Thursday’s broadcast against Cleveland that the biggest travesty is that Garcia will lose 500 at-bats this year, essentially making 2015 the developmental year this should have been.
Any not-so-dim White Sox fan in his or her heart of hearts has to know 2014 isn’t exactly a contending year, and now they are being deprived of one of the cherries on an already so-so sundae. But might this torn cherry have a decent replacement?
Dayan Viciedo will now be called on to shoulder much of the load left in Garcia’s absence. That initially doesn’t strike confidence into the hearts of fans, nor should it after Viciedo followed a solid 2012 (25 homers, 78 RBIs) that suggested a bright future with a replacement-level 2013 (14 homers, 56 RBIs). Hahn, who so far in his tenure with the Sox seems like a guy who is straightforward with the media and fans (other GMs would have avoided the “lousy” talk and gone to immediately polishing that turd), sees opportunity.
“At the same time, Viciedo … has shown that when you talk to him … that he’s getting it,” Hahn said. “That he understands what (the coaches) are trying to convey to him. He understands he wasn’t complying with (their knowledge) in the past and what he needs to do to maximize his performance going forward. It gives him a chance at age 25 to show that he can convert on that knowledge.”
Hey, cool. A chance at redemption and all that good stuff. Can Viciedo be more Tank than Dayan? Everybody hopes so. He’s off to a decent start this season, currently hitting .304 with a .762 OPS without a home run. But is there perhaps an ulterior motive for Hahn?
He has fielded calls recently from other teams on the outfielder, most notably from the Seattle Mariners. They or somebody else will buy into the potential that Viciedo came into the league with if he can show he is at least somewhere between 2012 and 2013. If that happens, that cherry might net the Sox a few more toppings for the future that Hahn is methodically building around Sale, Abreu and Garcia.
“We get a chance to see if Dayan Viciedo at age 25 can make the improvements he’s shown some signs of making already,” Hahn said. “He’s going to have the opportunity to play on a more regular basis in all probability and perhaps entrench himself as part of this new long-term core that we’re trying to put together.”
That is GM-speak for “Man, I hope he can build his trade value.” That isn’t to say an improved Viciedo would net the Sox a can’t-miss game-changer from another team’s farm, but take a look at a Seattle team that doesn’t feel it has ideal protection for Robinson Cano in Corey Hart and Justin Smoak, compounded with a much-maligned general manager trying to earn a new contract like Jack Zduriencik (who maybe values a Viciedo type by Harrelsonian standards?). It’s possible the White Sox could luck into a respectable arm or bat for a future that it seems Hahn would readily embrace sans Viciedo. As the maxim about hasty or desperate GMs goes, it only takes one.
At the very least, seeing Viciedo return to being the guy at the plate that fans weren’t rolling their eyes at and instead having them grow so wide would be pretty nice. Tank can’t be Tank by not playing, and like Garcia, consistent at-bats can only help determine what the Sox have with him.
The Garcia injury is a kick to the junk, but wallowing in that frustration serves no greater good. It’s Viciedo Time, so you might as well embrace it and rather than curse his existence, try hoping he can produce on the field for the time being and maybe turn a lousy, crappy, @#$%ing situation into a blessing in disguise as well.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.