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View from the other side: White Sox questions for Brett Ballantini of South Side Sox

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MLB: APR 20 Astros at White Sox Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tomorrow the Blue Jays start a three-game series on the Southside of Chicago (the baddest part of town)(there is a topical reference. When I was in elementary school someone brought in the single Leeroy Brown to school, and it got played over and over. Thinking back, I don’t understand why so much school time was devoted to playing one of the worst songs of all time, but I remember every word).

Anyway, the White Sox are first in the AL Central with a 36-23 record, 4 games up on Cleveland. They are fifth in the AL in runs scored per game at 4.93 (Jays are fourth at 4.95). And they are first in runs allowed per game at 3.49 (Jays are seventh at 4.32).

I sent off some questions to Brett Ballantini of South Side Sox SB Nation’s terrific White Sox blog and Brett did a great job answering (the answer to the LaRussa question is worth the price of admission alone. Brett sent some questions to me and he’ll post sometime tomorrow.

I’m sorry, but I have to ask about Tony LaRussa, so I thought I’d get it over with off the top. What do White Sox fans think of him? It seems like the White Sox are a good enough team to win in the AL Central with you or me as manager, is it possible he’ll cause a palace revolt among the players? Is he as old school as he looks from a distance?

I don’t want you to ask about Tony La Russa. The answer won’t be good.

What’s that? You’re still asking? You’re not going to let this go, are you? Fine.

Well, Tony La Russa is a disaster. But really, more for what the hire DIDN’T do, than what it did. The White Sox promised a true managerial search, including names outside of the organization, for the first time since … 2003. They hired Ozzie Guillén that time, a guy who stole the job from Cito Gaston with a crazy, hungover, angry interview that blew GM Ken Williams away. Yeah, I wanted another crazy, out-of-the-blue, hungover candidate to wow the Sox — or at least shake them out of the doldrums. But, no, mere weeks (days?) after promising the process wouldn’t again be inbred, the White Sox tapped grandpa for the job.

No offense to Tony. There are a lot of arguments against the logic of his hire. There are certainly a few good things you can say, as well. And many argue the manager has no influence, or little influence, anyway. There’s nothing we can do about it now, he’s the skipper. Where the White Sox can certainly be dinged, though, is their immediate and utter betrayal of their promise to the fans. And this front office isn’t even clever, or caring, enough to stitch a good lie, interview some candidates, then say, hey, guess who’s coming to dinner … ?

With the weird apologist-exceptions, including the numbskulls who grunt and point to first place, as if my parakeet couldn’t manage this team to an even better record than Tony has thus far, White Sox fans hate Tony La Russa. Can he run the team aground? Eh, probably not. Can he make the entire experience of a run to 90 or even 100 wins feel dirty and disgusting? Well, we’re a third of the way and … uh, yup, he sure can. It’s one thing to root for a team that sucks; us fans just lived through the decade of the 2010s, after all. But I’ve been a fan a LONG time, and it’s never made me feel DIRTY. This must be what being a Cubs fan feels like.

I know you had other questions about Tony, but dude, I’ve got to take a shower. Be right back.

Can we have a quick scouting report of the starting pitchers we are likely to see? Carlos Rodon is a great story, figuring things out at 28-years-old. What is he doing differently this year?

New pitching coach Ethan Katz, wunderkind of Harvard-Westlake High and Lucas Giolito Whisperer, gets deserved credit for Rodón. I’m too dense, or La Russa shell-shocked, to speak wisely to this, but Katz immediately addressed some lower-body concerns in Rodón’s delivery, and it’s perhaps not a complete coincidence that he’s the least likely name on the one-third Cy Young list in the AL. Slider: Wicked. Fastball: Popping. Mouthy: YES Beerleager unbuttoning of the uni: YUP

WED and THUR starters are TBD, and rather than address the fact that the White Sox have five starters in their entire organization, which will make for some harrowing weeks if anyone is IL’d for any length of time, I’ll pretend everything is just fine and give you my own probables. Lance Lynn would go on Wednesday, and heaven help you, he’s been great. Doesn’t look like he’d be, right? Looks like a guy who works on his car every night and throws down about a half-dozen beers every night after work. Hell, maybe Lance does that, too. Not sure how he’s doing it. Lance is a bad, bad man. Gonna look nice running him out in a playoff series this year. Thursday will be Dallas Keuchel, and boy howdy, Dallas is not having a great year. Arguably fallen to our fifth starter, he is NOT likely to see a playoff start at this point. A lot of season left, but he went from nails in the mini-2020 season to less efficient and a lot more hittable. He mysteriously hardly pitched this spring, which isn’t the best way to jump right into the 32-start grind of a six-month season. Or maybe Kid Keuchy is just saving his bullets for the second half.

I was kind of curious about Andrew Vaughn doing on-the-job training to learn left field. How does he look out there? How is his season going?

