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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sobering facts for Sox Fans

I came across some interesting quotes this week and they both related to the possible future for this White Sox team. The first is from Sports Illustrated, and should give cause for sober reflection regardless of which side of the fence you pitch your tent, "optimist", "pessimist" or "realist"...

"of the 56 playoff teams since 1995, only eight had losing records in their first month. The chances of rebounding to a winning season are only slightly better, of the 96 teams that have finished above .500 since Ď95, only 20 had a losing first month. No first month loser has won the World Series."

So what does this mean for the Sox? Well for one thing it looks like you better hope the Sox finish April with a winning record if you expect them to play in October.

As far as what happens when (or if) the Sox get there, letís turn to Commissioner Bud Selig. 

"The record is clear. From 1995 through 2001, a total of 224 MLB postseason games were played. Only five were won by clubs whose payrolls were in the lower half of the industry. None advanced past the Division Series, and no team, other than those whose payrolls are in the top fourth of payroll, has won a World Series game during this period. The seven-year postseason record is 219-5 (a .978 winning percentage) in favor of the high payroll teams."

The Sox payroll right now stands at approximately 57 million dollars. Thatís not even in the top ten of Major League Baseball.

The facts revealed by these two statements isnít open to interpretation. They canít be twisted, flip flopped, folded, mutilated, or changed. The numbers say very clearly, if you want to get to October you have to win from the start, and if you want to get to a World Series, you better be ready to pay the price financially.

Whatís deeply disturbing to me about the play of the Sox after one week is this. The same mistakes are being made over and over again. They are the same mistakes that were made last season and in every season but one since the "White Flag" trade promised a brighter future.

In the four games the Sox lost, the bullpen imploded, base running mistakes were made and errors were plentiful. It was the same last year, in the second half of 2000, in 1999 and 1998. There is such a thing as a "good loss" and I havenít seen one yet from the White Sox. You can take some comfort in a well played 3-2 loss or a game where you get beat on a fluke play, but to lose when it looks like youíre playing on the level of a mediocre high school team is troubling.

A lot of comments from Sox Fans are echoing the same things..."what is going to happen to the pitching staff?... why donít they fire Nardi Contreras?... why donít they dump Royce Clayton?... when is Frank Thomas going to hit?... All are valid questions. There are also a bunch along the lines of "why donít the Sox DO something"

Letís take a look at that last question, exactly what is it that the Sox CAN do?

Given the payroll restraints incurred upon the club by Jerry Reinsdorf, given the inexperience in the position by General Manager Kenny Williams, given the fact that the pitching staff is composed of so many players coming off surgery or having less then two years in the Major Leagues, Iíd love to know what some fans except to happen ?

Complicating the issue even further is the fact that the Sox arenít the only team looking for help. If moves were going to be made, they needed to be made in Spring training when a window of opportunity was still open. Instead management said that the weather conditions in Tucson were responsible for the poor Spring of practically every pitcher on the roster. No question, that played a part, but donít you think it was a major risk to assume that everyone was suddenly going to start playing "lights out" when the calendar turned to April 1st?

In the first column I ever wrote for WSI, I listed some goals the Sox should have for 2002. The first one was "have a winning season.". That means winning 82 games so that when the season is over at least you have a bare minimum of something to feel good about. I still think the Sox have a decent chance to win the division but that grows less and less with every badly played loss. Iím not going to point fingers at the players or coaches as far as whoís responsible. Iíve no doubt they are trying as hard as they can, but you canít make a guy with a bad arm suddenly start throwing like Curt Schilling, you canít turn a bad outfielder into the second coming of Paul Blair and you canít turn a mediocre manager into the next Al Lopez.

A team, like a corporation, defines itself from ownership. Ownership and upper management should have looked honestly at the talent they had over the off season and reacted accordingly.

Perhaps ALL fans should also do the same.

This team isnít going to the World Series, they arenít going to win the pennant and they might not even win the division. Those are the overwhelming odds based on the numbers since 1995.and saying so doesnít make you a traitor, it doesnít mean youíre a bad person or that youíre incompetent. It means that you have the courage to stand by your beliefs even in the face of others who donít like what you say.

No one wants the Sox to win a championship this year more then writers like myself and others. Unfortunately we canít change what is. We canít turn water into wine no matter how hard we try and we canít do miracles. As George Burns said to John Denver in the movie "Oh God", "the last miracle I (God) did was the 1969 New York Mets, before that you have to go back to the Red Sea."

Donít shoot the messengers... aim the arrows at the ones who put the team in this position in the first place, and besides... not being willing to take a hard look at reality is so beneath all of us as to remind me of Cub fans--- and I know no Sox Fan can be that low.

As always, comments, questions and insults are always welcome. E-mail me at mliptak1@ida.net


Editor's Note:  Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work.  He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years.  "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

More features from Mark Liptak here! 

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