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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

The Scent of October!

by
Guy Bacci

Somewhere between the time Torii Hunter snapped his ankle in Boston, effectively ending the Twins’ season, and Rafael Palmeiro tarnished his legacy for eternity by landing on the steroid suspension list, Sox fans started to allow themselves to indulge in a glorious realization: Playoffs are coming to the Southside this fall.

Oh sure, the division is far from clinched. And yes, the Indians have been playing surprisingly well as of late. But with a 12-game lead in the middle of August, the odds have to be somewhere around 98-percent that the White Sox will be Central Division champs. With those kinds of odds, it’s okay to get your October juices flowing just a bit. After all, there won’t be much of a football season in Chicago this year thanks to the fragile frame of Wonder Boy Rex, so why not start anticipating a little postseason baseball?

Few moments in life conjure up outright giddiness, and most of those happen to us before age of 20—the anticipation of ripping into presents on Christmas morning, the thrill of ringing the doorbell to pick up your first date, the anxiety of moving out of the house and into your first dorm room. It’s those uneasy moments with such grand possibilities that we remember forever. But as time passes and life becomes routine, those promising occasions are few and far between. There’s a sudden lack of unexpected surprises.

But the ’05 White Sox are just that—a wonderfully unexpected surprise. Which is why so many people love baseball—you never know what’s going to come out of spring training. There’s always a surprise or two, and you hope your team is it. And when your club is lucky enough to get into the playoffs, you’re in for an emotional ride, whether it be a good one or a bad one.

It’s the best postseason in sports. How many true underdogs have won the NBA championship or the Super Bowl? The past three World Series winners were all wild cards.

Of course, Sox fans are hoping the wild-card streak comes to an end this season. And it very well might. But please don’t confuse reasonable excitement with excessive fantasizing. Daydreaming about a World Series is child’s play. Save those dreams for years when the Sox are under .500 and you need something sweet to think about it. This year, allow yourself to get pumped about the real-life roller coaster that you’ll soon be boarding.

Even the miserable sweep at the hands of the Mariners in 2000 was worth every second. For about five long days, we were worried, panicked, angry and excited all at the same time. And we’ll never forget it. Same goes for ’93, or ’83. And soon ’05 will be added to that exclusive list. We’re all hoping the panic attack lasts a little longer than five days this time around.

Is this group built for the playoffs, or are they just a brilliantly constructed regular-season team? Will the lack of a left-handed bat kill the offense, or will Crazy Carl keep driving in clutch runs? Will Tadahito Iguchi remain a stoic force of production, or fumble in the glare of the spotlight? Will the Sox amazing pitching staff continue to throw lights-out, or will the mighty bats of Ramirez and Ortiz and Guerrero and Chavez be too much?

A seemingly encouraging sign is the recent performance on the East Coast. In a trio of nail-biting games against the Yankees, the Sox stole two of them. They didn’t allow themselves to be intimidated or distracted—even by a fan falling out of the upper deck and into the netting behind home plate late in the second game. And if there was any question as to whether Sox pitchers could hold up against a strong lineup, the answer is yes. They allowed just five runs in the entire series.

Of course, the offense only scored six. But that’s how these Sox do it—with just enough. And you wonder if that formula will hold up come October. Nothing seems to be more heartening than the 10-inning victory in the finale at Yankee Stadium. Juan Uribe, who had looked miserable while striking out in three previous at bats, smoked a one-out triple off World Series hero Mariano Rivera. Scott Podsednik followed with a grounder to first base that forced Uribe to make a daring slide into home. Uribe was safe, and the Sox were 2-1 winners.

If the defensive can keep the Sox in playoff games, the offense is capable of striking at any moment. Individually, the Sox don’t scare anybody. Nobody in the starting lineup has put up big numbers. But everyone on the team seems capable of delivering a heroic hit, from AJ to Jermaine to Uribe to Gooch to Crede (yeah, even him). So while the Sox likely won’t be winning any postseason games 11-3, they have enough potential heroes to win 3-2 or 4-3 or 6-5.

Even though the Sox struggle against Oakland, Boston appears to pose the biggest threat. For starters, it’d help if Crede would catch a few pop-fouls. But more importantly, Ozzie Guillen has to instruct his staff to pitch around David Ortiz. Over the past 12 months, the world has watched Ortiz deliver more clutch homers than anybody in the game. Take your chances with Manny Ramirez.

But frankly, even if it comes to Ortiz mashing a game-winning homer into the Bullpen Sports Bar on a gorgeous fall evening, we’ll be watching with joyful anguish on our faces. Because it’ll mean we’re watching baseball in October, and win or lose, nothing beats that.


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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