Last week, in eulogizing Nick Swisher's White Sox career, we pegged him as a fan favorite, the kind of guy who did well to endear himself to media and the fans even in bad year. Swisher seemed to understand, almost from the beginning of his tenure in Chicago, that White Sox fans enjoy a certain kind of ethic, that blue collar "grinderball" tag that was so ubiquitous during their 2005 World Series run. Swisher either played into that intentionally, or just was that guy naturally. Either way, he seemed to be a popular dude.
So we guess we just assumed Swisher was popular in the clubhouse, too. But whisperings around talk radio in Chicago, and analyzed most recently at Baseball Prospectus, paint Swisher in a whole new light. Rather than the grindy team player, he supposedly tuned out coaches, stopped listening to tips about his swing, and just generally wasn't a very nice guy. The horror.
Whether or not that's true -- and it could be post-trade spin from the White Sox, too -- it doesn't make the trade with the Yankees for infielder Wilson Betemit and the minor-league pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Núñez look any better in retrospect. Why? Because it means the White Sox were looking less for value than to unload a player they didn't want to deal with any more.
Sometimes, that's a trade an organization has to make. Rarely does it yield a fair return, but if it's worth it to the team to dump the player ... fine. We can grant that benefit of the doubt. But Swisher is a player whose year was not only uncharacteristically bad, given his historical performance, it was also unlucky: His batting average on balls in play (BABiP), a stat that gauges the role of luck in baseball players' performances, was horrendously low (.249). It means that Swisher is probably bound to pick up the pace next year.
That's unfortunate for the White Sox. Maybe they really needed Swisher gone, or maybe the bad season got to both player and organization. Maybe success would have saved the relationship. Maybe, maybe not. But it's too late now to find out.