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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Shades of 2000

...and perhaps 1994, too?.

Two years ago, the White Sox got off to a great start. However, cynics like myself, were hesitant to invest any emotion in them. Memories like the collapse of September 1967, Jerry Dybzinski running the wrong way, and the 1994 strike made it hard not to expect the worst. Let the Sox play some great teams, we cynics said, and then weíll start dreaming of world championships.

Then in June the Sox went on a seven-game road trip through Cleveland and New York. Not only did the Sox go 7-0 on this incredible trip, they demolished the Yankees and Indians in every game, making two of the dominating American League teams of the late Ď90ís look like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The White Sox made their statement and were on their way to the Central Division title.

The beginning of this season was clouded with doubt. The pitching staff looked horrible in spring training. Obviously spring training is not always an indicator of future things. The 1966 Sox went 21-7 during the spring only to be non-contenders during the regular season. But then came the pitching woes in the first three games in Seattle and things looked bleak.

One way contending teams win championships is to pound lumps on the weak teams. The White Sox made mince meat out of Detroit and Baltimore. But Detroit and Baltimore were getting beaten by just about everybody. The hot starting Indians would provide bigger and better competition.

As in 2000, the Sox took it to Cleveland. It is still too early to get overly excited but itís hard to argue with the first place and a 15-7 record. And no matter how Cleveland rebounds, the Indians can no nothing to recover these six losses to the Sox.

So despite questions about defense and pitching, the White Sox have to be viewed as the favorites in the Central. They seem to have that 2000 swagger back. With this almost certain playoff berth, Chicago finally has a chance to host a World Series.

While great things seem to be dawning, 2002 also has a flavor of 1994. Although the owners have vowed that there will be no lockout, some analysts of the baseball labor situation are not ruling out a strike by the union. These analysts point out that the players donít make a great deal of money in the post-season while the opposite is true for the owners. If management continues to play hard ball, the only way the union would have true leverage would be to walk out late in the season and thus threaten the playoffs and the World Series. And apparently, the union isnít concerned that the fans would place blame on the players for this potential state of affairs.

In the short run, what does this mean for the Sox? Letís say attendance does improve and it looks like the Sox are a near lock in late July or early August. Will Jerry Reinsdorf be inclined to get a key player or two to get the team over the top to a world championship? I would imagine that if a strike appeared likely, Reinsdorf and many other owners would be leery of getting involved in trades. That could mean trouble especially if the Sox bullpen is showing wear because it is pitching three plus innings in many games.

In the long run, another strike when the team is in first place would be a disaster for the White Sox. Fan backlash was intense in 1995; it could be far worse if another World Series is cancelled or threatened in any way.

After watching the Sox take six of seven from Cleveland, Sox fans can have some guarded optimism. Maybe the pitching situation isnít as bad as we thought. Maybe there arenít enough strong teams in the American League that could put the Sox in any kind of prolonged slump this year. Or maybe it will be 1994 all over again.

Editor's Note:† Dan Helpingstine is a free lance writer living in Highland, Indiana.† In the early 80's, he worked as a stringer for The Times, then based in Hammond, Indiana, covering business-labor news.† For six years, he worked as a part-time sportswriter for the Merrillville Herald, a weekly that was a part of a chain of weeklies in Lake and Porter Counties.† He covered high school football and basketball.† In 1995, Helpingstine had a short story published in a murder mystery anthology entitled Murder Is My Business.† He also has had articles on the JFK murder published in the Post-Tribune of Gary.† His new book is titled "Through Hope and Despair."† It is the story of one fan's roller coaster ride with the luckless White Sox.

More features from Dan Helpingstine here!

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