Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Black Monday? So in character for Chicago baseball on both sides of town

Call it incredibly frustrating. But learning that the Chicago White Sox managed to pull off an 11-0 blowout of the Cleveland Indians Monday night was possibly even more annoying than any of the losses in the 2-10 stretch (2-5 during the last week of home games) the ballclub did in recent weeks that took them out of the pennant race.
'Comeback player' the best Sox can hope for?

Wouldn’t you know it that once it no longer matters, the White Sox would regain their hitting stroke.

I SAY ‘NO longer matters’ because it doesn’t. The Detroit Tigers were at the point where all they needed was one more win this season on their part, and they would clinch an American League division title and a spot in the playoffs.

They got that victory Monday night, beating the Kansas City Royals 6-3. It’s over. The White Sox who held onto first place for so much of the 2012 season (even though so many people were convinced this would be a historically awful ballclub) are now mathematically eliminated from contention.

History will record them as a second place ballclub in 2012, and one whose players get to watch the playoffs on television instead of from the dugout, while slugger Adam Dunn gets to wonder if his 40-plus home runs this season are good enough to win him Comeback Player of the Year honors.

But it wasn’t just the White Sox who managed to accomplish something on Monday.

LET’S HEAR IT for the Chicago Cubs, who on the same day that the White Sox were knocked out of contention managed to achieve their own “goal” for the season – they lost their 100th ballgame.
Diamond in dung-heap of Cubs' '12 season?

And they managed to do it to the one team that may be worse than the baby bears – the Houston Astros already had 106 losses going into their final three games of the season being played at Wrigley Field.

So no contender for the Sox, all those losses for the Cubs, and a whole lot of misery for those of us with any interest in watching a contender on the playing field.

Although I suppose none of this should be surprising.

AFTER THE AWFUL season the White Sox managed to put out during 2011, there were many people who were convinced that it would happen again – which is what drove down the season ticket sales that made the White Sox all-the-more reliant on walkups to the ticket window.

And anytime that happens, you become reliant on quirks such as weather and timing. So many things can drive down attendance – which is why the White Sox fell just short of the 2 million mark in tickets sold (1,965,505, for those who have an anal-retentive attention to detail) this season.

Which is about 1 million short of what the Chicago Cubs are likely to draw by the time their home games are complete come Wednesday.

Which makes me wonder if Theo Epstein is still gleeful about his professional prospects of revitalizing this Cubs franchise. He knew he didn’t have a contender, but I doubt he realized he had a historically-awful ballclub.

THAT’S WHAT 100 losses means, although I’m sure those in Cubbie fandom will take their solace in the fact that they won’t have to put up with White Sox gloating over having a playoff-bound ballclub.

In fact, about the only happy person in White Sox-land these days is general manager Ken Williams (whom some reports say will be “bumped up” to another administrative post so that long-time deputy Rick Hahn can be general manager).
Nice 'digs' for one-time utility outfielder

Crain’s Chicago Business used its website to report that the ballclub gave Williams a $2.15 million loan so he could buy a century-old luxury home in the Gold Coast neighborhood. It seems Kenny is confident he’s still employed – even if his ballclub did flop in the end.

Although the real story these days may well be at Wrigley Field, where the Astros are playing their final ballgames as a National League team. In a touch of irony, Houston played their first games in the National League back in 1962 against the Cubs – whose “College of Coaches”-led ball clubs were as bad as this year’s version.

IN A RESTRUCTURING of the leagues, Houston is moving to the American League, where officials hope they will become a vicious rival of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area team, the Texas Rangers.

I don’t know about that happening. But it does remind me of that moment nearly 4 decades ago when Ron Santo joined the White Sox following a career with the Cubs in the National League.

On Opening Day, he was greeted by the Comiskey Park faithful with a banner reading, “Welcome to the major leagues.”

So as an American League fan, I say “Welcome!” to the Astros, who may well be the one ballclub that had wackier scoreboard antics at the Astrodome than those of the old Comiskey Park.


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