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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Grasp the concept...
Go For It!


by
Guy Bacci

It had come to this... lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, visions of bright blue uniforms hustling around the bases in the October night. The Cubs were about to put away the Florida Marlins and reach the World Series for the first time since 1945. I was fearful I would never be able to erase the ugly images from my mind: Doug Glanvilleís pinch-hit triple, Kenny Lofton scoring another run, Aramis Ramirez launching another ball out of the park, a mob of Cubbie fans scurrying for another souvenir on Waveland Avenue Ė- images that tortured my soul. Images that seemed to sink a team called the White Sox deeper into the pit of triviality.

After the Cubsí miraculous Game 3 victory, I get a call from an old friend of mine, a Cubs fan who has lived and died with the Baby Bears since he was an infant. Heís overjoyed. Heís bursting at the seams. And he doesnít even rub in the fact that the Sox could have been in this postseason party too, had they not gagged down the stretch. And then it hits me: Iím not tortured by the Cubsí success. Iím tortured by the Sox lack of it.

I know this is true, because I still feel the pain even after the Cubs choked away a 3-1 NLCS lead. I still feel empty, even after watching the lovable losers and their not-so-lovable fans sulk home after Wednesday nightís loss. I am downright disgruntled because the Cubs managed to get themselves on the national stage, while the Sox did not. Itís time to turn things around in Soxville, or there are going to be consequences.

How many times did the Sox have a competitive team in the Ď90s, only to come up short? The one time they broke the bank Ė- in 1997 with Albert Belle Ė- they overpaid and didnít pursue the best free agent available, Roger Clemens. However, they did manage to steal the insanely overvalued Jamie Navarro from the Cubs, and then foolishly taunt the Cubs by launching an ad campaign near Wrigley Field. It was a shoddy and shameful attempt at winning over new fans, which proved hopeless when the Sox stumbled out of the gate. Belle and Navarro flopped, and we all know what happened later in í97. †

Enough about the past. Back to the present. The Cubs nearly reached the World Series, which would be tolerable if the Sox were part of the playoff equation. Red flags should be popping up all over the offices of the White Sox. Think of the many young fans who have been enchanted by the Cubsí run for the title. Think of how the Cub fan base has been growing larger and larger after each Kerry Wood strikeout (or each Kerry Wood homerun, for that matter). And the Sox fan base? Well, it could have been growing, too. Imagine the hype if both Chicago teams made a run in the playoffs. Imagine the inter-city wars between fans. Imagine the Sox beating the Cubs to the Fall Classic and imagine how many young fans would become enchanted with the Sox instead of the Cubs.

Sadly, it wasnít that far from reality. After Kenny Williams pulled off the brilliant trade for Bartolo Colon, I was sure the Sox would go for it in 2003. How about a #5 starter to secure the rotation? Like Kenny Rogers or Jeff Suppan? How about a full-time centerfielder? Nope. Amazingly, the Sox stayed pat through spring training, allowing their division rivals to acquire Rogers. Williams tried his best to patch the holes during the season, but the Sox organization was so cheap, they forced Williams to relinquish a ton of prospects in order to get Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett. The Sox did not have to pay a penny of eitherís contract. In the meantime, the Cubs payroll ballooned to over $90 million while they built a team that would eventually reach the NLCS and capture Chicagoís heart.

I tend to think Jerry Reinsdorf gets an unfair rap. People seem to forget that heís responsible to his shareholders. But letís face reality: The gauntlet has been thrown. Cub Mania could sweep this town for years to come, worse than it ever has before. Where will the Sox fit? They need to get serious about going for it all, or they might as well pack up and move to Portland. Instead of signing one big free-agent and calling it a day, how about putting together a complete team that could challenge for a title? The AL Central will once again be eminently winnable. The Twins will likely lose some key free agents, and the Royals will not get another amazing season from the obnoxious Jose Lima. The division will be up for grabs. But the Sox need five solid starters, not four. They need four dependable relievers, not three. They need a centerfielder who can catch the ball and reach base. They need a first baseman who can run a tad faster than a snail on tranquilizers.

Unfortunately, putting together the whole package is going to be tougher in 2004 than it would have been in 2003. Colon will demand nearly $15 million. Mark Buehrle and Carlos Lee will get raises through arbitration. Magglio Ordonezís contract jumps to $14 million. Tom Gordon will no longer be a cast off, and Esteban Loaiza wonít be making six figures. Itís going to require a payroll near the Cubsí $90 million range to put together a title contender and steal some of the young fans who have become mesmerized by the Cubs. But it can be done. I was a Cubs fan once, when I was only nine years old. That was in 1984. I made the switch the very next year because the Cubs sucked. But the Cubs are not going to suck in 2004. The Cubs are going to be good for a long time. †

And the Sox? I guess weíll find out.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.† He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.† His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).† Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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