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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Sox All-Stars... and Detroit

Guy Bacci

As Michael Young’s shot sailed into the gap, sending the tying and go-ahead runs home in the 2006 All-Star Game, there was a brief moment of victory for Bud Selig and his wacky home-field-advantage concept for the midsummer classic. More importantly for White Sox fans, a South Side manager had finally won an All-Star Game, and the seven Good Guys from Chicago were about to be part of a memorable victory.

Whether it was dictated from the headquarters of MLB or not, there was an awful lot of talk before the game regarding home-field advantage in the World Series. Ozzie Guillen even told his AL squad before the game that he’d be managing the All-Stars like it was the “seventh game of the World Series.” Regardless of how silly that statement looked when Guillen had three infielders playing at their unnatural positions in the bottom of the ninth, the hype surrounding “home-field advantage” is seeming to gain a foothold. It’s becoming an expected part of the All-Star Game, and ever-so-slightly adding a touch of importance to the otherwise bland exhibition.

Sox fans may have found themselves jumping out of their seats as Young’s ball bounced off the wall in right-center. That clutch hit could determine whether the first two games of the Fall Classic are played in U.S. Cellular Field. It still seems like a hokey concept on the surface, but if it starts to become universally accepted, it just might revitalize the All-Star Game.

Let’s not forget, the AL’s recent domination over the NL probably had more to do with the 2006 game being taken seriously. Quite frankly, the NL players were sick and tired of hearing how they got their butts kicked in interleague play this year, and how the AL hasn’t lost an All-Star Game in ten years. No doubt the National League was desperate to stick it to the naysayers, which just made the AL’s miraculous comeback that much more of a dramatic story.

But we must give credit where credit is due, and believe it or not, Selig deserves a bit of credit. Combining the AL vs. NL debate with the home-field advantage in the World Series certainly made the ’06 All-Star Game an enjoyable viewing experience, which is more than can be said for the game in recent years.

The main problem remaining is the game’s venue. While PNC Park in Pittsburgh provided spectacular aesthetics, Pirate fans couldn’t care less about the World Series, seeing as how their team is about as likely to reach the Fall Classic as Jay Mariotti is to making an appearance in the Sox clubhouse. With Pirate fans sitting on their hands, the thrilling game had an oddly quiet feel.

Why not give the game to the team with the best record? Or at least a team with a chance of reaching the World Series? Imagine if the game was played in Detroit or Chicago or Boston—the stands would have rumbled after Young’s game-winning hit. If the game was in St. Louis, there may have been an audible gasp of horror as Cardinal fans watched their hopes of hosting Game 1 and Game 2 vanish.

Of course, changing the venue on the fly would never work, because there’s too much planning and too much money involved in hosting the All-Star Game. Teams count on the game to boost season-ticket sales. Still, it would undoubtedly add more spark. If you’re going to play for home-field advantage in the World Series, why not actually play the game in front of fans that have true hopes of reaching October?

Despite the venue, Sox fans were treated to seven hometown All-Stars, bringing a smile to the face of those who can remember the days when getting one representative was the norm. Even the controversial A.J. Pierzynski won the Internet vote—the second year in a row a ChiSox has won—proving once again that the White Sox fan base is far bigger than most national media members want to claim.

Even though it was a joy to see so many black and silver uniforms, and it was a thrill to watch Paul Konerko deliver a clutch hit to keep the ninth-inning rally alive, and it was fun to witness Ozzie Guillen jumping out of the dugout and pointing into the stands in triumph, there was a small price to be paid. The Sox look like a tired bunch, and just about all of them could have used the days off. Especially since the Detroit Tigers don’t appear to be fading anytime soon. Guillen was smart not to pitch any of the Sox All-Stars, but traveling and being a part of the game still take a toll.

It’s amazing that the media is making the same mistake with Detroit that they made with the White Sox last season. Nobody wants to believe the Tigers are for real. Sound familiar? The Tigers have the best record in baseball; they have the best pitching staff in baseball. They could play .500 the rest of the season and still win 96 games. They are 11-0 against the Royals, which is precisely how you win a division—by pummeling the weak teams. They are for real. And the way the Sox are pitching these days, Detroit might just pull away and hide for good.

Luckily, those inside the Sox clubhouse know the deal. Guillen said during Saturday’s Fox broadcast that he can’t understand why people are still surprised by the Tigers. They’ve got young, fresh starters who can throw the ball in the upper 90s. Meanwhile, the Sox staff looks exhausted and mediocre—in some cases, downright awful.

Mark Buehrle is pitching so poorly, you have to wonder if he’s headed for the disabled list. Freddy Garcia is trying to fool everyone with off-speed stuff instead of attacking with fastballs. Javier Vazquez has been unreliable all year.

Trader Kenny may have to work some magic, although he continues to publicly claim he has little interest in the market. Many people continue to point to centerfield, but doing so remains foolish. It all comes down to pitching, and somehow, the Sox arms have to get back on track.

Certainly, it’s not time to panic, but three huge games loom this week in Detroit. Three wins would remove many fans from the ledge, but three loses could send Kenny Williams scurrying to the phones.

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

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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