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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Curse the Ineptitude!
by Hal Vickery

I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed watching what I have of the American League Championship Series this year.  Unfortunately my viewing time has been somewhat limited by issues revolving around the inconveniences of moving into a new building this school year that haven’t been resolved yet that have led to my having to do extra work at home.   But what I have seen has been beyond my wildest dreams of all the misfortune that could possibly befall the Boston Red Sox and their fans. 

Boston fans love to pride themselves on their knowledge of the game.  And perhaps they do possess such knowledge.  However, all of that is lost in their wallowing in the mythical “Curse of the Bambino.” 

All this talk of curses is enough to make anyone gag.  This year we were informed that the “Curse of the Bambino” would be broken because the house once occupied by Babe Ruth’s first wife was being torn down even as the ALCS was getting underway.  Then there was a repeat of the story about the group that wants to recover and restore a piano that Ruth once dumped into a lake. 

The media has done its part in perpetuating these forays into the realm of idiocy.  They seem to encourage Red Sox fans to believe that their plight is the result of some curse rather than just a lack of talent.  Still even NPR, known for its rationalism, had a story on the Curse of the Bambino on their Morning Edition news program last week. 

What Red Sox fans need is a dose of reality.  Babe Ruth has been dead for 56 years.  Harry Frazee traded him to the Yankees 86 years ago.  The sad truth for Red Sox fans is much simpler than some curse.  The truth is that the Red Sox, while having a talented team, still lacks the talent level of their arch rivals.  The Yankees keep beating the Red Sox because they are a better team, and that’s not a curse. 

You don’t hear White Sox fans talking about a “Comiskey Curse.”  (Okay, maybe Rich Lindberg did mention such a thing in a weak moment.)  White Sox fans don’t talk about a “Black Sox Curse” or a “Curse of Buck Weaver” (except perhaps Dr. David Fletcher who is trying to get Weaver reinstated by MLB) or a “Curse of Shoeless Joe.”   

Sox fans are quite aware of why they have made the post season only four times since 1919.  It has nothing to do with curses and everything to do with bad management and lack of talent.   

When an owner spends like a middle market team in the nation’s third largest market, you don’t win championships.  When general managers put together teams they hope will keep them in contention so the might trade before the deadline for the missing pieces rather than filling the holes before the season starts, you don’t win championships.  When management quotes surveys stating that fans want likable players more than they want a winner, you don’t win championships. 

And that’s just current ownership.  We’re not even going into the owners who sold the future for a bunch of slow-footed aging sluggers, or whose goal was to do a little better than breaking even financially, or who were too tight to pay key players what they deserved.   

It has been a long 87 years, and right now we can only hope that somehow a White Sox owner will get the message that this was once a White Sox town.  That Sox fans demand more than lip service about “wanting a winner.”  Sox fans came out in droves last summer while the Sox were in contention.  That should send a message. 

Imagine how they would come out if the Sox put together a team that looked like a contender from the start!  Imagine how they would come out if the Sox didn’t start the year with at least three holes on the field and at least that many on the pitching staff.  Imagine how they would come out if just once the Sox didn’t look like they were put together using baling wire and sealing wax all held together by duct tape.

Of course as Sox fans, we all know this is too much to ask.  Already you can hear the pessimism coming from the fans.  They look at the money already committed to players and wonder how much will be made available to fill the holes in the starting rotation, bullpen and at least three defensive positions.  And they conclude that there will be no major money to spend to fill the gaping holes that were revealed in 2004. 

They conclude this because they know Sox owners are cheap.  The Sox have had precious few periods in their history where the owners either couldn’t or wouldn’t spend the money necessary to put together a championship caliber team.  It has always been that way, and this ownership has given them no reason to believe anything will change. 

Many fans are aware that the cheapness doesn’t just encompass what they pay the players.  The last experience general manager the Sox had was Roland Hemond, who was fired after the 1985 season and replaced by novice Ken Harrelson, who was replaced by novice Larry Himes (who at least recognized talent), who was replaced by Ron Schueler (who thought that Point C was the same as Point A), and now Kenny Williams.  All have had to undergo on-the-job training. 

On the field the last manager with any previous experience the Sox have employed was Jeff Torborg.  He was replaced by novice Gene Lamont, who was replaced by novice Terry Bevington, who was replaced by novice Jerry Manuel, who was replaced by novice Ozzie Guillen.  

 I guess you can at least give credit to The Chairman for one thing.  None of those GMs were Gord Ash, and none of the managers were Dusty Baker. 

You also have to give credit to Sox fans, too.  They realize that none of this futility has anything to do with a curse. 


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.

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