You don’t think a pennant-aspiring team should just tell their blue-chip first base prospect, who hasn’t played left field since high school (if that), is a good idea? Pfft. Well, most of us predicted disaster, knowing that the incumbent (and now injured) starter Eloy Jiménez is left-field disaster personified. But Vaughn hadn’t even played above High-A ball, and now he was breaking camp as a left fielder. No pressure, kid. Hey, the White Sox gave him two games — yes, TWO — to acclimate to left field, at the end of spring training.

Amazingly, Vaughn has been all right. Definitely an improvement on Eloy, and that’s saying something, because Eloy had Luis Robert alongside him, meaning he only had to cover like 10 square feet of left field. Not perfect or graceful. But not Kyle Schwarber. Or Eloy.

Vaughn can hit. He’s got the regular rookie growing pains, but his bat will play, for sure. If he was able to play his planned positions this year, DH/1B, he’d be hitting like .450 I guess.

We had hopes of signing Liam Hendriks this winter, but we got Kirby Yates instead (which has worked out great). I take it you are happy with Liam? Who are his set-up men?

Yeah, sorry about that, but the Blue Jays (bluff? we figured the Toronto offer was mostly Liam’s people trying to trick the White Sox into bidding against themselves, and … IT WORKED) “offer” resulted in one of the all-time unique fourth-year options in sports history, where Hendriks gets his millions whether or not he pitched in year four of the deal. From the folks who brought you the Bobby Bonilla contract, indeed, the White Sox could be paying Liam until like 2040. But he’s been great in the clubhouse. Liam Hendriks is sorta crazy. This team needs crazy. Wait. This team needs GOOD crazy.

Oh the field he’s been a little naah … yeah; there have been some speed bumps. But he wants to pitch like 400 innings this year, so hat-tip for fearlessness.

The White Sox injury list is a lot shorter than most teams, but what the lack in quantity they make up In quality. When will we see Elroy Jimenez again on the field? And while on the subject, what are the timelines on Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, and Billy Hamilton?

Eloy tore his pectoral muscle hanging on the fence trying to catch a home run ball like 30 feet beyond his glove, if you were wondering how our spring training went. He COULD come back as early as August. Not sure if/where he’ll play. Not a ton of point to rushing a young DH back to the field, but hopefully that will minimize his chance of, dunno, hanging on a fence, or getting caught in the foul line fishing net, injuring himself celebrating a no-hitter.

You think I’m joking? All of those things have happened, some more than once.

Michael Kopech was on an innings limit this year and was going to sit for a bit with an injury, real or imagined, for stretches this season. This allows him a break. The White Sox will want him ready for the postseason, perhaps even to start, depending on how this wafer-thin rotation holds up. He’s due off of the IL soon, but we’ll see.

Billy Hamilton just got hurt, and the White Sox wanted an excuse to get year-long injured Adam Engel back in the mix. Hamilton will be “recovering” likely until another injury requires his call-up from Triple-A. But he’s not even back on his feet yet.

Luis Robert is the most-needed return, and though a very different injury, his timetable is roughly the same as Eloy’s. Unlike Eloy, the White Sox would REALLY like Robert back. We’ll see. Both he and Eloy could miss the season. Still too early to know.

Who is your favorite White Sox player to watch?

Great question. I don’t think he’s the best player on the team, but the most fun to watch is Tim Anderson. He’s got swagger, and he’s a pretty funny motormouth. He’s the heartbeat of the team, and has really grown from a shy, tentative rookie to a clubhouse leader and pretty incredible player. Great sense of drama. Has improved his very shaky defensive amazingly in 2021. Like spaghetti, a lot.

The most valuable White Sox player? I’ve been saying Yoán Moncada for a while, so I’ll stick with that.

I need to ask about Yasmani Grandal, he is hitting .159, but has an OBP of .403 and has more walks than strikeouts. Is that sustainable over the season?

Why not? He’s practicing some sort of witchcraft. If your readers are fascinated by an $18 million .159 hitter who is actually pretty damn valuable, I’ll refer them to this recent piece which explains how that can be pretty well: For the Record: Yasmani Grandal Doesn’t Suck

While I’m linking, here’s a very recent one that compares Lance Lynn to Dad’s Root Beer. Also worth a read.

Anything else we should know about the White Sox?

You can’t possibly want me to write more about the White Sox. Let’s see. They have the best run differential in the AL, I think, and close to best in baseball. By run diff the Sox will win the division by 27 games, as projected right now. They really sort of blew this offseason, so there is a lot of interest in what the team will do at the trade deadline to bolster a team that could in fact win it all this season, but will be on fumes by October. The first home game with a baseball-hospitable temperature was this past Saturday, I believe. There is still a really big goose head in right field, and no, it’s not Adam Eaton, though points for insightfulness there, Blue Jays fans.

Thank you Brett. I love the post that compares players to different pops (or I suppose sodas).