Thursday, September 8, 2005, 12:15 pm
Nothing like winning a 1-0 game last night (certainly, it was the definition of "winning ugly") only to open today’s Chicago Tribune and read the following headlines:
Method to predict madness: Phil Rogers’ new system of rating playoff contenders isn’t kind to the South Siders
Sox scratch heads as fans stay away
Once again, we really appreciate the Tribune for its willingness to stick a pin into any balloon of enthusiasm caused by our seven-game streak.
This from an email correspondent and Sox fan this morning: "I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that today’s Trib runs a game story that underscores how close the bullpen came to ALMOST blowing a game again and a side story on attendance. At least the subheds/pull quotes serve to almost apologize for the negative tone of the attendance story. I suspect (Paul) Sullivan’s "honorable mention" list of Frank Thomas embarrassing moments or an expose on the crumbling USCF is on tap for the weekend editions…"
First, let me offer my thoughts on the Rogers piece. It really is unclear as to exactly what the new formula is (other than some percentages provided in a shadow box) and how it is used. And Phil kind of explains in the beginning of the piece that what he is trying to do is pretty much impossible … but it seems to me that what this type of criticism of the 2005 White Sox boils down to is run production and one-run games.
A statistician probably looks at our season (we are 30-15 in one-run games) and explains that record (which is an anomaly) by randomness and good luck. By a statistician’s view, we are probably just as likely to go 15-30 over our next 45 one-run games.
Someone else looks at the 30-15 record, has watched our team play for five months, and says, "Well, they have very good starting pitching, at times dominant, they have one of the best bullpen’s in baseball, they play good defense, when they are on they can manufacture runs in a number of ways, and they must have a pretty good manager making decisions each night. I see how and why they win one-run games."
We are a team that would have looked much better statistically in years past, but ask any White Sox fan, and they would agree that this year’s team has a better chance to win games than the 2001, 2002, 2003 or 2004 clubs.
I believe one of the strategic moves Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen made this offseason was to risk going against the baseball grain (one that might have made us look better on paper and grade out better by Phil Rogers’ formula) by building a different type of team. Will it ultimately play out in our favor? We will see. Are the 2005 White Sox actually setting a new trend that the rest of baseball may follow? Too soon to tell, but we will see.
And perhaps it is just a coincidence that every time the White Sox seem to run off a winning streak this season, we are faced the next morning with a story that explains in some manufactured way, how we can’t or won’t win.
The thing I found most interesting in the "new formula" is that according to the Trib, the American League team with the very best chance in the postseason — Oakland — isn’t even in the playoff field if the season ended today. Not sure I would take their chances over ours sitting here on September 8. Would Phil?
And Then Attendance
Sorry to put you through this (assuming you have read this far), but I am sure it is frustrating for our fans to read again about attendance in a season when we are going to draw the fourth-biggest figure in the team’s 100-plus year history.
April, May and September are tougher draws for us for two main reasons … school and our season ticket base. The first makes us a victim of our own success, in my opinion. The second, we are trying to do something about.
Because so much of our fan base is made up of suburbanites, kids and families, school impacts us a great deal. Midweek games when school is in session is a tough draw for many teams who rely on kids and families as their base. Did you notice how empty fundamentals was last night? Not a lot of kids in the park. I do think this will change in the future, in part, because the city is continuing to grow around our ballpark. The closer fans live to us, the more likely they will be to attend midweek games in September.
April, May and September attendance totals are also very dependent upon your season ticket base. Ours is going up, and we are doing everything we can to continue its growth, but we need to reach a point where we know we will have 15,000 or 18,000 "tickets sold" to every game before we even begin the season. We aren’t there yet, but I believe we will be there very soon. Last night, we sold about 4,000 walk up tickets. That is a very, very good number and shows us that interest remains high.
Sorry to rant, but I just needed to respond with my thoughts on today’s news. Humor me on this one …