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Royals' run highlights White Sox' missed chance

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Back-to-back pennants for Kansas City overshadow 10-year anniversary of one-off feat

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Friday was the 10th anniversary of Paul Konerko's grand slam and Scott Podsednik's homer in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series. It struck me as hollow as the other 10-year markers this season, and maybe even more so with the Royals holding a 3-2 edge in this year's ALCS.

Thanks to Lorenzo Cain's speed in the bottom of the eighth -- and a terrible strike zone in the top of the ninth -- the Royals finished off the Blue Jays and advanced to the World Series for the second year in a row.

Whereas the White Sox haven't even made it to the postseason in consecutive years at any point of the franchise's 115 years of existence.

How about this -- even if they're swept, the Royals will have played in 11 World Series games over the last two years, while the White Sox have made appearances in just four playoff games over the last 10.

It's so easy to keep twisting the knife. Ethan Spalding did just that at The Catbird Seat, noting that the Sox are one of six teams whose largest-ever contract doesn't exceed $70 million. The others: the A's, Indians, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Royals. Four of those five are small-market teams, and all five of them have made the postseason more recently than the White Sox.

The lack of nine-figure commitments could be praiseworthy if the Sox had made the postseason even once in the last seven years. A lot of those nine-figure deals were bad ideas from the start, so the lack of payroll cripplers might've been a sign of tremendous and advisable restraint.

Instead, the Sox have chosen more cautious means to the same end. They've tried different ways to get around paying premium prices -- taking on a contract that no longer works for a team (Alex Rios, Jake Peavy), or signing free agents that are a little older or limited in function. Given the way fans have fretted over John Danks falling short-but-not-fatally-so of his five-year, $65 million deal, nobody seems particularly conditioned to expect bigger investments.

That's why this offseason is a compelling and fascinating one. The White Sox can use a corner outfielder who can hit, hit for power and play defense, and there are four of them on the open market. Given the whole idea of getting this cost-controlled core to a postseason, this would be the winter to splurge.

As our offseason plans have shown, signing a premier free agent isn't the only route, so of course the Sox shouldn't force a huge signing just to have one. But it is the only route they haven't really tried, and so it holds extra appeal after seven years of falling short with mid-grade patches.

(Unless you consider the out-on-a-limb signing of Jose Abreu in the same spirit of a blockbuster signing despite the depressed price tag. If that's the case, then maybe Rick Hahn should go back to that well.)

The Sox are going to have to do something big in the next year, because this drought is just about impossible to gloss over. It's not quite to the point of postseason-or-bust -- if they get over .500 and contend for a postseason spot late into September, things will be looking up. But if Sox again make negligible progress during the cheap, cost-controlled primes of Abreu, Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana, then it starts inviting questions about whether it'll ever happen -- especially if the Royals' finances are fattened by another deep playoff run, and the Twins back up their surprising season.

It's this kind of context that makes it hard to treat these 2005 World Series flashbacks with the reverence they should inspire. At some point, I imagine I'll revert to remembering it as the year the Sox finally broke through. But until they get back to the playoffs with a team that isn't bailing water, it seems more like the 10-year anniversary of the last time their ideas really worked.