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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Good Enough, Sox Fans?

by George Bova

Chicago's baseball fans have been deprived of a champion so long, there isn't one of us old enough to speak about the subject without adding our own speculative spin about the ultimate reward of it all. The Sox haven't won a championship since 1917. Exactly what was it like that historic day, October 15, 1917 inside New York's Polo Grounds, Eddie Collins crossing homeplate (Heinie Zimmerman in vain pursuit) to clinch Chicago's last baseball championship? Unfortunately nobody's grandfather or great-grandfather has ever sent us an email or typed a missive on the WSI message boards. In the online world of Sox Fandom, this species is probably already extinct. The rest of us still living have no clue.

So how bad is it today for Chicago's surviving baseball fans? Every Sox Fan already knows the answer to this question. It's so bad, over half the city's baseball fans have embraced losing as worthy of loving. The remainder of us spend our lives in a sort of living hell sharing the factory, the office, the school, or the work site with these hopelessly clueless people. "Sure the Cubs lost, but wait till next year," they giggle! Or how about, "The Cubs lost? How about Sammy? Did he hit one out?" And of course the most repulsive refrain of all, "Yeah we took off to see them at Wrigley yesterday. My God, there was this blonde with D cups sitting two rows..."

That's what passes for intelligent baseball discussion throughout Chicago these days. Meanwhile the local media just laughs and giggles along with the mindless dweebs who haven't a clue what is happening out on the field, but sure know a party when they see it. Cubs baseball is Chicago's answer to New Orleans' Mardi Gras. The real action is in the seats and outside the ballpark, not between the lines.

So we Sox Fans who actually give a damn about the results of each game are truly a minority, one that seems destined to shrink still further in the next few years. Our best hitter is almost certainly going to sign with a new team later this winter. Meanwhile the greatest hitter in franchise history is attempting to come back from a broken bone in his foot. After fifteen campaigns on the South Side, are we hoping for too much from the aging Frank Thomas to carry this team's offense on his back yet again?

Ticket prices are going up again and the payroll will likely increase too, but are the Sox only treading water? After all, the price of major league talent is going up as it has nearly every season for the last 35 years. Paying more for talent in 2005 does not mean the Sox are getting more talent for their money than they had in 2004. Worse of all, the 2004 team was largely empty of championship talent. The entire team collapsed once Frank and Magglio left for good with season-ending injuries. Neither can be counted to help the 2005 squad that did little more than embarrass themselves and us for most of six weeks in late-July and most of August, 2004. The season was over. Everything in September was merely the equivalent to the NBA's garbage time. "Gimme the ball... gimme the ball!"

Can Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee carry the team's offense in 2005? Sure they might do it, but you can't expect it to happen based on the results of 2004. The team was terrible, and neither Konerko or Lee managed nearly as much production as Sox Fans have been spoiled to expect from Frank and Magglio in those same roles.

So the 2004 Sox won 83 games and we're looking at putting together a new team for 2005 missing at least one major component, Magglio's bat, and possibly two components, Frank's usual top-flight production. Even if payroll goes up (and that's a big if), the talent upgrade is largely chewed up by the general salary inflation all baseball teams must pay to play.

Sure, Bud Selig can pocket his team's revenue sharing checks MLB sends his Brewers, and maybe the fans in Milwaukee aren't too upset that the brand-new ballpark they built for Bud is being rewarded with one of the lowest payrolls in the league -- Bud's revenue sharing welfare check be damned. Is a similar fate for your Chicago White Sox good enough for you, too, Sox Fans?

More specifically, does the 2004 team's 83 wins constitute a successful season? It's certainly better than Bud's 67 wins, right?

How about 93 wins? That's one more than what the Minnesota Twins managed in 2004, led by Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Based on what we've seen and heard from the Sox so far, is such a goal even reasonable to hope for in 2005 from our Sox?

Or should we Sox Fans only measure success by post-season wins? We need eleven of them to win a world championship in 2005. In the 24 years since Jerry Reinsdorf bought the team, the Sox have never managed more than two such wins. Exactly how much closer to building "a first-class organization" is Jerry Reinsdorf in 2005 than he was the day he bought a sad sack organization from Bill Veeck in 1981?

Exactly what is "good enough" for you, Sox Fans?

Be careful how you answer. The less you settle for, the more you have in common with the city's nimrods watching the bouncing D cups on the North Side of town. That's not baseball anymore than Mardi Gras is.

Sox Fans, aim higher.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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