Every so often, the two Head Stewards — Kevin Kaduk and David Brown — like to have a little argument over IM. The result is Stewards Debate!, which brings their bickering to the masses.
'Duk: Greetings, Mr. Brown! Believe it or not, we're only one day away from the final month of the regular season. And while the season has become a slog in many cities, Chicago's South Side is getting a dreadlocked infusion of offense in the waiver-wire arrival of Manny Ramirez(notes). He's on the ground in Cleveland and is scheduled to make his Chicago White Sox debut on Wednesday. Whether or not he'll make a difference in the AL Central race remains to be seen, but this is obviously another case of GM Kenny Williams going big before going home. My question to you is this: Do you think acquiring Manny will end up being seen as a shrewd move by Williams? Or will we view it as a waste of cash ($4.3 million, to be exact)?
David Brown: Well, Señor ‘Duk, that all depends if the White Sox surpass the Minnesota Twins and make the playoffs. Like you said, there's only a month to go in the season and Chicago is four games behind as we speak. Just by inserting Manny into the lineup, does that make the Sox the favorites? Of course not. I would add this: That it took the Sox this long to address the void in their lineup (as if there were only one hole) is pretty negligent on the part of Kenny and Ozzie.
Look at whom Ozzie Guillen usually uses at designated hitter: On Tuesday night, with Manny still getting acclimated to be acquired, or something, it was Mark Kotsay(notes). Everybody knows the phrase, " ... miserable excuse for..." Well, Kotsay is about the most miserable excuse for a designated hitter one can find. His on-base percentage is .310; his slugging percentage is .388; his value as a batter on Fangraphs is -6. I don't even know what that means, exactly, much less how it's calculated, but it sounds really awful. And, having watched Kotsay be the DH this season for the White Sox, it matches up to his performance.
'Duk: Ah, so you're taking the "Anyone But Kotsay" drum that my old man has been banging all season. That's understandable and sticking Manny Ramirez in that spot is an upgrade of exponential proportion. Still, I can't endorse the move just because the Sox are throwing money at a problem after stupidly waiting 132 games to take advantage of the DH rule that the American League has had for almost 40 years. I mean, it'd be one thing if the Sox were just picking Manny up for a song, but it's not like Manny's going to be taking these at-bats for free. I saw it mentioned somewhere that he's going to be making around $29,000 every time he strides to the plate. Even more if his 38-year-old body shuts down before the end of the season.
In a vacuum, this is a great move. But color me skeptical that the White Sox — who Baseball Prospectus estimates only have an 11 percent chance of making the postseason — can actually take advantage and make this investment worth their while. And considering the money they've sunk into Jake Peavy(notes) and Alex Rios(notes), I'm afraid Jerry Reinsdorf will get cheap and say "well, we spent too much last year" when it comes time to do something important, like sign John Danks(notes) to the contract extension he's going to need.
DB: As much as it's OK to bash the Sox for not moving on acquiring a bat sooner, it's not really fair to complain about them spending $4.3 million on Manny now because they might not spent money on something else later. And, as was mentioned, no prospects were sacrificed for this deal. Manny isn't blocking a better player from getting at-bats. It could be argued that Dayan Viciedo(notes) and Mark Teahen(notes) would make a good DH platoon — but that's only IF Ozzie would do that and just have Kotsay replace Paul Konerko(notes) on defense late in games. He's not willing to do that. Ramirez, therefore, is the best solution. I'm still failing to see a downside in this.
'Duk: I think it's completely fair to complain about this possibly being future money flushed right down the toilet, so long as you consider that the Twins have a four game lead in the division, still get the benefit of playing both Kansas City and Cleveland six games apiece and, oh yeah, will play 18 of their final 30 games at home. You'll counter by saying that the White Sox play 16 of their last 30 at home, but that includes finishing this current long road trip in Detroit and Boston and a voyage out west to Los Angeles and Oakland, where they never play well. I'm just not convinced the Sox and their depleted bullpen will still be in contention next week, let alone the final days of the season.
What's more, I'm not buying that Ramirez is going to snap into the contract-hungry monster mode that everyone seems to think is coming. He shows up in Cleveland today and pulls a Sammy Sosa impression, pretending that he needs an interpreter for his introductory press conference and then doesn't even do a good enough job of convincing Ozzie Guillen that he's ready to play in tonight's game. The Sox are laying their down-the-stretch hopes on a guy who's too tired to play after a plane flight? Even when they're paying him all this money and he only has to bat four times?
DB: You know what? You're right. The Twins are the '78 Yankees reincarnate. And even if they're not, they'll just wreak wanton destruction on Cleveland and Kansas City in September. It's not like the bottom of the AL Central has a history of coming up to bite the contenders down the stretch and unexpectedly force things such as, oh, I dunno, a 163rd regular-season game.
Further, the White Sox play the Tigers, Red Sox, Angels and A's? How can ANYONE survive such a gauntlet? They "never play well" in Oakland and Anaheim? Why are they bothering jumping on a plane? You're absolutely right — the White Sox might not win a single game remaining on their schedule, so why are they wasting our time?
Lastly, Manny's acting strange already? Obviously, the White Sox did not account for this! Considering what I mentioned about Manny's stats — they're actually pretty good — there's a chance he's going to come up in the seventh inning tonight and hit a pinch-hit home run. And even if he doesn't, the circus will be worth watching.
Oh, that's right, you won't be watching. You gave up on the season with 30 games left. Good job.
'Duk: Wow, that's quite an impassioned response from you, Mr. Brown! If the White Sox had actually decided to buy all the Dodgers' old Manny wigs, I'd be picturing you IMing me while wearing one. (No, you cannot expense one when you finally find one.)
Also, you're wrong about me giving up on the season with 30 games left to play. I'll actually be watching the remaining slate while crying and whispering sweet nothings to my Jim Thome(notes) bobblehead doll.
I will say, this, though: I find it absolutely amazing that Jerry Reinsdorf — the same guy who waved the white flag in 1997 with the Sox only 3.5 games back of Cleveland on July 31 — is approving such a big charge this late in the season.
But while scrounging his sofa for that change is good for him and his fans, I can't shake my financially responsible side. I feel like the guy who's sitting next to his buddy at the blackjack table while he gambles away his kid's college kitty trying to win a new car in spite of terrible odds.
I will give you the final word to predict whether or not this lever pull by Williams and Reinsdorf will result in the jackpot he's seeking.
DB: You sure are alarmed about the state of John Danks' contract extension and whether there's enough money left in the kitty for it — I'll give you points for that. Also, I'm glad you brought up the White Flag trade. I think they were 3 1/2 back at the time, no? Less than now. Well, I remember the 1997 White Sox. These guys are not them. The '97 Sox sucked. They were under .500, or right there, at the time they unloaded Wilson Alvarez, et al. They weren't going to beat Cleveland.
I'll admit that this team might not beat the Twins — in fact, I'd bet on the Twins winning if you made me — but Manny gives them a better chance. And even if he fails, there's still a good chance the rest of the season will entertain as it couldn't possibly have before. That alone is worth the price. I'm gonna go find me some dreads.