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The Turncoat Tue Sep 14 2010
To be completely honest, I have become far more immersed in White Sox culture this summer than I expected. I figured that, at best, my treachery would result in me listlessly distracting myself with another team while I subsisted on a hatred for the Cubs. Maybe after a couple years, I would come to fully love the White Sox, but in the meantime, they would be a way to be entertained by baseball while I refused the brand offered on the other side of town.
Lo and behold, this was not the case. I quickly became so adequately obsessed with the Sox that I forgot why I ever cared about the Cubs in the first place. I was aided by a great ballpark and a bizarrely streaky team. Every game I went to this season was baseball bliss. The great fans, the park with its staggeringly low supply of bad views, and the team that dared you glance away for even a second because they were always one play away from their next huge string of wins rapidly accelerated my passing interest in Chicago's oft-neglected team into a full borne fascination with the Southside. The only thing more surprising than my sudden willingness to chirp out random renditions of "Let's Go, Go-Go White Sox," was how quickly I came to loathe the motherless collection of small-market dirtbags that hail from Minnesota. My god, how I hate the Twins.
Everybody but White Sox fans loves to love this stupid team. In the wake of steroid scandals, Scott Boras-fueled contracts and a general hatred for teams like the Yankees, baseball fans have become enamored with small market teams. How romantic was the improbable, last minute run of the 2007 Colorado Rockies? Wasn't it just the most magical scenario since Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, watching them sneak their way to the Fall Classic just in time to get annihilated by the Boston Red Sox? And, aw shucks, wasn't it enchanting that the Florida Marlins managed to win two World Series since they were incorporated in 1993 despite the fact that the entire payroll from each WS-winning team was less than Alfonso Soriano is stealing from the Chicago Cubs?
The Minnesota Twins, with their average annual payroll of $63.5 million over the last five years, are now everyone's favorite darlings. Never mind that in 2010 they are spending nearly a $100 million, they're still a "small market" team. Maybe it is because either city the Twins represent is roughly the size of Rosco Village, maybe it's because they were once owned by a twelve year old, but somehow a ball club with the 11th largest bundle of contracts and a season hotter than the Earth's sun has captured the imaginations of everyone looking for a new underdog to cheer for. If you're a White Sox fan, these are maddening circumstances.
No matter what the Sox have done to reclaim first place since handing it to their rivals a month ago, the Twins have been two infuriating steps ahead of them. The Good Guys went on a seven game win streak on the road; three of which games included an improbable sweep at Fenway. Under most circumstances you would expect a contending team to gain some nice ground during a stretch like this. Unfortunately, the Twins' magically-supplied prowess prevented the Sox from gaining anymore than a half of a game. A. Half. Of. A. Game. A few sloppy games in Detroit and and a 2/3 series against the Royals and the Sox face the end of the season tonight at six games out of first with only 19 games left to play.
To have even a sliver of a nugget of an iota of a chance to make the playoffs, they would have to sweep the Twins, who would in turn have to finish out the season '69 Cubs-style. The Sox need a miracle and the Twins need to collapse like a foot bridge supporting Prince Fielder if 35th street is going to host any playoff games. As Jim Reedy wisely and succinctly pointed out, the odds of this happening are low and it might just be time to put the season away.
When one stops to consider what a great year the Sox have had, it is incredibly disheartening to consider how unlikely they are to make it to October. A prime example is Paul Konerko. Not only has the veteran been most of 2010's offense, he is having his fourth season with 30 plus home runs and 100 plus RBIs. At the risk of sounding too fatalistic, what are the odds of this happening a fifth time in the career of the 34 year old? The same goes for Omar Vizquel. The elderly statesman has been an unprecedented boon at 3rd base defensively, as well as a clutch hitter and a successfully aggressive base runner. He too is a wee too "experienced" to expect similar future performances from. It isn't easy to sit back and watch so much go so right at the same time only to see the Sox get upended by Santa Claus and his band of over-romanced quasi-underdogs.
So here's wishing the White Sox their best as they (realistically, not technically) face elimination this week. This team has shown incredible amounts of fight and tenacity when all looked lost before. They finished the first half of the season on a 25-5 rip that no one saw coming or wanted to believe. They took down the Red Sox in front of the Fenway Faithful after losing to duds like the Orioles and the Royals just weeks before. Now, they stare down their rivals after not having taken a series from them all season. Here's hoping they have just enough fight left to keep it interesting. Go Sox.