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White Sox business: Future radio flagship up in the air

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Plus: The $29 ticket deal has hidden benefits for the Sox (and drawbacks for the state), and a weird story

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This past week produced a few stories that centered on the inner workings of the White Sox while directly affecting you, the discerning consumer.

The White Sox' deal with 670 The Score expires at the end of the year, and while The Score is making "a strong bid" for a renewal, Robert Feder says it faces competition from two other stations -- WGN AM 720 and WLS AM 890. Feder says Jerry Reinsdorf has met with the bosses at all three stations, and there are reasons to drum up competition.

The Score: There are pros and cons to being hitched to the sports ratings leader. When things are going well, there are a lot of natural tie-ins for the talk shows. When times are rough, though, there are days where the White Sox game is preceded by hours of people ripping the product.

One new element that may affect WSCR's pursuit:

WGN last year severed its historic association with the Cubs after 90 seasons. CBS Radio signed the team to a seven-year deal now in effect on Newsradio WBBM AM 780. If The Score loses the White Sox, CBS could move the Cubs to The Score next year, according to terms of the agreement.

WLS: It tried for the Cubs, but was outbid for the radio rights by WBBM. Cumulus Media owns baseball flagship stations in other markets, and it could use a staple for its Chicago station, as its lineup has been in a state of upheaval. But WLS is retooling to try to solve an identity crisis, and it might be a risk for the Sox to tie themselves to a station that's struggling with ratings otherwise.

WGN: After 90 years of broadcasting the Cubs, it's weird to think of WGN as a White Sox station, and that counterintuitive reputation isn't ideal for marketing. Still, it's not farfetched. WGN has a mixed recent history with sports -- its attempt at launching a sports talk station on FM failed, but it does a great job with the Blackhawks. If WGN is feeling the loss of the Cubs, it could be motivated to treat the White Sox like the son it never had.

As a way to boost attendance for low-demand weekday games and track customer habits, the White Sox rolled out the Ballpark Pass program that allowed fans to see 11 games for $29. Why $29? The Chicago Tribune has an idea:

The Ballpark Pass was a chance to watch weekday baseball during April and May this season for merely $2.64 per game. Three hours before a first pitch, fans who purchase the plan learn seat locations via their smartphones.

But the multigame package might not bring savings for a less visible presence at U.S. Cellular Field: taxpayers.

The Sox, under an agreement with the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the public agency that owns The Cell, are required to pay a fee on each ticket sold beyond 1,930,000 in paid attendance. But that "ticket threshold," according to the agreement, excludes tickets that are given to sponsors or sold for less than $3.

It might not be quite the coup as building ChiSox Bar & Grill and the Chicago Sports Depot on the state's dime, but it's still a victory for the Sox, who have a Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals relationship with that patsy known as Fine Print.

I missed this story while traveling, but time and distance haven't provided any clarity.

Bad relays, indecisive throws and overall low baseball IQ baseball wasn’t going to be tolerated any longer. Reinsdorf and executives Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn asked manager Robin Ventura to take a more hands-on approach in guiding his players during in-game situations.

Three days of meetings helped Ventura and his staff draw up a more pragmatic approach. This new manifesto includes more micro-managing of the hitting and baserunning decisions, as well as strategy for his players to follow.

Ventura alone has spent many hours working with rookie second baseman Micah Johnson on his footwork, hand location and overall mental approach to a position he’s still trying to get better at. Ventura’s coaches are tireless workers who are at the park early, working with the players and preparing statistical data to help win that day.

But don't stop with that excerpt -- read this whole piece by Bruce Levine, if only to see if we can figure out through the wisdom of the crowd whose interest(s) this story actually serves.

Superficially, it uses flattering verbiage for both the coaching staff ("tireless workers") and the front office (" Hahn and Williams simply used some of their upper-management skills"). Through this lens, perhaps it's just a way to transfer heat from Ventura to the players.

But if a reader isn't inclined to be charitable, this could come off as damning. I don't think it does Ventura any favors -- it reads like he's in need of his own "hands-on" management training during his fourth year on the job. And if that's the case, then it could be a tacit admission that Williams and Hahn overestimated Ventura's abilities. I guess it depends on who is more responsible for the old "manifesto," because it's not a good look when an entire offseason's worth of preparation has been deemed ineffective and replaced in three days.

I'm also not ruling out that it's a poorly executed story more than anything else, because it's been known to happen. At the very least, the emphasis on "working hard" rings hollow when "working smart" has been the problem.