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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Fat Lady warming up

The fat lady is standing on the stage, the ensemble is looking at her, and she is opening her mouth as the orchestra concludes the introduction to her aria.  The 2003 season is all but over for the Sox, and as it concludes more and more is coming out about the ineptitude of Jerry Manuel, aka Gen. Disarray. 

Last Thursday, the general had a closed door pre-game meeting with this team.  This was his first such meeting of the 2003 season.  That’s right.  The first.

No team meeting after the Sox were swept in the season-opening series in Kansas City.  No team meeting after the Sox disastrous April and May.  No team meeting after the disastrous road trip to Tampa Bay, Detroit and Cleveland just before the All-Star break. 

No team meeting to set things straight with the club last month when he decided to pitch rookie Neal Cotts instead of Mark Buehrle, allowing a loss instead of a sweep in that series.  No team meeting after the second game of the last home series against the Twins in which he left Jose Paniagua for a four run shelling in the ninth inning.

 No team meeting before the following road series against the Twins to emphasize the importance of winning at least two games and the far better position a sweep would put them in.  No team meeting after the first game to explain why he pitched Esteban Loaiza, who was described by clubhouse reporters as being at “twenty-five to fifty percent” instead of a rested Jon Garland and to re-emphasize the importance of taking the last two games. 

The general did meet briefly with his troops the next night following the second loss in the series.  He noted that the Sox still had “a slim chance of winning.”  That should have really inspired his men to run through walls for him. 

When he finally did hold his closed door session with the team, he was able to find one example of a comeback for them to hang their hats on:  the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals.  Of course it took the complete collapse of the Phillies that year for the Cards to win the NL pennant on the last day of the season.  One can only wonder how many of the Sox think the Twins are going to collapse in their remaining games against the Tigers and Indians. 

Rumors are now flying that Gen. Disarray will be sent packing at the end of the season.  Let’s all hope this is the case and that The Chairman finds a non-critical position for the general within the organization or just eats the salary for the remaining year on his contract. 

Let’s also hope The Chairman gets over his idea that anyone can manage a major league team.  His last three managers, Gene Lamont, Terry Bevington, and the general (aka Curly, Larry, and Moe) have all had to undergo on-the-job training.  This is not what the Sox and their fans deserve.  They deserve an experienced manager with a proven track record whose name is not Bobby Valentine (who would be an unmitigated disaster). 

Let’s also hope The Chairman decides the Sox do not need a complete housecleaning.  The one thing that would definitely drive fans away after this year’s disaster would be a revival of “The Kids Can Play.”  This scenario is improbably, however, since GM Kenny Williams has been using prospects to obtain players in the hope of winning now. 

Finally, let’s also hope The Chairman gets over his notion that the Sox are a small market club.  The turnout of the fans when the Sox looked as if they had a chance should show him that what he has said to the media in the past is actually true.  If the Sox appear to be committed to putting a winner on the field, the fans will come out.   

Sox attendance this year will be around 1.8 million.  Imagine what they might have drawn if the Sox had actually had a winning record before June. 

The Chairman needs to recognize the fact that if you’re going to market to a family audience, the first two months of the season are critical for attendance.  If the club has a losing record on Memorial Day, as they have the past three seasons, the mom and dad, unless they are diehard fans, aren’t going to feel much like coming out during the vacation months of June, July, and August.   

The relatively poor attendance of the Sox, whose attendance is ninth of the fourteen clubs in the American League, is due in great part to Gen. Disarray’s tinkering with lineups during the months preceding the All-Star break.  Imagine what this year’s crowds would have been if the Sox had managed to have a winning record by Memorial Day and appeared to be in the hunt for a Division Championship before late July. 

Despite the general, Sox attendance is already up from the past two years and is not all that far below that of the 2000 division championship year when the general actually went with a set lineup from the start of the season. 

This year could be a watershed year for the Sox.  Despite a lousy start, the fans came out.  Despite the general putting out eighty-four lineups in the first eighty-seven games, the Sox contended until the next to last week of the season.   

With a new manager and a new attitude, with a general manager who is committed to winning, and with a manager who actually communicates his expectations to the team, the White Sox baseball could be poised for a renaissance.   

All the fans need to jump on the bandwagon is a demonstration of a commitment by the ownership of this club to win.  Step one is to get rid of the dead wood.  

The first piece to get rid of is the guy who needed Carlos Lee to remind him to put in a pinch runner in the ninth inning last Thursday night. 


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 hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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