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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Jerry Springer Sox Fans?

by
Guy Bacci
 

As we all know, most of the world adores Boston fans. They’re considered loyal, passionate, intelligent. But they are also insane. After the New England Patriots recorded their second Super Bowl victory last week, a chant could be heard in every bar across Houston: “Yan-kees Suck! Yan-kees Suck!”  Even after their NFL team won another championship, many Bostonians were still thinking about the Bronx Bombers. It’s clear that Red Sox fans have an inferiority complex the size of the Atlantic Ocean. The question is, are White Sox fans much different?

 

After this ridiculously unruly off-season, I’m not so sure. We’ve all heard the reports from the Jerry Springer SoxFest, which were undoubtedly exaggerated by the media. But there’s no denying the anger of Sox fans. Just take a look at message boards like the one here at WSI. Not surprisingly, newspapers and radio stations have helped fuel the fire by producing an unrelenting array of Sox-bashing columns and talk shows. All of this prompted Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson to proclaim a war against the media -- just the latest bizarre twist in what has already been a bizarre off-season.

 

What in the world is going on here? The reality is, none of this madness would be occurring if A) the Cubs weren’t a favorite in the NL, and B) the Sox weren’t lucky enough to acquire Colon, Everett and Alomar last season.

 

This is where some modern-day Sox fans show their true insecurity. They’re like petty neighbors always worrying about keeping up with the Joneses. The Cubs happened to get lucky when Mark Prior fell into their lap, and now that they own a bevy of young pitching, they’ve upped their payroll in an effort to win a title. Good for them. And yet they’re still not going overboard, as most fans would want. As a matter of fact, local media is already roasting the Cubs for not landing I-Rod or (thus far) Greg Maddux.

 

The Sox are sticking to their budget, and why shouldn’t they? There was no reason to overspend on a team that had too many holes to begin with. If the Sox really wanted to shoot for the moon, they should have done it last season when they had three stud starters. The real uproar should have happened in spring 2003 when the Sox opened with a paltry $51 million payroll -- $6 million less than what they opened with in 2002! As a matter of fact, the Cubs were $20 million ahead of the Sox in 2002 and 2003, yet we didn’t hear half as much complaining. Sorry folks, but you’re all too late. The Sox payroll is going to be much higher this season -- possibly the highest in team history. It would have been foolish to take a risk on Fatolo for four years. Would you want Tejada and his .270 career average for $72 million? Tom Gordon and his aging body for nearly $8 million? The overrated Sydney Ponson for $22 million? None of it makes any sense, especially when so many current Sox players are signed at lofty salaries.

 

The Sox, as they are designed now, can easily contend in a weak AL Central. Ironically, they may have a better shot at the post-season than the Cubs, who must deal with Houston and St. Louis. Why not give Willie Harris (or Juan Uribe), Aaron Rowand (or Jeremy Reed), Robert Person (or Jon Rauch), Cliff Politte (or Shingo Takatsu) a chance for a few months and see how it all pans out? Williams won’t be shy about making another splashy deal in June if the Sox are contending.

 

That’s not to say the Sox couldn’t have made a few more minor moves. It would have been nice to throw Damian Moss or Cory Lidle into the mix at spring training. Carl Everett wound up signing with Montreal for peanuts, as did Robbie Alomar in Arizona, although their situations were complex thanks to arbitration rules.

 

Nonetheless, all is not lost for 2004. Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti jumped on Williams for attacking a fan at SoxFest who said, “Now that 2004 is over, I want to talk about 2005.” Frankly, I would have gone off on that fan too. What kind of attitude is that? What kind of fan are you? I know why 2004 is a lost cause to so many Sox fans -- because the Cubs are probably going to be better. Talk about an inferiority complex.

 

Then there’s the group of unabashed Jerry Reinsdorf haters who are seizing the opportunity to clobber the chairman every chance they get. Mariotti’s latest line was, “Unfortunately, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and his investors have a bigger interest in maintaining their steady profit margins than cementing an important cornerstone in right field.” A steady profit margin? For a business? What blasphemy! Get the government on the phone! We got another Enron situation over here!

 

Yeah so Reinsdorf is not a PR genius. He’s stubborn and he’s got an ego. Guess what? All successful businessmen do. It could be worse, as Sam Smith recently pointed out in the Chicago Tribune. A new owner could move the Sox somewhere else. Or, a new owner could get too involved with the club, tinkering and meddling like Mark Cuban or Daniel Snyder. Hey, I’d love to see Donald Trump own the Sox as much as anyone, but there’s no guarantee he’d be the cure.

 

When people defend Reinsdorf, like Smith and Harrelson, their comments are written off as biased. How is that fair? Maybe someone like Smith actually knows a little something about who Reinsdorf really is, his desire to win, his smarts as a businessman. As much as Michael Jordon despised Jerry Krause, he admired Jerry Reinsdorf. Sox fans were irked Reinsdorf rarely showed his face at SoxFest. I wonder if you’d feel like showing up if you were bashed as much as Reinsdorf is.

 

So life is not perfect for the Sox. Far from it. But everyone needs to take a deep breath and calm down. Living in Seattle, I hear maniacs burn up the phone lines, insulting the Mariners for not adding to their near $100 million payroll. The Mariners are averaging 100 victories over the past three seasons, yet fans are more furious than ever. Sometimes you’re the victim of your own success, as the Sox were in acquiring Colon, which was a stroke of luck in the first place.

 

The negativity has been overwhelming. I just want to watch some baseball; I just want to root for my team. Can’t we fast forward to April? A couple of wins against the Yankees in New York, and this off-season will be a blur in the rear-view mirror.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.  He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.  His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).  Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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