In a fitting, if not entirely poetic fashion, the White Sox limped into the all-star break with yet another blown save and a defeat in Cleveland on Sunday.
Instead of the focus on the absurd start to his major-league career for Jose Abreu, and another Cy Young-caliber first half for Chris Sale, the Sox were again talking about giving up the lead late in the game after Yan Gomes' opposite-field, 2-run blast off Javy Guerra in the eighth.
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That left them with 4 losses in 5 games, 6 games under .500, 10½ behind Detroit, and a whopping 13 blown saves in 32 tries in 2014.
So this is all about Addison Reed, right? Well, not really.
Reed has 5 blown saves on the year (in 26 tries), including 3 in a recent span of 6 outings, after which Arizona manager Kirk Gibson reluctantly gave Reed a vote of confidence.
"I've been getting hurt a lot of times leaving the ball up and over the middle of the plate instead of hitting the corners," Reed told Arizona reporters, sounding a lot like most White Sox relievers. "I need to start throwing more sliders and start mixing it up a little more. When I throw the fastball, I need to locate where I am supposed to."
Reed (1-5, 4.30 ERA) has given up 9 homers in 160 batters faced (1 every 17.7) after just 13 in 566 batters faced (1 every 43.5) while with the White Sox, and his fastball is down to 92 mph from 94 mph two years ago.
When the Sox traded him for third baseman Matt Davidson, they had their next closer in Nate Jones and a backup plan in Matt Lindstrom, but both got hurt and the Sox have paid the price.
But even if the bullpen were good, or Reed were still here getting it done, how much different would 2014 be for the Sox?
It would feel better, sure, but the Sox would still be chasing the Tigers.
Now 35-8 when leading after 7 innings, let's generously assume 6 more wins with Reed and a 41-2 mark after 7. At 51-45, the Sox would still be 4½ behind Detroit, with the Tigers now fully in stride and ready to make some deals for the second half.
How do you suppose that would go for the South Siders? Any different from the last three years?
No, the reality is this was a rebuilding year. Rick Hahn can't say it the way the Cubs can, and the Sox can't be as obvious so they do it at the major-league level.
But they are rebuilding.
The Sox needed to improve the offense and knew they would take a hit on the pitching staff, so starting now they begin the process of fixing the back end of the rotation and the back end of the bullpen.
Carlos Rodon is on the way and there is money coming off the books in the form of Adam Dunn ($15 million) and perhaps a couple others, depending on the July 31 trade deadline.
In the meantime, add up the four major moves made by Hahn since last July and they look pretty good for the Sox.
While Reed has struggled, so has Davidson in Triple-A. He was hitting .182 at the end of May with just 6 homers in 48 games, but since then has 11 homers in his last 38 games his average is up a bit to .213.
The Sox acquired Avy Garcia for Jake Peavy, who's been awful in Boston and is about to be traded again. In the process they saved $22 million, which went toward the signing of Abreu, who's been nothing short of brilliant.
Garcia, coming off a serious shoulder injury, has a chance to be a star.
Adam Eaton has been all the Sox could have hoped for on offense and defense, and if he could stay healthy, he might be even more. Meanwhile, Hector Santiago is 1-7 with a 4.50 ERA and got his first win with the Angels last week after being sent to the minors last month.
So while the first half has not been pretty for the Sox, expectations should have been low amid a rebuilding process that is tough to do at the major-league level and does not happen overnight.
But as the trade deadline approaches, the next couple weeks might be an indication of how much longer it will take -- understanding they are off to a pretty good start.
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