Welcome to this This Particular Week In Baseball, the sports column that won't, for any reason, sneak into your bedroom and chop your clothes up with garden shears. We swear! This week we look at the ridiculous White Sox, the possibly more ridiculous Diamondbacks, and the slightly less ridiculous though no less irritating Yankees in a very special Ridiculous And Annoying episode of This Particular Week In Baseball!
After what mostly looked like a bit of rapid regression, the White Sox are officially unraveling. The dénouement was when the team's best player, Chris Sale, received a team-mandated five game suspension on Sunday. Sale disagreed with a team policy and met with management to express his feelings in a mature and adult manner. [checks notes] No, okay, just kidding, I am being informed that is not what he did at all.
Sale didn't like the throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear and so, in the Papa Slam of baby fits, he went through the clubhouse cutting up the uniforms so the team couldn't wear them. This is the kind of thing that causes us to call up his Baseball Reference page on the off-chance Sale's nickname is something fantastic like "The Chopper" or his middle name is Shearer. Sadly no. Still, recall Sale plays for the same team that almost mutinied during Spring Training when management decreed that a player's 14-year-old kid couldn't spend all his time with the team this season, as he somehow did last season. The White Sox are weird and volatile, is what I'm saying.
Which was fine, when it looked like they were also good. On May 9, the White Sox were 23-10 and with a six game lead in the AL Central, and seemed as if they'd somehow overcome Adam LaRoche's kid's sad banning. But since May 9, Chicago has gone 24-40. That's despite having Sale and Jose Quintana, two of the best pitchers in the league, atop their rotation. Hot starts are fun, but that's all they are.
Now the White Sox find themselves seven games out of a wild card with the number of teams in front of them large enough to exceed the number of days Drake LaRoche attended school last year. All of which is to say that the team appears to be going nowhere this year and it's difficult to envision them going much further than that in the next few years. Given the cost of starting pitching, it might make sense for Chicago to sell, even on Sale himself.
The market for starters has been, up until CutterGate, unseasonably thin. Drew Pomeranz, a reliever stashed somewhere in the nether regions of Oakland's bullpen as recently as last season, has been the big get of the trading season so far, but if Dave Dombrowski is giving away elite prospects for Drew F. Pomeranz, it's hard to imagine what an actual star like Sale could get. Play it out exponentially and we're probably looking at Mike Trout, the entire Cubs minor league system, and whatever is in Al Capone's glove compartment. The White Sox could almost rebuild without losing! Or, anyway, they could start the race at the halfway point.
It's a tempting proposition, but there's no telling what the White Sox will actually do. They are, to reiterate, the White Sox. But either way, the trade deadline just got a lot more interesting.
More Like Sell-by Miller
Last offseason the Arizona Diamondbacks did something that looked bold, but rather silly. It was the baseball equivalent of dropping a pile of hundred dollar bills in a puddle, then using that pile to keep your shoes from getting wet so you could step across the puddle and pick up a dollar. Not wise, but at least Arizona had the one, right? Well, as it turns out, they picked up the one and found that some prankster had smeared doggy-doo on the back. In a related story, it's good you don't get indicted in the Hague for torturing analogies.
So here's the actual no-metaphor thing the D-Backs did. They traded for Braves starter Shelby Miller. It wasn't the trade that was silly, it was what Arizona gave up: their most recent first-round draft pick, who just happened to be the first player picked in the whole draft, as well as their first-round pick in 2013, and a young outfielder coming off a five-win season and a top-five finish for the Rookie of the Year award. That's a lot! So that deal was dumb and bad, but at least they had a good young starter in Miller, right? Now comes the smeared doggy doo part. Miller has pitched very badly this year, to the point that he's now scuffling in Triple-A.
Now, the coup de grace: Arizona reportedly wants to trade him. This tactic of buying ridiculously high and selling insanely low is, let's just say, not accepted managerial best practices. It's hard to imagine Arizona making this deal worse, but if we know anything about the Diamondbacks, it's don't count them out, regardless of the cost.
