“Make them swing the bat and someone will catch the ball.” – Don Cooper on Mike MacDougal, April 11, 2009
He seems like a cool guy, what with that badass Diablo goatee, Norse myth of a middle name (Meiklejohn!), lanky delivery and all – a Jack McDowell for the mop-up set, if you will – and the errors by Jose Contreras and Josh Fields ought to shoulder at least some of the blame for today’s drive-by, but when is it safe to actually give up on Mike MacDougal? Two years ago? Right now? Later? Ever?
MacDougal, of course, represents that ideal of the modern White Sox pitcher: a fixer-upper bought at another club’s foreclosure sale. In Meiklejohn’s case, we’re looking at the Royals, for whom #47 didn’t exactly pitch like an All-Star (despite actually being sent to the 2003 as the Royals’ lone representative in lieu of the injured Mike Sweeney) but put up respectable enough numbers as a middle reliever. So when those pitching-starved 2006 White Sox needed an arm, any old arm, where did they turn for help? To which stable of proven, reliable relief pitchers did they turn for salvation?
The Royals. Of course. Sure, MacDougal was merely okay at best and really bore the trappings of a career mop-up specialist (opposing batters have a .390 OBP against him in the eighth inning. Three-ninety!) but at the time, conventional wisdom said Coop could fix him. Coop could fix anyone. Look at Dustin Hermanson. Look at Bobby Jenks. Look at Neal the Meal and Uncle Cliff and Stevie Southside. All Don Cooper reclamations. All paying off huge dividends on the club’s tiny investments.
MacDougal arrived on the South Side mid-2006 and we’ve all seen the ups and downs firsthand ever since. Yes, we bear witness to those moments of excellence every now and then, but he’s been aboard for three years now. More importantly, Mike MacDougal is thirty-two years old; at this point, at his age, with his experience, we and he both know exactly where he stands. And if all this has unfolded under Cooper’s watch, then maybe we have to admit that what we see is not just what we get, but also all we ever will.
We’re all rooting for him to turn it around, but after so many outings like last weekend’s stumble against the Twins and today’s outright disaster against the lowly Tigers, there comes a time where, sadly, All-Star résumés and demon beards just don’t cut it any more.