By Bruce Levine-
U.S. Cellular Field (CBS) — The White Sox offense was the laughingstock of the American League in 2013. Every team in the National League except one (Miami) outscored Chicago, who sent an extra hitter to the plate every game. That shocking revelation alone sent Sox executives looking for an answer to their run production woes.
Signing Jose Abreu for $68 million was a big part of the move toward added run production. Trading for Avisail Garcia was the beginning of the evolution last summer. Still the most significant move was the trade for lead off man and energizer Adam Eaton.
Eaton was supposed to be the Diamondbacks’ answer at the top off the order. A three-way trade picking up Mark Trumbo from the Angels proved too hard to resist for Arizona. They felt they had a duplication in A.J. Pollack as a leadoff man and in centerfield. That is a move they may live to regret.
The scrappy White Sox outfielder has been as good or better than advertised in the team’s first two weeks of the season.
“Eaton has been pretty much what he was advertised as,” said manager Robin Ventura. “He is scrappy and comes to play every day. He was like that every day in spring training and nothing has changed up here.”
The only rap on Eaton was that he played in a dangerous style that risked unnecessary injury chances, as well as baserunning carelessness. So far the risks have lead to mostly rewards for the 25-year-old player.
“He is easy to coach,” Ventura said. “You want to stay away from him now, because you enjoy the way he plays. With his style there is no holding him back. He is an aggressive player who you don’t want to limit.”
Hitting .354 and carrying a .448 on-base percentage into the third week of the season, Eaton has enjoyed his transition to the Sox and American League baseball.
“I have embraced the South Side mentality quickly,” he said on Sunday. “I see the appreciation they have for playing the game hard. I do play for the fans. Without our fans we are nothing and Major League Baseball is nothing without fan support.”
Not since Scott Podsednick and his dangerously exciting baserunning in 2005 have the White Sox had a baserunning shift disturber like Eaton at the top of the order. Eaton relishes the role of run producer.
“You have to force the issue,” Eaton told me. “Things happen and when the defense is thinking I hit a single, I am thinking double. I think triple or going all the way if I hit a double. I always think the bobble can mean I can score or go the extra base. When I tag at second base I have one thing in mind, watch the coach and keep running through the bag to score. Runs win games! That is my job, to score them on offense and prevent them on defense.”
Eaton has enjoyed playing and learning from his new manager this season.
“He can say three words to you and change your whole philosophy on the game or that day,” he said. “He reminds me of Matt Williams (coach in Arizona -now Washington manager). He has a style that when he speaks you listen. They are both really smart men who pay attention to details.”