On Sunday afternoon, after a 5-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura let off some steam. The usually mellow skipper gave an anger driven response to a reporter after he was asked to summarize his team’s efforts in the loss. Ventura emphasized that the team displayed an uninspired effort on their way to a series defeat at the hands of the lowly Diamondbacks.
In response to the effort that he witnessed on Sunday, Ventura shook his lineup up on Monday night my placing utility infielder Leury Garcia in the leadoff spot. The Sox have been struggling to find a spark plug at the top of the order ever since Adam Eaton went on the disabled list. Garcia, whose .275 OBP does not scream top of the order material, was thrust into the role because the Sox have exhausted every viable option. The team even had him start in center field for the first time in his career.
The lack of production from the top spot in the order will not last much longer with Eaton on the verge of coming off the disabled list. What the recent struggles out of the leadoff spot have taught the Sox is that Eaton is even more valuable than they expected.
When the Sox landed Eaton in the winter, they knew they were acquiring their leadoff hitter of the future. Before being sidelined, “Spanky” was hitting .279 with an OBP of .363. His ability to be a table setter for the big bats in the middle of the order led to constant rallies being generated.
While his knack for getting on base is something that the Sox have missed over the course of the last two weeks, it is how Eaton plays the game of baseball that is truly what the team needs right now. He hustles down the line, even after a walk, and is not afraid to give up his body for the ball in an Aaron Rowand-like way. The center fielder knows that places the team ahead of himself from the first pitch until the last. Eaton is the prototypical grinder type.
There has been a fresh vibe around the White Sox this season. Even with the team hovering around .500, excitement has been building due to the team playing the way they did during a disastrous 2013. Last season the ball club lacked enthusiasm when they took the field, and that translated into losses accumulating. With Eaton setting the tone with the energy he provides, the Sox discovered that there was a direct correlation between effort and winning.
With the White Sox in the midst of another losing streak, the team needs Eaton more than ever. If the White Sox do wish to continue to surprise people and compete, they must feed off of Eaton’s energy before it is too late.