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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

REAL Baseball Returns!

Have you had enough cute stuff, Chicago?  Friday afternoon REAL baseball returns to the Windy City.  Our team might not be the most talented, the highest paid, or from the best pedigree--but, dammit--all of us are on the same page about what is important.  To Win!

Chicago, welcome to South Side baseball--played to win.

The seemingly endless road odyssey for our Sox had begun long before opening day.  The team has been on the road two full weeks, with trips to Milwaukee, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City and Detroit.  Whatever the motives for putting the team through such a tiring trip so early in the season, they arrive home to host Baltimore, full of aspirations.

Once again our Sox have dug themselves a bit of a hole to start the season.  Unlike 2001 however, there is reason to hope this ball club won't stumble into the abyss that doomed last season.  For one, everyone knows these early spring games aren't merely the prelude to a successful season.  They are in fact, the entire season for any team that stumbles too badly.  As Mark Liptak pointed out in his earlier column, only 1 in 7 playoff teams the last six years had losing records in April.  Eight games in the month, the Sox are exactly 4-4.

They've played well enough to win six of those games.  That offers Sox Fans real hope--or real concern, depending how you look at it.

Ken Lofton has been phenomenal as the new leadoff man.  He already has five stolen bases and is reaching base nearly 4 out of every 10 trips to the plate.  Lofton's smart at-bats seem to have had a positive effect on our new #2 hitter, Ray Durham, too.  Ray has already drawn six walks and is currently batting .345.  If these two guys keep feeding off one another like this, it's going to be a glorious season on 35th Street.

The bottom of the line up has been impressive, too.  The real value of acquiring Lofton last winter was upgrading the bottom of the Sox order, too.  Carlos Lee appears to settling into the same groove that made him so dangerous in #6 and #7 holes in the championship 2000 season, too. Who knows what he might have achieved in 2001 had Jerry Manuel not been forced by injuries to move him into countless roles for the team.  Not only did his bat suffer, but his outfield defense became abominable, too.  Now with a steady role on Manuel's team again, El Caballo is hitting .313 and playing a much-improved left field, too.  He even laid down a successful bunt in Detroit!  Who is this guy, and where was he last year?  Great job!

After a slow start in Seattle, the middle of the line up is coming around.  Magglio Ordonez already has 19 total bases, and Frank Thomas has three dingers--including two ungodly shots into the distant seats at Comerica Park.  Those weren't 368-foot cheapies, Sox Fans!

After just eight games, just the mention of the Sox bullpen warming up is enough of Sox Fans' stomachs to start churning.  They've been brutal, and it's unclear if any hope for improvement lies in the future.  Yes, guys like injured Kelly Wunsch are due back, but can we expect them to be 100 percent?  Pitching coach Nardi Contreras is already hanging crepe and making excuses.

Now that's something we Sox Fans have come to expect. 85 years and waiting...

It will be weeks before we know how the young starting rotation will hold up.  Suffice to say, young guns like Jon Garland have to step up to give our Sox a chance at winning.  Sox Fans, let's cross our fingers, wait, and see.  

In his letter to season ticket holders last year, Jerry Reinsdorf explained his field staff had learned from their "mistakes" in 2001.  Presumably he was referring to the nearly compulsive, and counterproductive need to juggle line ups.  As expected, Jerry Manuel has largely fielded the same nine guys for each game.  He also has shown a stubborn nature to stick with those same ballplayers when strategy would dictate employing a pinch hitter.   Will his vote of confidence for these guys pay dividends for our Sox down the stretch?  Watch and see, Sox Fans.

With that exception, there is a real sense of urgency to perform well and win games amongst these 2002 Sox.  Last year's 14-29 start ruined  the season before it had hardly begun.  Maybe Chairman Reinsdorf's message was received by the ballplayers, too?

For Sox Fans, no such message has ever been necessary.  If we didn't care about winning, there wouldn't be much point to being a Sox Fan.  Chasing the elusive South Side baseball championship is all it's worth.

There is no comfort, or glory, in the excuses the city's other team always makes.  Dream big, Sox Fans.  That's how your dreams come true.

Sing that polka fight song with me!

Let's Go Go Go White Sox--Chicago's Proud of You!

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.

More features from George Bova here!

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