Friday, July 22, 2016

Prospects of Future Past: Jacob Turner Returns

Danville, Kentucky -- It was not supposed to happen like this, Jacob Turner thought to himself, after giving up 8 runs in 4 innings in his White Sox debut last Sunday. A former top prospect and first round draft pick, young Jacob had all the trappings of an arm-of-destiny: a solid bet to anchor the Detroit Tigers rotation for years to come.

Yet, things do not always go as planned. Sometimes you have to quit your job on the basis of principle when the boss won't let you take your kid to work. Sometimes Gingrich doesn't get the VP nod like you predicted. Sometimes the wife wins that custody battle even though your lawyer said it was a slam dunk. Sometimes Lyin' Ted isn't forthcoming with that party-uniting endorsement. Sometimes corrupt politicians suffer no consequences for breaking the law and emailing on the job. Sometimes the overworked and sleep-deprived drive-through guy ruins your night by giving you Fire sauce instead of Diablo.

Sometimes, if you're Jacob Turner, the team that drafted you trades you in a patented Dombrowski deadline deal for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. For Jacob Turner, it was a slow and painful descent into near-irrelevance; traded from the Miami Marlins to the Chicago Cubs for spare parts and sliding down top-prospects lists before being claimed off the waiver-wire by the team from Chicago's south side.

As last night's rain-shortened duel between Mike Pelfrey and James Shields established, this will be a tightly contested series between the White Sox and Tigers. Today, the arm of Detroit's yesterday will face the arm of Detroit's tomorrow. Jacob Turner will compete against the indomitable Michael Fulmer, another centerpiece of a Dombrowski deadline deal.

Jacob, sporting a 90-94 mph fastball and a plummeting curveball, will face his former team with a workmanlike stoicism, gaining no extra spark of motivation or chutzpah from anger at the organization that wantonly dealt him to the Marlins. Jacob Turner isn't a man to hold a grudge, just like the biblical figure Jacob ultimately forgave his sons Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin for their fratricidal plot against their own brother, Joseph. Michael Fulmer approaches the art of pitching with a similar quiet and bulldog-like determination, having never been one to be fazed by tall buildings and bright lights. It's a trait that will serve both pitchers well as they attempt to stake out their place in MLB history.

Jacob Turner's future has not yet been written; he may still blossom into a sturdy major league arm under the instruction of veteran leaders like Big Game James and Chris Sale. Yet, time is running out for both Jacob Turner and the White Sox. The White Sox front office has declared it will not pursue short-term rental players and has even hinted at the possibility of a deadline fire-sale. It was not supposed to happen like this, yet events have taken unanticipated twists and turns since General Manager Rick Hahn proclaimed Chicago's window of contention open several years ago. Starting Jacob Turner in crucial July games was Hahn's 'Plan D', a "break glass in case of emergency" option to be explored only after Mat Latos, John Danks, and other alternatives had been exhausted. Yet past is past and only the future remains, an infinite horizon of possibility. To make the most of Chicago's shrinking window of opportunity, the prospect of future past will have to defeat the arm of today's tomorrow.