While I decided that Rick Renteria seemed to take advantage of SoxFest more than anybody, Ken gave away my not-too-distant second place in the comments:
Carlos Rodon kind of became the Rock after a run of Rocky Maivia. He used to be pretty boring and dry. Now all of a sudden he was getting millions and millions of fans to chant his name while giving the peoples eyebrow. Was a real coming out party for him.
I, too, noticed Rodon’s transformation. He never seemed particularly outgoing on his better days over the first three years of his career, and the way he handled his preseason injury reinforced the idea that he had little to say to people at best.
Given this, it was strange-but-welcome to see him gradually increase his level of involvement in the proceedings, and without a clear ceiling. Maybe it’s because he’s starting to emerge from the post-surgery haze. He described his procedure as “very minor” in its removal of bursitis and fraying, and he had a firm start date on a throwing program (Monday).
But he had more answers for everything in general.
He took on the elder statesman role on a panel of first-round picks. Jake Burger said Rodon told him that he should expect to hear his balls busted about the preferred status of a first-round pick, and he may as well own it. Rodon told a fan politely but firmly that “my expectations are higher than yours.”
Given his history of being taciturn, it would’ve been noteworthy if Rodon reliably stood out on seminars. By the end of the weekend, he was hosting them, and organizing pranks in the process.
The crowd has turned on Nicky Delmonico. pic.twitter.com/nEI0AMS2hH
— Jim Margalus (@SoxMachine) January 27, 2018
If I didn’t tell you that was Carlos Rodon, would Carlos Rodon been in your first five guesses?
He also showed the ability to spin a yarn, such as his involvement in the Yordano Ventura-Adam Eaton brawl during his first week in the majors, which James Fegan relayed:
“Yordano Ventura’s on the mound,” Rodon said. “[Adam] Eaton grounds out to Yordano, Yordano starts screaming at Eaton, Eaton starts screaming at Yordano and here, we, go. Bullpen gate opens and [I’m] looking around like ‘What do I do?’ First day on the job, it’s 35 degrees, and they start running and David Robertson’s like ‘Yeah, you’re coming too.’ So I’m out running and I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m wearing this big puffy coat. I get into the scrum and I’m standing there like, ‘What’s going on?’ Lorenzo Cain is on top of friggin’ Jeff Samardzija, and there’s a big pile. I grabbed Lorenzo Cain’s leg because he’s on top of Samardzija like ‘Get off him!’ I don’t know what to do and I’m grabbing and pulling away.”
To hear Rodon tell it, all the veteran relievers who led him out were singlehandedly occupied by journeyman Royals catcher Erik Kratz, and he spent his first night looking at pure terror in his teammates’ eyes while sifting through the pile of major league bodies.
I still think Renteria made the most of SoxFest due to future availability. It’s important for Renteria to convey what he’s about given that he’s in charge of the rebuild and will be heard from upwards of 200 times over the coming year. While Rodon now clear to start throwing, his return date (he gave a generous window of the All-Star break) and impact thereafter remain murky, because shoulders are shoulders.
If one had to name SoxFest’s biggest overachiever, though, Rodon would be the easy call. If I wanted to set a narrative for him, but it’s almost as though he wants fans to remain invested in his future even if all the pitching prospects make him less necessary.
* * *Actually, it’s probably a combination of having more experience than most of his teammates, and having a lot of teammates who aren’t afraid to mix it up themselves.
The players all do seem to get along famously, and while it’s hard to put a win total on that, I like this experiment the White Sox are conducting. After years of looking outside to address intangible shortages — think Adam LaRoche for leadership and Brett Lawrie for energy — the Sox are now content to have an abundance of identities in the minors.
That’s probably the place to develop them, because it’s a lot like the other skills. You don’t even have to buy into the idea of chemistry to agree that if players are going to irritate each other in the process of figuring out how they fit, it’s better to do it when wins and losses don’t matter.
Besides Rodon, two other players used the platform better than the others:
*Delmonico used SoxFest to show the “it” factor Renteria talked about last year. Based on fan reactions during the opening ceremony and autograph lines, he had the most disproportionate level of support based on his track record or prospect stock.
That’s not a bad thing. It just creates a ton of ground between the endpoints of potential outcomes. He could lead the Sox in jerseys sold if he sticks as merely a reliable regular. If he can’t quite hang, he might be a human “Thrillibridge” t-shirt.
— Madeline Kenney (@madkenney) January 27, 2018
One example of the last part: On an all-Latin panel, a fan asked the players about Renteria’s ability to communicate, but added a second question about Eloy Jimenez about punching out a light tower bulb during batting practice. While the question was translated for Jimenez, Sanchez filled in the silence by saying, “By the way, that was a Little League ballpark.”
Yet Sanchez didn’t have the last word. After the laughter subsided, Jimenez responded, “But I still hit it.”
(*OK, Sanchez also saved some trash talk for the kids’ panel, although the children did the heavy lifting.)
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