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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Big Games!

by
Guy Bacci

For much of the summer, it appeared Green Day had written a wildly successful pop song especially for White Sox fans: “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” You couldn’t blame Sox fans for wearing out the fast-forward button on their TiVo remotes. The games had seemingly become meaningless by mid-July, and the Sox themselves began to appear somewhat disinterested. Sights had reasonably been set on October. By the time August rolled around, the Southsiders were 15 games up in the Central, and an excruciating two months of inconsequential baseball stood in front of them and playoff ecstasy. Sox fandom was collectively hitting the snooze button and taking Green Day’s lyrics to heart.

It’s mid-September now, and instead of snoring sweetly until October, Sox fans are wide awake. Nobody expected a four-alarm fire to disturb the peaceful slumber.

Pouring gasoline onto that fire are the Cleveland Indians, owners of a 31-11 record since August—the best in the majors. While the Sox themselves have had a lousy second-half, they haven’t been bad enough to shrink 12 games off their lead in a matter of six weeks. Yet that’s nearly what has happened. Heading into Sunday, the lead was down to 3.5, and panic was firmly entrenched in the guts of most Sox fans.

Not everyone is worried, though. There are the consistent optimists, who would point out that the Sox have dominated the Tribe this season to the tune of a 10-3 record, and six head-to-head games still remain against Cleveland. They’d also note that the Sox play Detroit four more times—another team the Pale Hose have owned in ’05.

But the cruel reality is that the Sox aren’t the same team they were earlier in the season, even against teams they previously conquered. After going 12-3 against Kansas City, the Sox laid an enormous egg in the final series, losing two out of three at the worst possible time.

A frightening fact is that even when the Sox win, it feels like they haven’t. Their 6-4 victory in the opening of the last K.C. series was a gift from the hapless Royals. Two costly errors allowed the Sox to escape with a win. Friday in Minnesota, the Sox stranded the bases loaded with nobody out in the 10th, but luckily held on to a 2-1 victory. Remember when the Sox were the sacrifice-fly kings of the first-half? Lately, they’re the kings of stranding runners on third base, especially with less than two outs.

The Dark Clouds have certainly overtaken the sky, and they’re looking smarter and smarter each day. It’s damn near impossible to argue that this team will have any prayer come playoff time. Sadly, it’s starting to feel more and more like the end of 2000, when pitching concerns became apparent and the club appeared lackluster heading into the post-season. The once-awesome Sox staff of ’05 has been in shambles: Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia have four wins since August. Dustin Hermanson has been throwing nothing but gopher balls. Orlando Hernandez—the man hired to win games in October—hasn’t reached the fourth inning in his past two starts.

But there may be a crack of sunlight amidst the gloom: Unlike the 2000 club, this team is suddenly forced to play critical games in late September. The upcoming home stand against the Indians should have an insane, playoff-like atmosphere (assuming Sox fans aren’t scared out of their wits and decide to MAKE SOME NOISE). The experience from such a series can have a crucial effect. For starters, the Sox could regain their confidence. They could also wake up and smell the coffee. If they can’t do that with the red-hot Indians in town, they may as well stay home this fall.

I can’t think of a more critical September series in my 20 years as a Sox fan. The battle with the Twins in 2003 was certainly memorable, but much more is at stake this time around. The Sox are already becoming a nationwide punch line. Sports fans across the country are sensing one of the biggest collapses in history. Have pity on Brooks Boyer if the tragedy happens. For as many fans as the Sox have gained throughout 2005, they could easily lose twice as many if the team crumbles in the final two weeks.

But such miserable thoughts can be saved for darker days. For now, it’s time to focus on the biggest games of the year. It’s time to wake up the entire Southside, fans and players alike.

The plotline has taken a sudden twist. There’ll be no snoozing until October. There are 13 more days in September, and with apologies to Green Day, Sox fans will be wide awake for every one of ‘em.


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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