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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

On more than one occasion since the White Flag Trade, people have said that the White Sox have been at a crossroads.† The credibility of the team had suffered, the fan base continued to erode, and there was intense pressure on the team to win something important, like a World Series.† If not, these same people (myself included) believed the Sox didnít have much of a future.†

Despite winning the division title in 2000, the Sox still hadnít won their fans back.† Attendance in September of that winning year was far from great.† The Chicago sports media gave us constant lectures about loyalty, and then Jerry Reinsdorf had to issue one of his ĎI told you soí statements.† The playoff collapse followed, as all the Sox could do was extend their home playoff loss streak to nine.† †

I donít want to even talk about 2001 and 2002.†

The Sox may not even win their division this year, but finally I see a light at the end of the tunnel and maybe even a good future for the franchise.†

In a reversal of white flagging it, the Sox went out and got some veteran players for a division run.† They talked about winning now instead of winning ten years from now.† They have not joined in the chorus of fan bashing we get from the narrow minded Chicago media.† They even made some improvements to the ballpark instead of merely getting defensive about Celluarís well-deserved criticism. (It took long enough.)†

All these are positive signs that management finally realize that the franchise is in serious trouble and something had to be done.† I still donít think the Sox fully understand their fan base, but they have made some progress.† I just hope they realize turning the franchise around is not a one-year process.†

In this light, more needs to be done.† Even if the Sox go to the playoffs,† the team should not rest on its laurels.† I make the following suggestions.†

Fire Jerry Manuel.† I donít believe this is a cure all, and I donít blame Manuel for everything that has gone wrong.† But look what has happened just recently.† He brings in a minor league pitcher against an arch rival, he rests a veteran against that same rival, with no out and the Sox down by three, his leadoff hitter bunts with two men on, and he sends a guy who has never made a major league appearance at the plate to pinch hit when the team is down by four.† Sorry, there is no excuse for one of these things much less all of them happening in a three game span.†

Take a good hard look at the team.† Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonenz, Paul Konerko, Jose Valentin, and Carlos Lee have been together for several years now.† All are talented players, but does the combination of these players make for a championship team?† There has been one division title and a lot of under-achievement.†† Something is missing here, and it is time to decide what that missing link is.†

Resist the urge to unite with the sports media in fan bashing.† The media has been right about one thing: Attendance has been disappointing.† But the media has no clue as to why.† For years, we Sox fans have been slandered as fair weather low lives.† Where has this constant bitterness gotten the team?† From the still too much blue at the ballpark, apparently not too far.† The Sox have a chance to show some goodwill, and it wonít cost them anything.† If I were Jerry Reinsdorf, I would make a rare public appearance, praise the fans that have come, and then rip the media for its bias and shortsightedness.† If he offends a few reporters, so what?† The White Sox and the media hate each other already anyway. (The team could give WSI some media access.† So what if Hal has his little knick names for Sox field and office management?)†

Get another front line starting pitcher in the off season.† I know this is easier said than done, but just imagine the Sox without Colon and Loaiza.† The fact that they depend on these two acquisitions so much just demonstrates how bad their starting pitching really was.† This is no time to bring up a young pitcher with hopes heíll develop quickly.† Do they even have such a pitcher?†

The White Flag Trade happened over six years ago.†† The rebuilding that came with it has produced only mixed results.† Meanwhile fan alienation has flourished.† 2003, despite its too many ups and downs, has provided some hope.† One question remains: Do the Sox really want a winning tradition or do they want to continue to play second fiddle to the Cubs and their weeds and ticket scalping?

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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