"I'm banking on our club performing well and well out of the gate so our fans can support some of the chances we've taken. We don't have the luxury to ease into the season like a lot of clubs who know their season-ticket base is at a certain level and their revenue streams are going to support that. We need to start out well."
That very fiscal owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, also knows what is at stake. During a sitdown with the media in March, he said, "Our fans are optimistic and enthusiastic. They want to see it out on the field. It's important we get off to a good start."
-Kenny Williams, Ed Sherman on Sports
I'm bringing up this quote from February in order to help you steel yourselves. In a couple of months, you and I are going to be blamed for June attendance.
We all know why, because the White Sox front office told us -- we don't show up unless the team performs, and when the team starts slow, it takes even longer than usual to convert us skeptics. And you all know my response - that raising ticket prices in a still-bad economy makes Sox fans even more selective than they would normally be.
Anyway, that's old. Here's what's new:
The White Sox are boring right now. Booooooooooooooooooooooooring.
It's not just that they've lost seven straight. It's not just that they haven't held a lead for 51 innings, though that would probably be enough, too. It's that, as Scott Merkin tallied, they have trailed in 49 of those innings. It's almost been a week since a White Sox fan could feel good about anything happening in a ballgame. Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Wednesday followed the exact same script. Fall behind early, fall behind a little bit more, call it a day, send the fans home wondering why they made the effort to witness it.
I went to Monday's game. Ben Zobrist hit a three-run homer in the first inning, David Price used a wide strike zone to his advantage, and the Rays made a bunch of stand-and-clap defensive plays. WU and I got a rock. The evening - at least as it played out on the field - offered zero redeeming value.
At least it was 72 degrees, with no chance of rain. That's not something the South Side can fall back on at this moment. Over the last three losses during the homestand, fans were treated to gametime temperatures of 43, 39 and 55 degrees. Friday and Saturday provided the added bonus of rain delays, and all three had strong, cold winds blowing through U.S. Cellular Field. I imagine many of the fans in attendance were attending their first game of the season. That's a pretty lousy introduction.
Lest I sound too doom-and-gloom, this skid really hasn't changed the picture in any meaningful way. The first three weeks of a season don't reveal much, as Joe Posnanski points out. They could fall well short of expectations, but it won't be only because they started 7-11. The last two White Sox playoff teams endured seven-game losing streaks, and this one just happens to be sooner than those.
However, it has the potential to alter everybody's enjoyment of this season. The White Sox spent all of February talking about how they put themselves over a barrel, and a hot start would be necessary to make up for any budgetary deficits, because everybody knows their fans are a discriminating lot. The team responded by playing a brand of baseball that's impossible to enjoy on any level. If the patterns from previous seasons hold true, we'll be blamed for it.
Of course, if other trends follow suit, the Sox will follow their conspicuous fiscal hand-wringing by relieving a team of a contract they no longer want. The Sox have done that four times over the last two seasons alone, resulting in $116 million of commitments. Two of those players weren't even healthy, and one of them is battling setbacks after an unprecedented surgery, and it's still unclear as to who's managing him. You'd think if the money were that tight, they'd be a little more selective with -- and protective of -- their massive investments.
There's still time for the Sox to rattle off a few wins and steady the ship. If they can get within a game of .500 by the end of the month, much will be forgiven. The weather will warm up, more fans will show up, and everybody can resume their serious postseason intentions.
The window for absolution is closing, though. The White Sox front office has said as much, and multiple times. If the Sox continue to play lifeless, monotonous baseball, much of the summer could be spent pointing fingers at each other. That's par for the course, but it's getting a little tiresome.