By the time you read this the Yankees may be in full sell mode. Or not. Maybe they'll have dealt relief ace Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs, or maybe they'll have decided to recommit to one of the dullest and most mediocre rosters in team history. Reports suggest that the Yankees may finally be acknowledging the obvious, that their season is a mirage built on mirrors made of smoke built upon... actually, holy crap. Did you know the Yankees are only four games out of a wild card and they only need to catch three teams? Detroit, Houston, and either Boston, Toronto, or Baltimore. Either way, bad as the Yankees are—and they're not good—does anyone honestly think they couldn't catch three of those teams? Oh, sure, it's a bad bet. You wouldn't want to put YOUR money on it, but this isn't your money. It's the Yankees' money, and I promise you they won't miss it.
So why are the Yankees supposedly trading off pieces of the bullpen, the strongest part of their team? Teams always have to look to the future, and assess their chances in a reasonable way, but this season is wide open and the Yankees, bad as they are, aren't that bad. How would a deadline addition like Jay Bruce look on the Yankees? How about Ryan Braun? This used to be a team that wanted to win. Now it feels like they're ready to take two years off until they can talk to Bryce Harper about endorsement deals. The Yankees are far from a favorite, and if they're selling off assets—even for a tasty bundle of prospects like the one they're rumored to be receiving for Chapman—they're effectively throwing in the towel. That's not the Yankees way, but given the roster and farm system that The Yankee Way has given them, it's hard to say that's an insult.
Top Three Of The Moment
Everyone jumped on the Giants bandwagon last week, but we here at This Particular Week... waited. We waited that one extra week because we don't like being made to look foolish by others. We do that fine on our own, thank you. This last week has done wonders for our self esteem though, as much as we get self-esteem from ranking the top three teams in baseball every damn week. Honestly though, they are beautiful rankings, don't you think?
Putting the Giants third is just a matter of principle at this point. Also it's a matter of the Giants having had a shit week: they lost two of two in Boston and two of three in New York to the terrible though not that terrible Yanks. Suddenly they can't hit and their pitching is a damn mess. They're still really good, but at this moment not so much.
So now you know this is an all-NL Top Three Of The Moment. I could've popped the Orioles in here, but good gosh what even is their starting pitching? So at the risk of being boring, I'm sticking with the solid, successful Nationals. Good offensively, good defensively, good starting pitching—the kind of team that, if the dice tumble right, can make some noise in October. Dull, but not wrong.
Are the Cubs really better with Aroldis Chapman? He throws 105 and all, but we're talking about a guy with an ERA of about 2.00 which is, you'll note, two more than zero. And the underlying numbers say he deserves that ERA, too, which makes Chapman very good but not unhittable. There's nothing wrong with that, and he makes the Cubs better on the margins, but when you're as good as the Cubs are and have a farm system as stacked as the Cubs do, you can just cash in some prospects and get your guy. Incremental improvement might be all that's available, in this market and given how good the team already is, and credit to them for recognizing that. Now we have to wait until October to see if it was worth it.
Bottom Three Of The Moment
Are the Rays really worse than the Twins? No, probably not, but good gosh the Rays sure do stink! And this seems like a prime chance to say so. So: the Rays sure do stink! This is a team that some projection systems had winning the AL East, and not for nothing either. They're actually fairly stacked with starting pitching, but all those pitchers have been varying degrees of lousy this year. With Tampa looking to sell at the deadline, it's hard not to wonder when we'll see the next good Rays team. Two years? More?
I'd like to see the Reds trade everything not nailed down. They could probably move a bunch of guys, be awful for two seasons, and then, with some savvy drafting and the bounty from those trades, be far less embarrassing! You have to aim high, you see, otherwise you're likely to shoot yourself in the butt.
The Braves are as stuck atop this list as the Cubs are on theirs, and it's because the Braves are an awful mess. They won't always be, as their farm system will soon graduate some intriguing players to the major league roster. But for now they're garbage, hot and steamy, the kind you can smell from two blocks away in the summer, all diapers and rotting fruit. Take it in, Braves haters. Savor the notes.
Matchup Of The Year Of The Week
It's only two games and it's not even ace-versus-ace in both games, but this series between Cleveland and Washington could be a World Series matchup. This is the year of Cleveland after all. We had the Cavs win in the NBA, the Republican conv... anyway, the Cavs did win and now the Indians are playing very well indeed!
The real treat will be the second game, started by Carlos Carrasco for the Indians and Stephen Strasburg for the Nationals. Strasburg is on pace for the NL Cy Young award and *whispers* Carrasco has actually been even better this season. It's a 12:10pm game so you'd better start planning your excuses for missing work, North America. If you can't think of anything, I recommend chopping your boss's clothes up with garden shears. Works every time.