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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Maintain Cool!

by
Guy Bacci

I hate to be a party-pooper, but White Sox Nation needs a reality check. Good times are rolling on the Southside, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But two little words are being bantered about recklessly: World Series.

Please, let’s control ourselves.

I was lucky enough to be in Chicago for the heart of the recent eight-game winning streak, which may turn out to be the defining moment of the season—much like the historic road trip to Cleveland and New York in June of 2000. I caught my first home games in over six years, soaking in three victories over the lowly Royals, right on the heels of a dramatic sweep of the Dodgers. All the while, Minnesota was losing six of seven and falling far behind the Pale Hose. By the end of the week, the lead had reached double-digits, sending Sox fans into a frenzy.

On a daily basis, the pre- and post-game radio shows were littered with overconfidence. Radio hosts and columnists were guaranteeing the Sox would reach the postseason. Some experts—many of them Sox bashers until now—were certain they’d win 100 games. And many fans were calling in to gush about how they were finally going to be able to see a World Series in their lifetime.

Whoa, buckaroo. Settle down just a bit.

You’ll have to excuse my healthy dose of pessimism, but as a Seattle resident, I had a front-row seat to one of the most astonishing—and disappointing—seasons in baseball history. As great as the Sox have played this year, consider for a moment that the 2001 Mariners were five games better at this point in the season. Seattle racked up 116 wins, playing in a similar fashion to the 2005 White Sox. The Mariners had an incredibly consistent and reliable rotation, led by current Southsider Freddy Garcia. They had a deep, effective bullpen. They had speed at the top of the lineup, featuring Ichiro. They lacked power, but got some when they needed it from players like Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez. Most importantly, they had an uncanny ability to deliver a clutch hit, especially late in games. Does any of this sound familiar?

Of course, despite all the magic, the Yankees spanked the Mariners in the ALCS, needing only five games to reach the 2001 World Series against Arizona. But you don’t have to look across the country to find an example of meaningless regular-season success. The 2000 White Sox had the best record in the AL, only to get swept in the first round by the aforementioned Mariners.

If recent history is providing warning signs, why are Sox fans so delirious this time around?

Possibly because the mojo seems more authentic than it did in 2000. The Sox have been consistent all season, not allowing a slump to linger. Just when they appeared to hit a road bump against Arizona, getting torched for 18 runs in two games, they bounced back to match their longest winning streak of the year. They’ve had three eight-game streaks this season, but none more thrilling than the last. With Minnesota falling apart, and the Sox performing comeback miracles against Los Angeles, the fans rightly recognized the past week as the week that likely won the Central.

But don’t go buying your World Series tickets just yet. I realize there are a lot of statistics floating around in favor of the White Sox. Eighty-eight percent of teams that started 50-22 or better went on to reach the World Series. But most of those teams didn’t have to deal with an extra round of wild-card playoffs, and prior to 1969, there were no league championship series either.

If you really want to hang your 2005 AL Central Champions banner, nobody’s going to stop you. It would take a colossal collapse for the Sox to relinquish the division lead. If you want to bet the house on 100 victories, go right ahead. The Sox could play .500 from Saturday on, and they’d still win 95 games. All in all, there are plenty of reasons to join the bandwagon—I’ve been riding shotgun for over six weeks. But I never expected the back seat drivers to start spewing talk of a World Series. That belongs on a whole different bandwagon—one driven by loonies and idealists who forget that it’s much harder for the best team in baseball to reach the Fall Classic nowadays. Imagine the potential competition in the AL playoffs: The defending champion Red Sox, who have more than enough offense to disturb the White Sox starters. Ditto for teams like Baltimore and Texas. If Minnesota gets the wild card, the Sox would be forced to draw a team like the Angels in the first round. Yikes.

But these are not issues Sox fans should be concerning themselves with right now, just as they shouldn’t be setting themselves up for massive disappointment. For the rest of the summer, it’s time to sit back and enjoy one of the best seasons any of us will ever see.

There will be plenty of time to contemplate squashing those World Series demons come October.


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.

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