John Danks is not Mark Buehrle. Besides both being lefties and at one point in time Chicago White Sox teammates, the two southpaws have nothing really in common when it comes to baseball. Buehrle is the former ace who pitched games at a pace that made it seem like he had a dinner reservation he needed to make. Danks is a more traditional pitcher. Buehrle never had arm problems with the Sox. Danks is continuing to recover from a season ending injury two seasons ago. There are not many similarities when it comes to their careers either. Buehrle has made four All-Star games and is a World Series champion. The way his career began, people believed that Danks would one day make an appearance at the Midsummer Classic, but he has not up to this point. While they might not have much in common, the two will always be linked in White Sox history.
Heading into the 2012 season, general manager at the time Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf had to make a decision: give a long-term deal to either Buehrle or Danks. Buehrle was entering his age 33 season and had long speculated that he would retire earlier than most players do. Danks was the 26-year-old the team brass considered the future ace of the team. The Sox chose Danks, giving him a five-year, $65 million deal while Buehrle signed a hefty four-year, $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins.
In the two seasons since, Danks has had ERAs of 5.70 and 4.75 while battling through a shoulder injury. Buehrle has had ERAs of 3.74 and 4.15 with the Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays. Buehrle has made 30 plus starts the past two years while Danks has struggled to remain healthy. Danks has struggled going late into games which taxes the bullpen while Buehrle has had two more 200-inning seasons, which he did yearly with the Sox.
Clearly the Sox have made what appears to be the wrong choice at this point in time. Fans believe that the Danks contract could be one of the worst in team history. What one has to realize is that there are still three years left on the deal. Beginning with this season, Danks can turn it around and justify the Sox giving him all that money.
Through Spring Training and his one start so far in 2014, Danks has impressed with his velocity. Unlike the past two years his fastball has not yet dipped in speed late into games. Yes, one game does not mean much, but a person’s attitude speaks volumes.Danks is pretty much a mellow guy. Go to soundbites are not regularly found when a mic is put in front of his face. Last Spring Training, though, his comments about being able to come back to form that year did not seem convincing. This year, however, he was more upbeat. Danks continuously told the media at the beginning of camp that he felt no pain after throwing. It got to a point that his words and performance showed enough to the media that they stopped asking.
To this point in time Danks appears to be becoming the pitcher who excelled from 2008-2010. In a rotation where he is the No. 3 behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, no pressure falls on Danks’ shoulders. Unlike in 2012 he is not looked on as “the guy”. All he has to do is have a successful full season in the majors. While he may never be what Buehrle was or what the Sox expected him to be when they handed him the extension, Danks can still be a quality veteran presence in the rotation during these rebuilding days. As long as he can do that, White Sox fans can look back and say that the contract the team gave him was money well spent.