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WSI News - Season Features

September, 2000.  One Sox Fan's plea to keep faith with the 2000 team. 

Chicago Baseball Fans' Hopes

by John Dainis

Am I the only one out there, or has anyone else noticed what the White Sox have accomplished this year?  As I sit at my desk and write this column on my computer, our Southside team once again holds the best record in all of baseball.  This year, there won't be any fishing trips planned when October rolls around.  That's right, only 25 or so more games to go, and everyone can let out that sigh of relief.  It should be pretty obvious by now that the 2000 White Sox are for real.  We've been counted out time and time again, yet we're still 7 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.

Throughout a long baseball season, a team has its ups and downs, and you know we've had ours.  But even after all that they've accomplished, they are still able to move forward and have fun.  When you see these guys through the course of the season, you can see that they are having the time of their lives by just looking at their faces.  Without even knowing it, they've brought hope back to Chicago.  Finally, Chicagoans can once again cheer on their boys of summer, in a city that was and is meant for baseball.  But something that is even more encouraging for White Sox fans these days is the fact that this isn't just a one-year thing.  This team is going to be around for a while, a long while.  That's because the Sox have finally reached a point where they're committed to every individual part that makes up a first class organization.  That's making an effort to always put a good Major League team out on the field, developing young players in the minor leagues, spending money to attract baseball's more talented free agents, and working towards improving the team's venue, Comiskey Park.  All of which are in the works, or already taking place.  The team obviously didn't get to this point overnight.  It has taken a few years for this team to get back on its feet.  Let's face it, after the strike season of 1994, you could say that the Sox have has some rough times, having been to Hell and back in so many words.

The real transformation from mediocre to contender can be linked back to the 1997 season.  That, of course, was the year of the infamous White Flag trade that delighted so many fans.  But seriously, that really was the turning point for the White Sox, whether we like to admit it or not.  In that trade, we acquired six unproven, but very talented prospects from the Giants.  At the time, it might have seemed like a step backward in the wrong direction, but it was only one part of GM Ron Schueler's master plan.  What he had decided to do was go young, and scrap plans of building a team for a year or two at a time.  His vision was to assemble a team made up of young talent, and let them develop and grow in the Major Leagues.  Mistakes and mental lapses were to be expected, but the rewards could be endless.  By going with younger players, Schueler just might be able to assemble a team for six or seven years.  The plan that the Sox were using, however, wasn't new.  It was rather a borrowed blueprint of what the Atlanta Braves had done in the early 1990's.  They too built a foundation of young players and filled in the holes with free agency and trades.  The Sox are more than halfway done with that process, having traded for Paul Konerko, Chris Singleton, Cal Eldred, Jose Valentin, Charles Johnson, and Harold Baines.  Their biggest success, though, has come from developing their own players like Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee, Mike Sirotka, and James Baldwin.  It also didn't hurt to already have a veteran superstar in the form of Frank Thomas, who has gotten back to the level of dominance that he has enjoyed for most of his career. 

When really looking deeper into the organization, the scouting department should get most of the credit for the way that the team looks today.  The Sox have really strengthened themselves through a number of drafts and trades.  Schueler's staff of scouts have also been able to find special players that no other team seemed to want, and turned them into everyday Major League ballplayers.  Going out and finding talent in so many ways has really benefited the Sox in their endeavors to get better.  By being very deep on pitching, the Sox are positioning themselves for many different trade avenues.  It's always better to be able to have more talented players than you can use.  You'll have many more options as a result and become stronger overall.

Another part that makes up a first class organization is the stadium that it provides for its team and its fans.  Comiskey Park is home to our White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be a very comforting place for Chicago's fans.  While it's a fairly new stadium, it doesn't appeal to very many people.  This is where the Sox seem to be the most vulnerable.  We're in an unfortunate situation where a team with the best record in baseball has to play at a half empty stadium every night.  Every fan has their own reasons why they don't go the park, but the universal answer would probably be that the stadium is generic.  It doesn't seem to have the same traditional feel that Oriole Park or Wrigley Field has.  But this is the part of the article where I can say that there is some good news.  The Sox are finally taking steps towards renovating the nine-year old park.  The first phase of plans for the renovation aren't very dramatic, but they should help a lot.  And there is also a good chance that more phases will be added to the renovation.  Expect the upper deck and main entrance to be redone before the start of 2003 season, when the All-Star game comes to town.  Though the changes may be hard to imagine right now, they will be there.  These changes are what will put the Sox over the top as an organization.  So, that's definitely something to look forward to, and something to be excited about.

It's nice to look forward to the years ahead for this team, but we shouldn't look to far ahead.  We'll have all winter to talk about what the team needs to improve on and whom they should target in free agency.  But for right now, we should concentrate on the 2000 version of the White Sox.  For the first time in a long while, the Sox are actually being considered a legitimate contender for the World Series.  I know that a lot of people reading this article right now think that's b.s., but it's not.  Why can't we win a World Series championship?  Is it because we have an inexperienced pitching staff?  Is it because we have a porous defense?  Well, whatever your response may be, that all changes in the postseason.  Once you get into October, guys start competing on a much higher level.  Yes, the White Sox do have their weaknesses, but so does everyone else.  The New York Yankees are likely to be the favorite to win it all, but the beautiful thing about baseball is that there aren't any guarantees.  If there were, the Indians would be leading the Central Division right now, not us.  I'm not going sit here and give you reason after reason to believe in the White Sox, but I will ask you to at least give them a chance.  Don't count them out before they've even started.

Back to 2000 Champions!


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