White Sox provide doze of reality at the Cell
BY RICK TELANDER Staff Reporter September 18, 2013 9:44PM
Updated: September 19, 2013 9:26AM
The press-box windows were open on this lovely late-summer day, and it would’ve been easy to take a nap.
I had a few — OK, six — hot dogs in my belly, and my eyelids were drooping. The breeze was pleasant. The White Sox were playing the Twins somewhere down below, quietly, meaninglessly.
And then somebody fouled off a pitch, and it soared up into the blue sky and landed in the stands not far below me. I watched a gray-haired man scramble out of his seat, go down three rows, around the corner into the cement entranceway and pick up the ball. Uncontested.
It was that kind of game.
In the upper deck down the left-field line at U.S. Cellular Field, I counted 16 people in eight sections that could handle 30 times that many. The announced attendance was 14,520. That’s tickets sold.
Actual humans? I thought about counting them all but was too drowsy.
Exhausted from observing the elderly fan retrieve the foul ball, I decided to perk up, to keep my mind on something meaningful. What would that be?
The Sox were in fifth place in their division, 28 games behind the first-place Tigers. They would soon lose this game to the lousy Twins, cementing their spot as the third-worst team in baseball, behind only the shameful Astros and Marlins.
At a soon-to-be 60-92, the Sox have a reasonable chance to finish the season with 100 losses for the first time in 43 years. Check out that 1970 season, and you find attendance was less than a half-million for the entire dismal year. That would mean each day’s attendance back then at Comiskey Park was worse than today’s game at the Cell. Like, way worse. Like just over 6,000 fans per game.
So, God bless you, you folks who turned out to see Sox pitcher John Danks lose his 14th game, to go with four wins. Danks, of course, is coming back from arm surgery and is nothing like the star he was when he won 28 games combined in 2009 and ’10.
‘‘I wouldn’t have come back when I did if I didn’t think I could help this team,’’ Danks said after the game. He added, needlessly, ‘‘It’s not been fun.’’
No, it hasn’t, though a person could argue that a fine-weather day at a swell ballpark like this one — with nobody to get in your way — is not bad entertainment. Why, there were even enough bodies in house for the scoreboard camera to do a ‘‘Kiss Cam,’’ though there might have been brothers kissing sisters there at the end.
The Sox have been terrible at hitting most of the year, and there were several times when just about anybody could’ve gotten a big hit or two in this game and Danks might’ve won, instead of losing 4-3. The Sox have lost 16 of their last 20 games, so don’t accuse them of playing hard at the end.
Oh, and how about one-run games? The Sox have played in a major-league-leading 54 of them, losing 33. One-run games are there for the taking, or the leaving.
“Too many of them,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘A base hit here, a base hit there, a defensive play here, a pitch made — that’s what hurts about one-run games. You get beat by seven or eight, it’s a different story.’’
A different story, yes. But not a better one, really.
There are so many ways to lose games, and the Sox have displayed all of them this year. It’s to general manager Rick Hahn’s credit that he hasn’t just blasted former GM Ken Williams for the hand he was left with this year.
Old guys, injured guys, no great catcher, some overpriced contracts, there’s not much to like.
‘‘You are not going to hear any gripes about the condition he left us in,’’ Hahn said the other day.
But then Williams is still his boss, so what would we expect to hear? No, this is a team that has come off the tracks in many ways — from lack of fuel, old machinery, death by a thousand errors. If it’s any consolation, the 1971 Sox team that followed that horrendous 1970 team finished with 23 more wins. The 1972 team finished 20 games over .500.
So there’s hope, Sox fans.
But down below, Paul Konerko strikes out to end the eighth inning with the tying run on base. And then in the ninth, Danks’ own brother, Jordan, strikes out to put the nail in his brother’s coffin.
A nap interrupted. A season put to bed.