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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

The Season Not Played

by George Bova

Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball and its fans cling to a series of adages, tried and trued through over a century of championship campaigns. With nearly a third of the season now played, the 2006 Sox have shown tremendous promise. A few of these age old baseball adages ought to bring comfort -- and a bit of fear, too, -- to every Sox Fan.

Adage #1. You can't win the division in April, but you can sure lose it.
To state the obvious, the Kansas City Royals are already effectively eliminated from the 2006 pennant chase. Ditto for Florida, Pittsburgh, and a certain other pathetic outfit. What might not be so obvious is how many other teams middling around .500 have already sealed their fate, too. Look no further than the ultimate fate suffered by last year's Cleveland Indians. Here was the hottest team in all of baseball the last two months of the 2005 season, yet they missed the playoffs. Sure, we Sox Fans can pound our chests over how our team finished the Tribe off with a 3-game sweep to end the season and knock Cleveland out of the wild-card they figured to win. But the truth is, Cleveland lost their playoff spot playing .500 ball over the first half of the season. It was those losses four months earlier that cost them a ticket to the post-season.

Don't ever kid yourself about the importance of these early-season games. Teams in first-place in April usually make the playoffs, and teams in first-place at the end of May are anything but flukes. Barring major injuries, Detroit figures to be tough all season. Sox Fans taking this team lightly are only setting themselves up for major disappointment.

Adage #2. Every team will win one-third and lose one-third of their games, it's the middle-third that determines each team's season.
If Adage #1 has terminally worried Sox Fans ready to jump out the window, Adage #2 ought to bring some comfort. It is certainly possible the Detroit Tigers could sail through the next four months of the season winning 69 percent of their games just like they won 69 percent of the first two months of the season. However history says they are far more likely to cool off and wind up with a more conventional win total someplace on the south side of 100 wins, not the incredible 111 wins that has the terminally worried Sox Fans already climbing onto the ledge.

Meanwhile the Sox have managed to keep right behind Detroit, now just one game behind in the loss column, the only column worth worrying about since everyone will have played 162 games when the season ends. Which brings us to...

Adage #3. Being in first-place only matters on the last day of the season.
The 2005 White Sox were one of only a small handful of ballclubs in MLB history to be in first-place the entire length of the regular season. Yet anyone who spent any time with Sox Fans last summer knows too well how much angst was suffered following this team to such places as Oakland, Anaheim, Minnesota, and yes even Tampa Bay Here was a team that achieved an extraordinary level of consistent success -- and the tears of fear from Sox Fans still fell in epic quantity. Terminally worried Sox Fans lose sight of the plain fact first-place is no substitute for winning something worth winning: a championship.

First-place is where the worrying is the most intense, not because of the pressure to win, but the pressure to meet expectations. You're in first-place, you're suppose to win!

All the days spent in first-place aren't worth a bucket of warm goo unless there is a payoff -- a championship payoff. And thus there is another adage to consider...

Adage #4. No team ever won the division in June. Or July. Or August either.
There is no trophy ceremony in June. There is no champagne clubhouse party in July. There are no tear-filled hugs of joy to be found in August. Every Sox Fan might as well just get used to the fact right now that no matter how much they fret, the 2006 season won't feature a championship celebration of any kind -- for the Sox or anyone else -- until sometime in September. Check the calendar, folks. That's still over three months away.

How will the Sox spend the next three months? This is baseball! They will play a new game nearly every day, a schedule of games that is fully twice as long as the Bulls' or Blackhawks' and a whopping ten-times longer than the Bears'.

There will be drama in this season of games ten-times longer than what the NFL serves up. Book it. And furthermore, get used to it. It will happen whether you like it or not.

Adage #5. Teams that cruise through the season with no competition often find October the most disappointing month.
Besides getting used to the drama of the regular season, Sox Fans ought to embrace the drama. If Detroit weren't here to make the season interesting, what would push the Sox to become an even tougher battle-hardened outfit? Count me as one Sox Fan who feels the late surge by Cleveland is precisely what the 2005 White Sox needed to propel them to October glory. Winning those last three games of the 2005 season at Jacobs Field were the perfect tune up for the short playoff series against defending champion Boston... and on to Anaheim... and so forth to Houston.

And if the example of the glory of the 2005 White Sox isn't enough proof, consider the crashing disappointment of the 1983 White Sox, a ballclub that ran away with a record margin of victory to clinch the division. That 20-game winning margin they amassed was worth exactly ZERO once post-season games began -- a point Tito Landrum and the Baltimore Orioles made in dramatic fashion. The memories are very bitter indeed...

Cleveland was last year's challenge but so far shows very little for 2006. Minnesota is missing the bats to compete, and Kansas City is dead. So why not Detroit? This is tradition-rich franchise, no expansion or carpetbagging outfit. They have pitching and they have Magglio, too. Having suffered with some truly terrible teams the last several years, this season they talk in Detroit about "restoring the roar".

Hey Detroit, bring it. Chicago is ready.

Fear no one.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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