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Kansas City Blues

Running through Gloom!

Guy Bacci

What was once a splendidly memorable season on the Southside has turned into a dark, twisted tragic-comedy of sorts. Lovable players have turned into nightly goats, fans are at each other’s throats, and the skipper of the ship is spewing crazy talk. How did the fabulous 2005 season turn so ugly, so fast? More importantly, will it manage to salvage itself, or are darker days ahead?

Last Thursday, the gloom couldn’t get any thicker, as the Sox wasted a brilliant outing by rookie Brandon McCarthy and floundered their way to a 4-1, extra-inning defeat. It was a heartbreaking evening that should have resulted in a win over Johan Santana and the Twins. In the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 1-1, the Sox managed to load the bases. But Jermaine Dye did what so many White Sox are doing these days—pop out with a man on third and less than two outs. One feeble Juan Uribe attempt later, the game was headed into extra innings, where rookie Bobby Jenks—who shouldn’t be asked to carry such a burden at this stage in his young career—was rocked for three runs in the 11th inning.

Game over. Lead in the Central sliced to 1.5.

After banging their heads against walls, Sox fans had nobody else to take their frustrations out on but each other. The WSI message boards were laced with angry discussions—the Dark Clouds saying I told you so, the optimists frantically back-peddling, claiming their only argument was to enjoy the good times while they were happening. Some were a tad more philosophical, finding comfort in saying things like, “My life will go on no matter what happens to the White Sox.”

True, all of our lives will go on no matter what happens to the White Sox. That’s not the point. The point is that diehard fans have made a choice to invest time and emotion in a baseball team. Therefore, they must be allowed to feel whatever they want to feel in the moment. And right now, nobody’s feeling rosy.

Certainly not Ozzie Guillen, the man at the helm of the boat that’s rapidly taking on water. The normally happy-go-lucky manager decided this would be a good time to mention he wants to retire after he wins a World Series. “I want to leave with my head up and do something nobody else did before,” Ozzie babbled. “It would give me a good chance to accomplish everything in my career.”

It’s interesting that Guillen would choose to make such a self-centered statement at this point in time, when his players, fans and general manager need him the most. “Whatever his explanations are as to what he said, he's got to clean up his own house,” Kenny Williams responded. “I'm concerned about what is happening on the field. All the other stuff I can't be concerned about.”

You can’t blame Williams for being a little tweaked. Maybe Ozzie was purposely trying to deflect attention away from his struggling club, or maybe Ozzie’s way of dealing with gigantic pressure is to seek pity. Either way, his odd comments didn’t work. They left fans scratching their heads. At this point, Sox fans couldn’t care less about Ozzie’s long-term career plans anyway.

But what Sox fans might want to start caring about is how their team is being coached in the hitting department. Greg Walker has managed to escape criticism with a lineup full of mediocre hitters who have horrible approaches because the Sox were winning despite all the bad swings. But now that scoring a runner from third base appears to be an impossibility, Walker is finally being questioned. “We are who we are,” Walker explained. “We're not a real disciplined hitting team. Are we going turn A.J. Pierzynski into a disciplined hitter when he walked only 15 times a year? We knew that when we signed him. Do you want to take away his aggressiveness and turn him into a non-aggressive swinger? Juan Uribe has swung every day of his life. I've tried to change him for two years. I'm already resigned to the fact Juan Uribe is never going be a high-walk guy.”

Interestingly, Walker seems to be subtly shifting some blame onto Williams for coveting free swingers. Ever since Moneyball exposed the contrasting styles of Williams and Oakland GM Billy Beane, Williams hasn’t been known for making walks or on base percentage a high priority. It’d be nice to know if the philosophy inside the organization is changing, because Sox fans can only handle so many undisciplined swingers for so long before complete and utter frustration sets in.

But for now, as Walker said, they are what they are, and Sox fans hope that’s enough to make the playoffs. Consider this: If the Sox can win just three of the final eight games, and if Boston or New York (who play each other in the final series) simply drop three of their final eight, the Sox are in as a Wild Card.

The Wild Card may indeed save the Sox from becoming a historical embarrassment, but it may also provide a favorable post-season match up. The Sox could be better off going on the road to New York or Boston in the first round, as opposed to playing the Angels at home. For one, the Sox have played like garbage at The Cell in the second half, and they’re awful against west-coast teams.

More importantly, once the playoffs begin, the gloom will be lifted and the sun will shine again, because everything that’s happened for the past 60 days won’t mean squat. Everyone starts fresh.

Sox fans never imagined that would be such a good thing.

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

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