Let’s play a little game here, folks. Off the top of your head, who is the longest-tenured member of your Chicago White Sox? It’s not Jose Abreu, it’s not Carlos Rodon, it’s Leury Garcia. The utility man that came from the Texas Rangers in the August 2013 waiver deal for Alex Rios has lasted close to a decade at 35th/Shields. At the time the deal was consummated, I don’t think anyone believed Garcia would amount to much, let alone become the longest-tenured player on the White Sox. Yet, “Leury Legend” has survived two flailing managers and two rebuilds to be the last man standing.
The 30-year-old jack-of-all-trades has had a bit of a tumultuous time with the White Sox. For the vast majority of his career, he has been a below-average offensive player while providing adequate defense at just about every position on the diamond. Given the expansion of the modern bullpen, players with Garcia’s skillset (being able to play multiple infield spots along with the outfield) have become quite invaluable. Yet, for much of his time in Chicago, large swabs of the fan base have wanted to run him out of town.
Flipping the Switch
The 2021 season was really no different for Garcia than much of his career to this point. When the Sox woke up on deadline day, Garcia was slashing a meager .247/.323/.345, good for an 87 wRC+. Those figures came while being thrust into essentially everyday duty given the slew of injuries up and down the roster that the Sox faced for the season’s first four months.
Something has happened since the calendar flipped to August, however. In that time frame, Garcia has gone to another gear offensively that we’ve not seen before since he put on the black and white. In his last 146 plate appearances, he’s slashing a remarkable .320/.378/.453, good for a 130 wRC+! Since August 1, Garcia ranks fifth on the Sox in terms of wRC+ behind only “Yaz Money” Grandal (who may not be from this planet, if we are being honest), the man built in a lab known as Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, and youngster Gavin Sheets.
To say that Garcia has proven himself to be invaluable down the stretch for this team would be an understatement. This is particularly true given the injury issues to players such as Tim Anderson and Adam Engel, both of whom were counted on to be significant contributors for this team. Leury’s ability to slot into multiple spots on the diamond has, for lack of a better term, helped keep this team afloat as they have navigated these injury-plagued waters in the season’s final weeks.
Now, Garcia has put himself into a position to command consistent playing time when Mission: Soxtober begins on 10/7. Whether that comes at second base for struggling trade deadline acquisition Cesar Hernandez, or in right field should Adam Engel’s lower-body issues continue to be problematic, Garcia figures to be penciled in frequently by Tony La Russa.
Put Some Respect on His Name
As I discussed earlier, Garcia has been frequently maligned by many within the fan base. I have not always been kind to Leury, despite not being as harsh a critic as others. There was certainly a point in the season’s early months where I uttered the three infamous letters of “DFA” when discussing him. Frequently, I felt Garcia was a victim of circumstances as he was put into positions, far too often, that didn’t set him up for success. I always believed that his over-exposure was responsible for some of the performance-related issues we would see from him. However, in a season where his presence on a daily basis was born out of freakish necessity, Garcia has risen to the occasion down the stretch.
In other sports, you frequently hear the term “glue guy” to describe a role player whose presence helps hold things together. Leury has proven to be that type of guy for the 2021 White Sox. Without his contributions, particularly over the last two months, we would’ve been forced to see a lot more of guys like Danny Mendick or a first-time big leaguer like Romy Gonzalez. Garcia’s performance in the second half has truly been a revelation for a team that has needed several unheralded figures to step up given all the injury issues they’ve faced en route to a division title.
As this team prepares to embark on its quest to win 11 grueling games, Leury Garcia figures to play a prominent role. I would not be at all surprised to see him starting games against the Houston Astros, and hopefully beyond, in either right field or at the keystone position. The hope is that the hot bat he has wielded for the last two months doesn’t cool off and that he can serve as another example of an unlikely hero for a team of destiny.
Given all the trials and tribulations Leury Garcia has faced in his time with the White Sox, he has shown how valuable he really is. Tony La Russa has gone out of his way to publicly extol his play and importance to this team. Those of us in the fan base that have taken him to task, and in many cases rightfully, need to acknowledge that the White Sox would be in a much worse position if not for his presence right now. So here’s to hoping we get a few more legendary moments starting next week.
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