Back in 2006, the White Sox burst out of the gate looking stronger than the team that had won the World Series the season before. When the Kansas City Royals came to town in early May for a three-game series, it had all the makings of an unfair fight. The Sox were 20-8; the Royals were 6-20. Not surprisingly, the White Sox won the series, and the talent disparity was never more evident than in the fourth inning of third game on May 7.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Joe Crede hit a drive to deep left. Center fielder Kerry Robinson raced back to the track in left center, scaled the wall ... only to see the ball hit the warning track and bound over the fence. Second base umpire Gerry Davis read Robinson better than the ball and initially ruled it a homer before the call was reversed to a ground-rule double.
The play doesn't exist in an online form, which is unfortunate. It's the kind of misjudgment that made "Royals By Mail" almost real.
That play came to mind on Friday night, when left fielder Alex Gordon retreated to the fence on an Alexei Ramirez flyball. He climbed the fence, located the ball, and discovered that it didn't have enough distance. Unlike Robinson, Gordon had enough time to hop off the wall and catch it nonchalantly in front of the warning track.
Starting pitcher James Shields was surprised, as he had already turned to get a fresh ball. Ramirez couldn't quite believe it either, as he didn't really decelerate until he approached third base. But nobody was more fooled than the U.S. Cellular Field game operations department, which launched fireworks to the soundtrack of "Na Na Hey Hey." The joke was on the White Sox, as it had been all year long.
The aftermath isn't that funny. A 63-99 record. Fewer than 600 runs scored. An 11 percent dip in attendance, which seems ... kinda good? I mean, if you tried to promote the product movie poster, these would be the more favorable tout lines:
Fortunately, no such posters will exist because snuff films are illegal.
At least it's over, and for a few reasons. The White Sox can try turning the page, which is easier said than done. It's not that the Sox lost 99 games, but they lost the benefit of the doubt in many, many matters of general baseballing competency. There's a possibility that the Sox will feel unburdened by the numbers resetting to zero, but they're going to have to prove it.
I'm more relieved because now I can start using certain terms to describe the depths of despair. It's somewhat frustrating when you know that a team is nearing historic depths, and you can only use "on-pace-fors" and other qualifiers. On the other hand, waiting for the official totals gives us enough to get through October, at the very least.
Of course, when writing about just how harmful the White Sox have been to everybody's well being, it's a wonder that there were any discussions here at all. It's even more unlikely -- in terms of sports fandom in general -- that the discussions remained largely entertaining, civil and enlightening in spite of the current events. It takes a village.
So thanks to everybody who showed up daily, weekly, even monthly, when the subject matter gave you every reason to stay far away. The conversations are important to me, because they're a big draw in and of themselves. On top of that, sometimes they give me ideas for future posts, and other times, just knowing that people want some Sox stuff to talk about helps me power through dead-brain periods. So your participation and feedback are always greatly appreciated.
Thanks to Larry, Mark (RIP), 67WMAQ, Colin, Ken, Gus, HSA and most recently Steve for stepping up to cover breaking news, fill in gaps and clean up my slip-ups. Thanks to the beat writers for churning out copy, because it's not easy to write the same stories featuring the same frustrated people when you can't distract people with "Mr. Show" clips during a season that played out like The Story of Everest:
But I digress. Thanks to the guys at The Score 670 for the attribution and guest spots. And thanks to the White Sox -- the franchise and employees, to be more specific -- for granting us an increasing amount of access and assistance when we're among their biggest critics.
As always, this isn't a farewell, because we'll have stuff every day during the offseason, one way or another. There's a whole lot of wreckage to clear out of the way in order to get to the hot stove.