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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Good Enough for Now!
by Hal Vickery

Okay, the Sox are in first place by a game-and-a-half. But that doesnít mean I donít have to worry. After all, thatís the lot in life of anyone who has been a Sox fan for longer than five years.

Since I last checked in two weeks ago, a couple of patterns seem to be emerging. One is that maybe the bullpen isnít as strong as we thought. After all Octavio Dotel hasnít looked good in his last couple of outings and Bobby Jenks has stumbled a couple of times, too, although in the most recent case, he got out of it..

Another is that as this is written, the Sox are playing .500 ball at home. This is not a good thing. In fact a .500 home record is something you expect of a bad team, not a contender. A good teamís home record should be at least .600 if not better. You expect that and a record of .500 or a little better on the road. Right now the Sox are 7-4 on the road. Thatís a reversal of what youíd expect, and at least for me cause for concern.

Still, a 1.5 game lead is a 1.5 game lead, and Iíll take it for now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After I finish this column, Iíll be heading to The Cell for my first Sox game of the 2008 season. My schedule this season has been curtailed for a couple of reasons. One is that as a teacher, I canít afford the prices the Sox are now charging. Iím paying more than double what I did a few years ago, and my salary hasnít doubled. So Iíve cut my games about in half.

I guess thatís the unfortunate thing about this era of high player salaries. Ticket prices will always be at whatever rate the market can bear, but considering the tough economic times, perhaps 2008 was not a good time to raise prices yet again. Still, the Sox have one of the higher team salaries in Major League Baseball, so they have to do something to make payroll.

It does seem odd to raise prices on the heels of a 72-90 record, though. Iíve heard stories of a number of longtime season ticket holders who have let go of their tickets because they can no longer afford them. Time will tell if this turns into an epidemic.

No one is sure right now of the ultimate duration or depth of the nationís current economic woes. I donít think anyone is thinking it will be anywhere near as severe as the great depression of the 1930s, but baseball took a huge hit during those years as many clubs played of crowds numbering in the hundreds.

The point is that most fans who attend games would be considered middle class, and in uncertain economic times, the middle class will entrench itself to survive economically until the economy improves.

This bodes ill for most entertainment venues, including major league baseball. In the Ď30s, people stayed home and listened to their radios or spent a dime to go to a movie if they could afford it. Iíll be interested in seeing how the economy affects baseball attendance, particularly since ticket prices keep rising.

In a moment of weakness last week, I turned on a sportsblab station. A caller griped about the small April weeknight crowd of 27,000 against the Yankees in a game he had attended. If the economy doesnít improve soon, I would expect 27,000 to be a large crowd at most ballparks.

Baseball fans are using their disposable income. If their economic security is threatened, fans will use their discretionary spending in another way. There is one thing of which we can be certain. Very few people will be spending their tax rebate checks at the ballpark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the Sox played Tampa Bay recently, I took the opportunity to listen in on one of the Raysí broadcasts. It was good to hear Dave Willsí voice again. I hope the Rays fans know what a gem they have in their broadcast booth (assuming there are Rays fans, which is a pretty big assumption based on their attendance).

I wonít go into my usual rant about the Sox broadcast booth, primarily because there is a lot of improvement this year. Steve Stone has made Ed Farmer bring his A game to the booth, and the result has been a huge improvement in the Sox broadcasts on The Score. I even think I heard the score a couple of times when I had to listen to an inning or two of the game the other day, and thatís a vast improvement.

So kudos to Steve Stone, and hereís hoping that the Sox keep you for years to come.

______________________________________________________________________

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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