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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Marketing Genius!

What else would you expect from our Sox?

Just when you think that the depths of stupidity plumbed by the ownership and management of the Chicago White Sox can’t possibly get any worse, they somehow manage to prove you wrong.  When we last left the Sox, they had traveled up to Minneapolis to face the AL Central Champion Twins with a record of 81-78.  Of course, they managed to lose three straight to finish at the ultimate mark of mediocrity. 

When we last left the Sox, their attendance had dropped by over 80,000 from 2001, and Prof Chaos (aka Sox GM Kenny Williams) had warned fans that next year’s payroll would be lower than this year’s. 

When we last left the Sox, the third phase of the renovations of Comiskey Park had been reduced to cosmetic renovations of the upper deck and its concession areas rather than the full blown overhauling Sox ownership had been hoping for if only they had been able to get corporate sponsorship for the ball park. 

When we last left the Sox, certain sportswriters were howling about the poor security measures that had led to the attack of Kansas City Royals’ first base coach Tom Gamboa. 

When we last left the White Sox, Ray Durham and Frank Thomas had both spoken up in the papers about Prof. Chaos acting like a control freak, having to know everything the players were saying and thinking.  According to Durham, the professor had gone so far as to employ former coach Gary Pettis as a spy, reporting to Williams everything said by Durham during dinner conversations.  Durham’s conclusion was that his confronting Prof. Chaos on the issue was the primary reason he was shipped out to Oakland.  Thomas considered the professor’s actions to be “like third grads.” 

In other words, when we last left the Sox, things were grim.  They had received nothing but bad publicity.  Fans were still angry about losing three viable arms for Todd Ritchie.  Fans were upset at how the promised “sure thing” AL Central championship had melted away by June.  Fans were angry at the lack of leadership from Gen. Disarray (Sox manager Jerry Manuel) and the early vote of confidence he was given by Prof. Chaos. 

About the only good news on the horizon was that Commissioner Budlight had promised his old pal The Chairman the 2003 All-Star Game.  The Sox advertising juggernaut got underway even before the last Sox out was made in Minnesota.  “Get your season tickets early and see the All-Star Game!” the Sox promised. 

Then nearly halfway into the month of October, the Sox let the other shoe drop.  Of course if you buy those season tickets, the price will be about 11 to 22 percent higher for those seats than they were in 2002.  If you want to walk up to buy your tickets, you not only wouldn’t have a shot at All-Star Game tickets, but you’d have to pay even more for your tickets than the season ticket holders.  Even the empty nosebleed seats in the upper deck will now cost $14.00, up from $12.00 in 2002. 

Yes, fan, here is true marketing genius!  Sox attendance is down.  The Sox are going for a family audience and are competing with minor league clubs whose top ticket prices are less than $10.00.  The Sox’ annual attendance is down from it’s highs in the early 1990s by just about the amount these teams are drawing. 

So what do the Sox do?  Do they find some way to make their product more attractive to families?  Do they at least justify their higher ticket prices by proclaiming that they will go out and sign a free agent like Greg Maddux? 

Not on your life!  These are the White Sox.  They see what they think is an opportunity to gouge the fans, just as they did by raising prices after the 2000 AL Central championship season, just as they did by attempting to sell tickets for the first-ever interleague series with the Cubs by tying their purchase to a three-game package. 

The Sox are raising prices during a very slow recovery from a recession.  They’re raising prices despite the fact that instead of four minor league clubs competing for the family audience next year there will be five with the opening of a new ball park in Gary, IN.  They’re raising prices despite lower attendance because they figure fans will do anything to see the All-Star Game, despite the ignominious end the 2002 game came to when both teams ran out of players. 

The end result of this will be predictable.  A number of season ticket holders will give up their tickets because they’re tired of paying for mediocrity on and off the field.  This number will be far greater than those who decide they absolutely have to see the All-Star Game and will buy higher priced tickets in order to do so. 

Walk-up sales, the bread and butter of the franchise, will be down as people decide it’s cheaper and more fun to go to Geneva, Schaumburg, Joliet, Crestwood, or Gary to watch a game.   

When it’s all over, attendance will be dramatically lower, and we all know what will happen then.  Salaries will be cut again, but ticket prices will not. 

And The Chairman and Prof. Chaos will blame the fans for not coming.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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