We don’t need to wait until the MLB investigation is completed to know Mike Clevinger is done in Chicago.
The newly signed White Sox pitcher, who is under investigation after allegations of domestic violence and child abuse by the mother of his 10-month-old-daughter, denied the disturbing accusations Tuesday through attorney Jay Reisinger, who called Clevinger a “loving and caring father.”
It will be up to MLB to determine whether Clevinger should be suspended, and if so, for how long. Then it will be up to the White Sox to do the right thing.
The only real choice is to cut ties with Clevinger and take the “L.” Move on and try to forget the signing ever happened.
Clevinger won’t be able to recover from this, at least in Chicago, just as former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer never had a chance to return to Los Angeles after his suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy.
The sooner the Sox realize this, the better it will be for the team, the fans and the city.
The Clevinger saga is certain to become a spring training distraction, whether management or players are allowed to talk about it or not. His probable absence won’t preclude the media from mentioning him, and how the Sox deal with the hole in the rotation will be a storyline to follow for the entire six weeks.
This is a fork-in-the-road season for the Sox, and Clevinger simply cannot be a member of that clubhouse if they hope to regain the trust of fans still reeling over the underachieving ways of 2022. With a new manager in Pedro Grifol and most of the same cast of characters, the urgency to erase last season’s drama has never been greater.
General manager Rick Hahn addressed that fan angst near the end of ’22 and noted that he, Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president Ken Williams agreed it was the “most disappointing season of each of our careers.”
“Look, this is going to have an effect,” Hahn said. “This is going to impact people. This is not a feeling that any of us want to experience again.”
The Sox made a few major moves in the offseason, but Clevinger was the first free agent added to the roster and thus became one of their key additions. Now he’s their No. 1 albatross, and starting the new season by sticking with him would be begging for a repeat.
How much the Sox vetted Clevinger is another issue they need to examine but probably won’t. While they might not have known of the allegations when they signed Clevinger, as they said in a statement, the Sox obviously liked his character and believed he would be a good fit in the clubhouse.
Can they still think that now?
Many on Twitter have brought up the fact the Sox hired manager Tony La Russa in fall 2020 while knowing about his second DUI arrest. That wasn’t a case of bad vetting but of Reinsdorf wanting La Russa to manage his team no matter what anyone else thought. La Russa could’ve bowed out once the news became public but didn’t feel the need.
“Before I took the job, I made them aware of the situation,” La Russa said in February 2021. “So I was fortunate they stood by me. The fact that I’m still the manager is further (evidence of the) gratitude that I feel. But once the publicity was there, I had already been beating myself up about a mistake without anybody knowing it.
“Once it became public, especially so soon after getting the job, when you understand the negative effect potentially on the fans, my family, friends, it was torture. And I don’t enjoy torture. I try to live without regrets. We make mistakes.
“But I also live with acknowledging it. So if they decided, once they knew, and wanted to keep me, then I (didn’t have) the first thought that I should back off.”
La Russa was never going to get the benefit of the doubt from a large and vocal segment of Sox fans. Neither will Clevinger if he’s allowed to pitch in 2023. But unlike La Russa, Reinsdorf has no personal relationship with Clevinger, so there’s no need to pretend fans will eventually grow to like Clevinger.
Hahn made a mistake. I would guess he is beating himself up over it, but of course he won’t be able to talk about it, so who knows?
Still, that doesn’t mean he has to live with it. It’s only money, after all. The Dodgers did the right thing by cutting ties with Bauer, who seems unlikely to find a new team despite being one of the most talented pitchers in the game.
The Sox can get by without Clevinger. The trio of Dylan Cease, Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech is solid, and Lucas Giolito is capable of shaking off a disappointing season and should be motivated by free agency in November.
Davis Martin can move into the No. 5 spot, or perhaps Reynaldo López can get stretched out in spring training and return to the rotation.
It’s not perfect, but the Sox have options. And the American League Central remains winnable despite the Cleveland Guardians’ youthful energy and the Minnesota Twins’ aggressive offseason. But if the Sox hope to contend, they can’t afford unnecessary distractions, especially early as Grifol puts his stamp on the team.
So let the process play out. Let MLB conduct a thorough investigation.
And when Clevinger is allowed to pitch again, just make sure it’s not on the South Side.