White Sox blind to what ails them

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ozzie_guillen_090817.jpgWhite Sox general manager Kenny Williams has had it up to here with his team’s lack of effort, focus and desire, apparently.

Frustrated by a 3-3 roadtrip to Seattle and Oakland, the GM told the media on Monday that “We’ve deserved what we’ve got. I’m not happy. I’m not happy with a lot of what I see, we’re underachievers, period.”

Perhaps Williams’ angst comes from a feeling of pressure after adding two huge contracts in Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Maybe he just woke up cranky.

But even more interesting than Williams’ grousing were the comments of his manager, an equally perturbed Ozzie Guillen:

“The way Kenny built this ballclub, there’s no doubt we’re better than .500. Look at our lineup, look at our pitching staff. Don’t look at our defense, please. Don’t look at that one, we’re horrible. But if you look at the team and say this is a .500 team, you have to be wrong.”

So Ozzie’s take is essentially this: We’ve got good offense. We’ve got good pitching. So we should be good even though we can’t catch the ball, and we have no idea where we’re throwing it.

But if you disobey Ozzie and look at the defense, you’ll see the White Sox are probably right about where they’re supposed to be.

A little research shows that the White Sox have committed 90 errors this season, most in the AL. Even more interesting is a look at the UZR ratings over at Fangraphs where the stats agree with Ozzie’s eyes. The White Sox are not a good defensive team, ranking 18th out of 30 teams in UZR at -14.1 runs below average.

Looking at the roster reveals a bit of a dilemma when you consider that the team’s best fielders (Jayson Nix, DeWayne Wise) can’t hit, while among the better hitters, only Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez are slightly above average with the glove. At least the addition of Alex Rios allows the hatchet-man known as Jermaine Dye (-13.4) to “rest”, or see time at DH.

The teams that frustrated Williams and Guillen last week – the A’s and Mariners – are both allergic to offense:  Seattle is 25th in runs scored, the A’s 19th. But when you factor pitching and (yes, Ozzie) defense into the mix, the playing field evens out. The Mariners have the second-best defense in baseball, and the A’s come in at No. 11 overall.

The answer to the White Sox’s question (aside from having Jake Peavy strike everyone out once he joins the team) seems to be staring them in the face. Remember, this is a simple game: You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it?

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Meanwhile, the White Sox say they won’t risk Peavy on the basepaths against the Cubs on Sept. 3, no matter how tempting it is to remind everyone in the Windy City which team landed the former Cy Young winner. An Aug. 28 start at Yankee Stadium, however, is a possibility.

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If you Twitter, and aren’t against playing a little defense once in awhile, you can follow me at @Bharks.

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.