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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Five Years after White Flag

Heading Toward Where?

The fifth anniversary of the 1997 White Flag Trade is only days away.† Supporters of the trade have maintained that the White Sox really had no choice but to make the trade and that Sox fans should get over it.† The veterans swapped in the deal were not going to be re-signed, and besides, what has Wilson Alvarez done for you or anyone else recently?† Additionally, the Sox did their best to get something in return for players they were certain to lose.†

Whether these arguments are true or not, the trade made on July 31, 1997 has to go down as one of true turning points in franchise history.† Jerry Reinsdorf staked his and teamís reputation on the notion that tearing down a team was the best way to rebuild it.† He got some vindication when the Sox won the Central Division Title in 2000.

However, a World Series is what many fans want, not a first place finish with a quick playoff exit.† 1 Ĺ disappointing seasons after the division championship, the White Flag Trade is still a symbol of the teamís inability to win at a consistent pace.† Now the teamís credibility has sunken to new lows with the Twins running away with the Central.† In my opinion three things must happen to save the situation: Kenny Williams and Jerry Manuel should be fired, a strike or lock out must be averted, and the team must make peace with its fans.†

For all I know, Williams may develop into a great GM someday, but he hasnít proven it so far.† Wells.† Clayton.† Alomar.† Lofton.† Ritchie.† These are all Williamsí acquisitions.† None of these players have made any contributions to team.† It is one thing to make a mistake here and there.† Aggressive front office people will do that.† But it is obvious from this track record that Williams has made more than one mistake.† It is simply time for him to go.

Manuel must also take a hike.† Though I donít dislike him to the intensity as many others, I have not seen him do anything to salvage this situation.† Besides, if the GM leaves, I think it would be a good idea to get a new field manager as well.† Get two guys who at least will be on the same page.† Just look at what happened with Ken Harrelson and Tony LaRussa.†

Disgruntled Sox fans are almost hoping for a strike.† The team has become unbearable to watch.† Yet a strike would hurt this franchise in the long run even it put its fans out of their misery in the short run.† If the baseball establishment thought the backlash to 1994 strike was bad, wait for fan reaction to a 2002 work stoppage.† Every indication is that fans, even the most die-hard fans, will not put up with another strike or lockout.† The Sox already have attendance problems.† They donít need any more.†

Speaking of the fans, the White Sox are still complaining about fan apathy.† They have been doing that for years, and there is no evidence this complaining has helped.† In fact, from attendance figures, it has shown it has only hurt.† Regardless, the team is in no position to complain about anything.† The Sox are collapsing, and lukewarm fan support has nothing to do with it.†

From all appearances, it doesnít look like the Sox will not do any of these things.† Williams and Manuel look like they are secure in their positions.† We really wonít know about the labor situation until the arbitrator decides on contraction.† And improved team-fan relations?† I see no change there.

Until I see the team take some decisive action, I can only draw one of two conclusions.† One, they are truly not interested in winning and they believe they can make more money with a lower payroll and relatively low attendance.† Or the Sox will head toward contraction if the owners get their way on that issue.† Is it possible that Reinsdorf and his stockholders can make more money from Major League Baseball if the team is contracted than if sold on the open market?† Obviously neither possibility bodes anything good for Sox fans.†

2002 is not just disappointing season.† It is just another turning point in a series of turning points since the team blew a great opportunity to go to the World Series in 1967.† Do they really want to win and thrive in Chicago?† Only Jerry Reinsdorf knows for sure.

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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