CHICAGO, IL - Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox connects on a grand slam scoring teammates David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Kevin Youkilis changed the color of his socks over the weekend. Does this make the White Sox favorites in the AL Central?
This is one of those stupid articles where the title comes first. Typed it in real confident-like. Now all I have to do is write 600 or 700 words that roughly translate to "Hell, I don't know."
Because I don't know. The AL Central is a weird, weird division right now. The Tigers were supposed to be nine games up by now, and the other teams in the division were supposed to be trying to fish their eyeglasses out of the toilet. Instead, there are three teams vying for the top spot, with no one coming close to running away with it. Hell, the Royals aren't out of it, and they're doing Royals things -- eight games under .500 after getting swept over the weekend. But they're still just six games out of first.
But here's a way to think about it. What's the main weakness for the Tigers right now? Hard to say. FIP and BABIP are still giving Max Scherzer wedgies, but it's not like there's a temptation to replace him. He leads the AL in strikeouts per nine innings, for Whitaker's sake. Hard to give up on that. They could replace Delmon Young or Brennan Boesch … but there really isn't that air-raid-siren problem on the roster. There are a few areas of legitimate concern, but there isn't an easy, obvious fix.
Move on to the Indians. What's the easy, obvious fix for Cleveland right now? Either Johnny Damon or Shelley Duncan would need to start hitting, and maybe that's something the team will address before the deadline. The rotation? Sure they could use an upgrade to the … good gravy, does every starter on that team really have an ERA over the league average? Okay, they could use another starter. That's an easy, obvious fix.
The Royals? They could some ulnar collateral ligaments made from adamantium. They could also use a new rotation. Like, entirely new. Just muck the current one like it's a deuce-nine off-suit and start fresh.
For the White Sox, though, the obvious fix was third base. It was an infected, pulsing wound on the thumb of a competent lineup. It's not like the White Sox were struggling to score runs -- they were still comfortably above the league-average in runs-per-game -- but their third-base production was ghastly. White Sox third basemen have hit a combined .167/.243/.224 this season.
Look at those numbers again. The first one is batting average, and it's horrible. The second one is on-base percentage, and it's a debacle. The third one is slugging percentage, and … oh, you're passed out now, as if there were a slow carbon-monoxide leak in the room. That'll happen.
And the White Sox just upgraded third base. Do you think that Kevin Youkilis is a shell of the player he used to be, a walking ghost? Okay, sure. That's an odd position to take based on 142 at-bats this season, but let's just assume that Youkilis is a .225/.311/.359 hitter now. That's still a huge upgrade for the White Sox, who were essentially the only AL team that had to deal with a pitcher hitting in the lineup. Even a bad Youkilis is an upgrade. But what if those hundred-plus at-bats were something of a fluke?
All sorts of teams were jockeying for position in the AL Central. Only one took care of a painfully obvious, glaring need. They made the easy, obvious fix, and they did it without decimating the farm system or removing crucial pieces from the 25-man roster. The White Sox made a fantastic move.
Does this make the White Sox the favorites in the AL Central now? Hell, I don't know. And you don't either. But they're the only team in the division that got a heckuvalot better over the weekend. In a weird, weird AL Central, that's a mighty fine step to take, especially a full month before the trade deadline.