Goodbye, Mat Latos. Hello … Justin Morneau?
This can’t be how the White Sox figured they would be spending their time in early June.
Not after they shocked the baseball world with their sizzling start, shaking off the Adam and Drake LaRoche dust out of the chute to go from laughingstocks to serious contenders. Todd Frazier was rocking and Chris Sale was rolling. Shoot, even Robin Ventura was glowing.
All seemed perfect in their world, even when they finally jettisoned over-valued lefty John Danks in the middle of their meteoric rise.
Now they are more mediocre than meteoric, sitting at 30-30 Friday morning.
At 2:48 p.m. Thursday, news arrived that Latos, who had the best ERA of ANY starting pitcher in Chicago — sorry, Jake Arrieta — through his first four starts, was being designated for assignment. DFA’d. Goodbye. Get out. Take that 7.25 ERA since April 30 with you.
Exactly 15 minutes later, the Sox proudly announced Morneau — one of those pesky piranhas from a decade ago — had been signed, then immediately assigned to the disabled list.
On any other day, taken on their own merits, each move would have seemed reasonable — odd, but not alarming.
But this wasn’t any other day.
This was the first day of waking up on the South Side of .500.
This was the day after newly acquired pitcher James Shields made his Sox debut by needing a lifesaver after failing to get an out in the THIRD inning of an eventual 11-4 loss to the Washington Nationals.
This was two days after a 5-2 lead to those same Nationals got flushed into a 10-5 embarrassment.
This was two weeks after that late-May, bullpen-blowout disaster in Kansas City that would have been worse had the baseball gods not rained out Game 1.
Take a deep breath.
Exactly one month earlier, the Sox were 23-10 — a .697 winning percentage. They had a six-game lead in their division. Only the 24-6 Cubs could brag about a better record in the majors.
There was talk of a Red Line World Series and an extension for Ventura. How could Chicago handle two World Series parades in the same November?
Now Sox fans must be wondering how long before Shields, who was once known as Big Game James in Tampa and Kansas City but was called Five Frames James in San Diego, gets his DFA news release.
Even the arrival of Shields from the Padres didn’t feel like a shot in the arm. Not when your team is performing a nosedive that fans have sadly been awaiting.
This is a team that has major problems in the bullpen, as they Royals revealed. Their 20 runs this month was 28th in the majors entering Thursday.
Adding Shields was not their biggest need. Dumping Latos wasn’t their top priority. Signing an aging left-handed bat in an ailing Morneau seemed silly. (What, wasn’t Jim Thome available?) And then Friday morning, veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins was sent packing.
Give general manager Rick Hahn credit for knowing when to part with a bad thing. Latos was living on borrowed time anyway, no need to continue to watch the inevitable. Danks had long overstayed his welcome.
But adding Shields and Morneau now makes one wonder: What was Hahn thinking in the first place? This couldn’t have been the Sox’ grand plan when Kenny Williams was kicking Drake LaRoche off a back field in Arizona. The 2016 Sox had championship dreams.
Now this team seems headed in the wrong direction with no compass.
And the revolving door to the clubhouse is the only thing worth watching.