If the new John Danks contract works out how the White Sox have planned it, their $65 million over five years will pay for at least three jobs at once.
This is the new White Sox world, which is not unlike today’s job world outside of baseball. When somebody leaves the company, often a replacement isn’t hired. Everybody who remains has to pick up the slack.
The most obvious role Danks will assume is to not only be a good pitcher, but a guy who can handle the front of the rotation. It will be some pretty heavy lifting for somebody who isn’t quite in the class of a Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee or Clayton Kershaw.
That would seem to be enough of a challenge for Danks, a career 54-56 pitcher with a 4.03 ERA, but there is so much more. Danks will now need to take an added leadership role in the clubhouse in the wake of Mark Buehrle’s departure.
Buehrle was never a rah-rah type of guy, but he was easy-going which meant that he wasn’t going add distracting drama. And as relaxed as Buehrle was on days that he didn’t pitch, he stepped up and got the job done every five days, essentially leading by example.
Danks has shown that he can have success while remaining low maintenance. The more young players he can convince to subscribe to the same theory, the better.
Next on Danks’ to-do list is to become somewhat of a miracle worker for a team whose offseason direction still appears to be muddled.
Are the White Sox trying to win? Are they trying to go young? Do they even know what they want to do?
General manager Kenny Williams insisted that the White Sox are still trying to field a winning outfit. With 65 million bucks now headed for his pocket, Danks will have to help lead the charge for a team that had a number of underachievers in 2011 and will use a number of young players in 2012 to correct the problem.
To his credit, Danks said Thursday that he is up for the challenge and to show that he is ready for anything else that might come his way, the left-hander also said he is game for catching the honorary first pitch of every home game, like Buehrle used to do.
Nobody asked if Danks will have to wash uniforms or clean the dugout after every game.
“I definitely see myself as a big piece of [the rotation] but on any given day that guy [on the mound] has to pitch well,” Danks said. “I’d like t think of myself as the guy who can pitch 200 innings and pitch well but it will take five of us. I think of myself as a big piece and being counted on maybe more than the other guys. It will take a whole group to perform well.”
Well, that addresses the jobs of pitching well and being a team leader. So what about the job of getting a team to win despite low expectations?
“I like our chances, I really do,” Danks said. “I’m not just saying that. There are a lot of guys, myself included, that underperformed. There are guys with great track records that had down years and it was perfect storm. I’d say right now we have a lot of the same guys back that are capable of doing the opposite of what we did last year. I like our chances and I’m not just saying that.”
Well, it wasn’t as if anybody thought Danks was going to say the team was horrible but he was happy to now need two hands to lift his wallet. Danks’ first move under his new contract was to sell the 2012 team the best he could and he sounded legitimately optimistic.
That’s the beauty of Danks. Even when the odds are stacked against him, he’s getting no run support, the defense behind him is struggling and the opposing pitcher is headed to the Hall of Fame, Danks still thinks he has a chance. It’s that makeup that convinced the White Sox to take a $65 million gamble on their lefty.
“I don’t care what teams it’s against or who the opposing pitcher is, I know [Danks] isn’t scared and will give you everything he has and may shut you down,” general manager Kenny Williams said. “He isn’t afraid to go against anyone.”