We got peak Tommy Pham this weekend; an amazing run in college baseball ends

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A Cinderella story comes to an end, Tommy Pham somehow makes a(nother) White Sox loss interesting and the prospects are being roster-shuffled. I’m Levi Weaver (Ken Rosenthal is off today), welcome to The Windup!

Birmingham-Southern’s storybook season is over

Here, I suppose, is an unfortunate truth about Cinderella stories: Most of them end in disappointment. It’s the rarity that makes them special, right?

But man, I really wanted a little more time with this one.

Some backstory, if you missed it: Birmingham-Southern College’s baseball team advanced to the Division III World Series this year, despite the fact that the college itself was closing forever on May 31, before the tournament even ended.

That, in and of itself, is an underdog story worth rooting for. But the layers just kept piling on:

• Remember in 2016 when White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche retired suddenly because the team changed its policy on allowing kids in the clubhouse? His son, Drake, pitches for Birmingham-Southern.

• To even make it into the final tournament, they had to defeat Denison University. They did so, despite nine players suffering from food poisoning (and two of them being hospitalized).

• On Friday, the school shut its doors for the final time. On Saturday, having lost their first game in the double-elimination tournament, they were tied in the ninth inning and hit a walk-off home run to stay alive for another day.

• Yesterday: same situation, different outcome. After leading 10-5 at one point, the BSC Panthers allowed the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to climb back into it until they found themselves in a 10-10 tie game in the bottom of the ninth. Alas, this is where it all ended: UWW’s Sam Paden’s walk-off home run ended the game, BSC’s season and their program. Lauren Merola has the full story here.

It’s unfortunate — no offense to Wisconsin-Whitewater, good luck fellas — that this one didn’t end like the rest of us were hoping for. They would’ve had to make a movie out of it (though I’m not sure even Hollywood could top the real-life drama).

Thanks, Birmingham-Southern College, for a cool story to watch. Respect.

Bat speed metrics … for pitchers?

I’m not sure how, but one play in yesterday’s White Sox-Brewers game contained more intrigue than the other 53 outs combined.

Chicago was down by a run in the eighth inning when Tommy Pham tagged up on a relatively shallow fly ball and attempted to score the tying run. He was out, by quite a lot, and there was a minor collision at the plate. After the tag, Brewers catcher William Contreras had a few words for Pham, who is not known for allowing cooler heads to prevail.

Pham’s teammates pulled him away from the situation before it escalated, but in his post-game comments, Pham was The Most Tommy Pham he’s ever been, I think.

“One-run ballgame. Close play at the plate. Actually, it wasn’t even f—ing close. It was a shallow fly ball into left field. You would expect the left fielder to throw out the baserunner on that play. 

“But the situation of the game, you know, third-base coach sends you, you gotta go. I’m nailed out at home, by a mile. I’m going to the dugout and I hear the tough guy with all the hoo-rah s—. 

“So, I’ll never start anything, but I’ll be prepared to finish it. There’s a reason why I do all kinds of fighting in the offseason, because I’m prepared to f— somebody up. So, you can take it as what it is.” 

There’s a lot going on here.

• The 6-3 loss was the 11th in a row for the White Sox, which might have led to the decision to send Pham when all signs pointed toward that not being the most prudent choice.

• It should come as no surprise that a contest between Tommy Pham and the Fightin’ 2024 Milwaukee Brewers might end up with some sparks. The Brewers, under new manager Pat Murphy, have been pretty feisty this year. As for Pham, well — this is not the first time he has reminded us that he is a “very good fighter.”

• But what I found more interesting than all of that was Pham casually saying that he didn’t think he should have been sent at all. Players disagree with the decisions of coaches and managers; that’s not unusual. But — as we discussed last Wednesday — it seems that White Sox players are becoming a bit more emboldened to discuss their disagreements with the coaching staff publicly. Maybe it’s less surprising with a player who is as forthcoming and pretense-averse as Pham, but it did ping my radar as another indication that the seams may be unraveling in Chicago.

• And as long as we’re leaning into the drama … first-year White Sox announcer John Schriffen got very fired up on the call of the play. Awful Announcing has all the messy details of Schriffen’s tiff with local radio this year, and yes — there is a Tommy Pham angle here, too.

More Chicago-player-gets-thrown-out-at-home-due-to-a-questionable-send: Oh yeah, same thing happened to the Cubs on Friday (but holy moly look at this 93.3 mph relay throw from Elly De La Cruz).

Prospect roster shuffle

First baseman Spencer Torkelson of the Tigers was the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB draft. Catcher Henry Davis of the Pirates was the No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB draft. Both are on the transactions page today, for opposite reasons.

First off, the Pirates are recalling Davis, who was sent to Triple A about a month ago. Davis made his debut last year, and has hit just .201/.297/.317 (.614 OPS) in 338 big-league plate appearances (255 last year, and 83 before his demotion this year).
In 22 Triple A games since his demotion, however, he has posted a 1.082 OPS with seven home runs, so with a number of Pirates catchers out with injury and backup catcher Grant Koch hitless (albeit in just five plate appearances) since his debut last week, it appears it’s time to give the top prospect another shot to stick in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, in a more surprising move, it looks like Torkelson is headed back to the minor leagues.

Torkelson made his debut in 2022, and while he struggled at the plate in 110 games that year (posting an OPS of just .604), he showed real signs of progress in 2023. Sure, the 171 strikeouts weren’t pretty, but he hit 31 home runs, and his .758 OPS was perfectly in line with a growth trajectory.

Unfortunately, he’s hitting just .201/.266/.330 (.597 OPS) with four home runs in 230 plate appearances this year. With the Tigers just four games out of the third wild-card position in the American League, they decided to get him straightened out in the minor leagues, calling up Justyn-Henry Malloy, whose .412 on-base percentage is contributing to an .889 OPS at Triple-A Toledo.

To make it a full-on theme, we have Keith Law’s first in-season Top 50 prospects list — 2022’s first overall pick Jackson Holliday is right there in the top slot.

More roster moves: With Royce Lewis set to return and Jose Miranda raking at the plate, it appears that Edouard Julien is the odd man out in Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Mets have sent third baseman Brett Baty back to the minors.

Handshakes and High Fives

Two years ago, the Phillies fired Joe Girardi and hired Rob Thompson, who has never managed in the big leagues. Matt Gelb sat down with Thompson to talk about how his life has changed since then and gives a detailed description of the moments leading up to the hire.

Earlier this year, it looked like the end of the road for Kevin Pillar, when he was cut from the White Sox. Sam Blum tells the story of how Pillar has found new life with the Remember-Some-Guys 2024 Angels, and is now on the cusp of 10 years of service time.

Jim Trotter raises an interesting question: Should the Negro Leagues statistics have an asterisk? Not for the sake of exclusion, but to avoid glossing over the decades of exclusion?

You might remember Dan Brown’s story from April about Art Schallock, MLB’s oldest living player, who once roomed with Yogi Berra. Schallock got to visit the Yankees in person over the weekend.

The Toronto Blue Jays took a page from all of us MLB The Show players, and simply moved Vladimir Guerrero Jr. back to third base for the first time since 2019, maximizing their lineup in yesterday’s win over the Pirates.

Darryl Strawberry gave a touching speech at his number retirement in Queens, expressing remorse for ever leaving the Mets.

Rough weekend for the Giants. First, “Arson” Judge torched them for two home runs, and then next year’s biggest free agent Juan Soto did the same to put the finishing touches on the sweep. If that’s not enough, Blake Snell is injured again.

Meanwhile, a few hours south, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove both hit the IL. Where are the Padres going to find innings?

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(Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

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