By George Ofman-
(CBS) The White Sox are becoming an afterthought.
This is not official, yet. They need to underachieve through the rest of the month and be at least eight games out of first place to be pretty much erased from the public conscience.
Yes, there will be a handful of their die-hards who will continue to die hard and maybe the occasional walk-ups, but the Red Line reconstruction will inhibit some others from trying to inhabit the mostly empty green seats at the Cell.
It’s not as if the faithful and curiosity seekers broke down the gates last season. Only 1,965,955 customers bothered to pay attention to a pretty good team that rested in first place in late September. This is fewer patrons that showed up in 2011 and fewer from the year before and the year before that. Matter of fact, attendance has dwindled each year since a record 2,957,414 jammed the park in 2006, the year after the Sox won the World Series.
Think about that. Sox attendance dropped one million fans in just six years? I haven’t quite calculated what that means in revenue to Jerry Reinsdorf and his partners, but it’s probably more than two Adam Dunn contracts. Speaking of which, wasn’t the “Big Donkey” supposed to spike interest with his arrival in 2011? Season ticket sales didn’t reflect it and of course Dunn’s crash and burn season reflected more of a tune out than a tune in.
This is a serious issue even if the Sox are paying little if no rent in their sweetheart deal with the state.
The Sox continue to languish at the gate and on the field. The product elicits little excitement because there really isn’t a player you want to pay to see save for Chris Sale. Go ahead, name another? Dunn is crashing again. Alex Rios has never titled the scales and Gordon Beckham’s good looks and better defense don’t classify as a drawing card. Tyler flowers? And the chants of “Paulie, Paulie” are starting to ring a bit hollow.
Pretty much none of these Sox are worth the price of admission, certainly not the way they’re playing. That’s part of the problem.
The other is perception and those darned Cubs again. The Sox did nothing in the offseason except sign Jeff Keppinger, which has so far amounted to nothing. They really didn’t in improve a product that remains inferior to the Tigers and apparently the Royals, Indians and, if you check the standings, the Twins, as well.
Injuries, a bad defense that has done a 360 and a terrible April have left the Sox in somewhat of an abyss.
Meanwhile, despite a worse record, the Cubs have a dynamic front office, an owner with a vision, (even if it gets blocked by rooftop owners) and a future. The Sox have the present and the past. Where’s the future? The current team could revive its fortunes should John Danks revive his career, Dunn suddenly hit again and the defense does an about-face after doing an about-face.
But will fans rush to 35th and Veeck Drive? They didn’t last season. Why should they now? What about the farm system? Are names rolling off your tongue? It’s in dire need of an upgrade. Meanwhile, positive or negative, the Cubs are in the news seemingly every day, whether it’s a jumbotron, Alderman Tunney or Carlos Marmol. Who’s making news on the south side?
This is not a franchise that will emulate the Cubs. It will not strip down and seek a gut rehab. This is not the way Reinsdorf and his caretakers operate. What they desperately need for now is a drawing card. They need someone who can stir the masses, produce headlines everyday and make the Sox more relevant. I’m starting to miss Ozzie Guillen. I wonder if they are.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM. Look for him on Facebook and find him on Twitter at @georgeofman.