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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Gut wrenching... but fun!
by Hal Vickery

Is it really possible that we’re down to the last three weeks of the season? It seems like just a couple of weeks ago that I was sitting in the far reaches of the upper deck in right field in a rainstorm before giving up and going home before the opening night rain delay ended so I could get up at 4:30 to go to work.

Have we really had two WSI and one Windy City Sox Fans patio parties this year? Have we really completed the WCSF series of player luncheons? Have I really used up all but two of my Ozzie plan tickets, all ten of my Jackhammers tickets and all twenty of my Kane County Cougars tickets? Am I really going to my third Midwest League playoff game tonight?

Has it really been over three months since the class of 2005 at North Boone graduated? Have we really been back in session for two weeks?

I guess what they say is true. Time flies when you’re having fun. And have no doubt about that. This baseball season has been fun.

Sure it’s been gut wrenching. But watching baseball is only gut wrenching when your team is in contention. It’s only gut wrenching when the games your team is playing mean something. Just ask any Cubs fan.

There is a reason they go to the ball park to get drunk. Who cares what’s going on out on the field when your team is mired in sixth place in the only six-team division in baseball? Who cares when you’ve been out of contention since May?

Sox fans have reacted in numerous ways when things haven’t gone right this year. I’ve had to turn off some games because I couldn’t take it. I was on my way back from a Kane County playoff game Friday night when I turned my radio on to hear the end of the Sox game. After Bobby Jenks gave up his third consecutive double, I turned the radio to another station in disgust.

Naturally I didn’t turn it on again until just after A.J. Pierzynski hit his walk-off home run to move the Sox a game closer to the Tigers. I would have kicked myself, but my nerves really couldn’t take it. They’ve been on edge all year.

Apparently some fans booed Jenks after his performance Friday night. It was his second consecutive blow-up on the mound. I can almost understand their rationale. After all, this hasn’t been the year a lot of Sox fans expected. After all, the Sox led from pole to pole last year, and this team was obviously even better.

Yet here they are. As of Sunday morning they are still in third place. They’re a half-game behind the Twins in the Wild Card race. They’re still 3.5 games behind the Tigers for the division lead. There are only twenty-one games left to play. The Sox need to make a move.

Time and World Series trophies make us forget. Last year wasn’t any easier than this year has been. People remember the fifteen game lead the Sox build up by August. They remember beating the Indians by six games. A lot of us have forgotten how gut-wrenching August and September were in 2005.

The Sox went 12-16 in August, 2005. Cleveland went on a tear. By the time there was just a week or so left in the season, the Indians had made up 13.5 games of the Sox’ fifteen game lead. Newspapers were writing of the greatest collapse by a first-place team in history. They were writing off the Sox performance as the greatest collapse of all time.

We all know how it turned out, and the memories of that glorious October made us forget how many of us had bitten our nails down to the quick before we got there.

This year the Sox have trailed the Tigers most of the way. That makes fans uncomfortable. It doesn’t help that this team hasn’t hit on all cylinders at any time this year. When the pitching has been good, the batters have slumped. When the batters have been tearing the cover off the ball, the pitching has fallen apart.

Currently both the starting pitching and bullpen have been performing relatively well. That has served as a signal for the middle relief and closer Bobby Jenks to fall apart. Still the Sox are only 3.5 games away from the division lead as they get ready for Sunday’s game.

Past performance may not guarantee future results, but in this case the past has been a wild ride. It seems safe to predict that the last three weeks of this season will be more of the same.

In the words of Hawk Harrelson, “Strap it up and hunker down!”

______________________________________________________________________

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 not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

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