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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Accountability to Sox Fans

In my profession, education, there is a lot of talk about accountability.  Schools should be held accountable for the education, or lack thereof, of their clients, the students.  Apparently that doesn't hold in the world of business, whether it be Enron, whose executives allegedly made huge profits while selling their employees a bill of goods on their 401K plans; Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that also acted as a consultant, and thought it was a wise move to shred incriminating documents that the Feds were looking for; or in the baseball business, where commissioners borrow money from owners who want out of the business, and where those owners find themselves not long after that being named as possible "victims" of contraction.

Nowhere are those who run the game less accountable than in Chicago.  Consider if you will the records of the two ball clubs in our fair city.  The National League entry hasn't won a World Series since 1908 or a pennant since 1945.  But since they are owned by the media giant in the city, they seem to get a pass.  The North Side fans are content with an occasional crumb in the form of a .500 or better season every few years as long as they can drink and look at halter tops in that Ivy-Covered Burial Ground they call home.  Even sadder is the fact that they seem to believe it when their GM Andy MacFail (Thanks Murph!) says with a deadpan expression that he has to work within the constraints of a budget that puts his club square in the middle of the pack in salary spending.

Oh, we Sox fans just love to feel superior.  After all, we hold our team and its owners accountable.  If they don't put a product on the field that doesn't meet with our approval, we voice our displeasure on The Score and ESPN-1000.  We vote with our pocketbooks by not going to games.

The result of this, of course is that the White Sox have not won a World Series since 1917 nor a pennant since 1959.  This shows that our methods are clearly superior to the fans of that other ball club.  Obviously something isn't working with our methods.

The problem is that same arrogance on the part of those who run Major League Baseball that allows shenanigans, like contraction, all of the owners bankrolling the last(?) year of the Expos, and the hiring of a hawk to finish the negotiations with the Players Association when a dove had nearly reached an agreement with them also permeates the management of each franchise, especially management here in Chicago.

Just look at the track record of White Sox ownership.  Not only have there been no pennants since 1959, since 1969 there have only been three post-season appearances.  It is to the credit of the group led by Jerry Reinsdorf that all of those appearances have come under their watch.  Still, that's only three post-season appearances in the past the third largest market in the United States.

Jerry Reinsdorf would hold the fans accountable for the current situation with the Sox.  We haven't shown up since the strike of 1995, a strike in which Reinsdorf was the most vocal of the hard liners.  The fans use this fact to hold Reinsdorf accountable.  The inevitable result is blame being tossed back and forth with no one admitting to any accountability.

Sox management has done a terrific job in the past few months of noting that income in 2001 was not anywhere near what was anticipated.  Of  course that income would be that derived from butts in seats and concessions consumed, and cars parked (at a 30% increase over the successful 2000 season).  The implication is that the ungrateful fans didn't show up despite the success of the "Kids" of 2000.

The problem with this reasoning is that the team that was put on the field in 2001 simply stank up the joint for two months, and that caused fans who at SoxFest in February were ready to spend many summer hours enjoying a repeat, and maybe even a run at the World Series, to rethink how to spend their disposable income.  So it's obvious that the fans are responsible for the lack of any major moves during the past offseason.  The Sox just don't have the money and indeed must cut salaries.

What has yet to be admitted by anyone in any position of responsibility that they, like some tragic Shakespearian hero, brought their downfall upon themselves.  The Sox had an outstanding double play combination in 2000 with Jose Valentin and Ray Durham.  Durham probably had his best defensive season with Valentin next to him.  But the "experts" pointed to Valentin's 36 errors as evidence of the weakness of the Sox up the middle.

This, of course led to the trade for Royce Clayton, a man Daily Southtown beat writer Joe Cowley has called "a stats guy."  Translation:  "Those balls that Valentin used to get in the hole or up the middle get a big 'Ole!' from Clayton, keeping his error count down."  In other words, we moved a guy who produced more outs on defense for a guy who is the Steve Garvey of shortstops.

To add insult to injury, Clayton barely hit his weight the first half of the season.  This coupled with the stubborn refusal to bench either Julio Ramirez or Harold Baines until June turned the thoughts of Sox fans to anything but baseball.

Meanwhile, we were treated to the embarrassing sideshow of David Wells giving a "guts and glory" speech to Frank Thomas after the latter had torn triceps muscle.  That didn't prevent Wells from going on the DL with a herniated disc barely a month later. 

Who can we thank for all of this?  Who didn't realize that a fat guy nearing 40 with a history of back problems wise likely to go down?  Who has simply said, "We knew it was a gamble?"

Lenny, take a bow!

And while we're at it, let's talk about accountability for keeping the players injury free.  Last year the injury du jour was the torn labrum.  This year it seems to be the pulled hammy.  When that many people go down with the same injury, there would seem to be some cause. 

Last year there was great fanfare when the Sox announced that they would do an organization-wide investigation to see if there might be some common thread to all of the arm injuries.  I'm sorry, but I guess I missed the conclusion when the Sox announced it.

As for the torn hamstrings, the only cause I know of for that injury is inadequate stretching exercises before playing.  So who is in charge of that?

The 2001 season was a disaster.  We're told the Sox were beset by injuries.  Fine.  Was anyone responsible?  Who is accountable?  Does anyone know?  Does anyone care?

NEXT:  Where have all the young arms gone?


Editor's Note:  Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old.  For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL.  Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee,  and their dog, Buster T. Beagle.  Hal's opinions are necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle.  You can write Hal at

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