CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 3: Dan Johnson #29 of the Chicago White Sox hits his second two run home run of the game during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on October 3, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Updated: November 5, 2012 11:48AM
CLEVELAND — A season that began with modest expectations that were heightened significantly by June only to be dashed in late September came to a largely insignificant end on Wednesday night.
Considering the Sox’ 9-0 victory against the Indians before 18,093 fans at Progressive Field gave them their second series win since late August, it almost boggles the mind to think they stayed ahead of the Detroit Tigers in first place in the American League Central for as long as they did -- until Sept. 25.
“Yeah, the last month was terrible,’’ Adam Dunn said. “One of the most frustrating things you can go through. But if you look at the big picture we learned a lot as a team about what we have for next year and where we’re headed, and I think it’s pretty bright.’’
General manager Ken Williams was still feeling the sting Wednesday of that dreadful 2-10 stretch that wrote the Sox ticket to second place. They finished 85-77.
“We didn’t win enough games, so we’re going home,’’ he said Wednesday, summarizing 2012. “Bottom line.’’
While not faulting the team’s effort, Williams had a hard time getting his head around the fact that his team held a three-game lead on the Tigers on Sept. 18. Adding to the frustration was his belief that the Sox matched up better with the playoff teams than the non-playoff teams they couldn’t beat down the stretch.
“All we had to do was take care of business and we wouldn’t be sitting here in this position,’’ he said.
And so it’s turn the page to next year, when Williams is expected to be team president with assistant GM Rick Hahn taking over in the GM chair. Williams was cool to a national report saying the Sox will take care of business with their own free agents by making serious bids to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy and Kevin Youkilis.
“Well then, whomever wrote that knows more information than I do,’’ he said. “It’s too early to speculate right now. Too much to go through.”
With attendance declining for the sixth straight year and dipping below 2 million, it’s more difficult to imagine chairman Jerry Reinsdorf raising payroll than holding it steady or raising. Stay tuned. What Williams knows is his high number of affordable rookies and young players proved they “are not just ready for the major leagues, but ready to compete on a championship level.’’
“So that gives us great comfort and flexibility when it comes to how we’re going to have to manage our payroll and juggle things to have good, young players under control and affordable, at least at this point. It won’t be for long because they’re pretty good. But that’s one of the things the off-season is for. To sit and evaluate where we’ve been, where we are and where we want to be.
“We got some free-agent issues we got to deal with and we’ll find a way. We’ve managed to find a way to compete each and every year. Certainly not to our satisfaction but we’ll keep plugging away.”
One issue to be dealt with is the contract of right-hander Gavin Floyd, who improved to 12-11 and lowered his ERA to 4.29 by throwing seven scoreless innings Wednesday. Floyd has a club option for $9.5 million next year, which the Sox must consider with Peavy in limbo. Floyd’s ERA was 2.88 over his last six starts.
Dan Johnson hit three home runs for the Sox. Paul Konerko connected on his 26th and Dayan Viciedo his 25th, giving the Sox five players with 25 homers for the second time in franchise history.