He was going to win MVP, unless this silly Dustin Pedroia candidacy somehow took hold, and that's not even the most shameful part of the broken wrist that will require surgery and sideline Carlos Quentin for at least a few weeks, and probably the season.
It was self-inflicted. That's what hurts most. That's what sent Quentin into a tunnel of self-loathing and the Chicago White Sox toward a possible death spiral and an entire fan base caterwauling. How best to describe the level of stupidity embodied by Quentin when, in frustration, he slammed his closed right fist against the bat he was holding in his left – after fouling off a ball against Cliff Lee, the best pitcher in the American League this year?
Very? Not strong enough. Extremely? Nope. Clemensesque? Getting hotter. Unforgivably? Yes. Yes, that covers it.
Even though the rumor that Quentin hurt himself punching a locker proved false, this still pertains to his boiling intensity – his greatest asset and, now, his downfall – and it's a sad indictment on a player who, in the year he grew so much as a player, couldn't realize similar progress as a person.
"When I first found out, I was very disappointed and very upset about how it did happen," Quentin told reporters in Chicago. "It's a freak thing that happened."
Freak in that he admitted he had pounded a hard slab of wood plenty of other times and never broken a bone. Which totally makes it OK. Or something.
Now the White Sox are in a no-man's land heading into the season's crescendo, juggling their outfield and wondering how to replace a 36-home run, 100-RBI, .400-on-base threat. After bombing 50 home runs in August, the White Sox have scored seven runs in the first three games of September – two without Quentin – and must decide how to spread at-bats in left and center field among Ken Griffey Jr., Nick Swisher, Brian Anderson and Alexei Ramirez.
More important, they need to figure out how to maintain first place in the American League Central, which they own by a 1½-game margin heading into Friday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. They've got the GOP to thank as much as themselves, the Republican National Convention having sent the second-place Minnesota Twins on a two-week trip and the 5-9 swoon that accompanied it.
It was a respite compared to what the rest of the season holds. While Quentin is recovering from doctors inserting a screw in his right wrist, the Twins will finish with a cakewalk schedule compared to Chicago, which plays three against the Angels, four with the surging Toronto Blue Jays, four at New York and a three-game series at Minnesota that could determine the division.
Quentin, 26, tried to play through a shoulder injury last season and went from one of the game's elite prospects to afterthought. Which is how White Sox general manager Kenny Williams swooped in and acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks for low-level prospect Chris Carter in the offseason.
Not even Williams figured Quentin would turn into one of the great power-hitting forces in the AL. He started the season a part-time player. Quentin worked himself into a full-time role. His ascent in Chicago's lineup coincided with its offensive resurgence – and the White Sox's staying power in the AL Central.
The city of Chicago took to Quentin, the embodiment of work ethic and aggression. He was everyone's type of player. "I think it's fun to see a kid with that mentality," manager Ozzie Guillen said a few weeks ago, and he was talking more about the hard-nosed side than the soft-fisted.
Still, White Sox fans spent so many years in championship-less misery, self-loathing is a birthright. So you had to figure some hyperbole would emerge, and, hey, calling this the darkest day in Chicago since Mayor Harold Washington died certainly applies.
Losing Quentin doesn't necessarily torpedo Chicago's season. Neither does the loss of third baseman Joe Crede for the rest of the season with a back injury, which was confirmed Friday.
It simply puts the onus on Chicago's pitching staff, which carried the team in the first half. While the White Sox's pitchers haven't been nearly as effective since the All-Star break – their team ERA of 4.80 is 20th in the major leagues and more than a half-run worse than any other playoff contender – they do have John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle and Javier Vazquez in their rotation and Bobby Jenks, Octavio Dotel, Matt Thornton and, they hope, Scott Linebrink, who came off the disabled list after five weeks on it.
That said, losing Quentin does position Minnesota as prohibitive favorite and allows the Twins to face a lesser lineup.
"It's unfortunate the way it happened," Guillen said. "Players have to learn from that. Every time you get frustrated at the plate and all of a sudden you use your hands or your body, you're not going to win that one."
Quentin lost, and for what? That's a rhetorical question, of course, because he surely is beating himself up more than anyone. And he knows there isn't a good answer. Just a lot of laments.