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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

The Point of Renovations?

by Matt Michel

Well, itís begun again. The now yearly tradition of renovations at U.S. Cellular Field is well underway and this time the Sox are going for the knockout punch by addressing the publicís main nemesis: the upper deck. Already rows have been removed from the farthest reaches of the upper bowl in preparation for a new roof, a la old Comiskey Park, to give the stadium a cozier feeling. This new batch of renovations, along with those of years past have pumped millions of dollars into making the Cell more fan-friendly and less sterile, and truth be told, most of them have worked. The Jumbotron in center field is spectacular, the Fan Deck in centerfield may be the most unique and enjoyable way to watch baseball on the planet, and from recent pictures, the reduced upper deck not only gives the stadium a much smaller, inviting feeling it should also partially silence critics of the parkís steep angles and dizzying heights.

Yet, despite all this work and money, there is something disturbing about the flux of renovations. Yes, they have improved the ball park; however, little has been done to improve what should be the teamís biggest selling pointÖ The actual team. With the 2003 season ending in disappointment, the Sox had their chance to sign a number of accredited managers to the South Side. Instead, they decided to go with another managerial newbie, Ozzie Guillen. While itís true he brings energy and a passion for winning to the team, his coaching experience is limited to third base. There has also been a lot of noise coming from the front office that the team will slash payroll this off-season to just under $60 million, meaning a good number of the teamís free agents (Carl Everett, Bartolo Colon, and Robbie Alomar) will probably go unsigned and some of the teamís best performers (Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee) are reported to be on the trading block. All this, despite a rise in attendance in response to the solid second half put together by the Pale Hose.

Once again, it just seems that the Sox brass just does not understand its fan base. It has been shown time and time again that the fans will come out to support a winning team, however all management seems to be interested in is ďprettying upĒ the Cell while seemingly making the teamís needs an afterthought. Once again the Central division looks ripe for domination. The Twins are reportedly crunching salary and slowly their core players will follow A.J. Pierzynski to greener pastures. The Royals were the darling story of 2003, however a late-season fade should point out that they are still not ready to consistently contend. Cleveland may also be on the rise, however, until they rebuild their offense, they can also be considered harmless. The Tigers are, wellÖ The Tigers. Once again there is a void at the top of this weak division that could easily be filled by the White Sox; however Reinsdorf and his pals seem comfortable to sit back and turn what could be a runaway division title into a three- or four-team dogfight.

Not to knock the renovations, because they are great and have produced a much better atmosphere for baseball at U.S. Cellular Field, however, if the front office thinks that funneling money into their stadium will offset putting a mediocre product on the field with the fans, they are sadly mistaken. I, for one, would gladly take back the Cell as it appeared when it just opened for a team that could be considered a legitimate contender on a yearly basis. And I donít think Iím alone.

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