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In the interest of being helpful to fans during this season in which the team has lost 38 of 56 games, perhaps a manual of Tips for Watching the White Sox would come in handy at this juncture. So here goes.
Tip Number One. Don't go out to the ballpark or tune in on TV or radio to see whether the team will win or lose. The final outcome is of no consequence. Be not disappointed if Ricky's Boys do, in fact, Quit, or at the very least get outscored by a bunch of runs. When all is decided four months from now, the losses very well may be in triple digits, so what's another setback? If you have not figured out by now that Rebuilds are not about wins and losses, be hereby informed.
Tip Number Two. However, be cognizant of the way the team plays. You know, like many things in life, there is a right and wrong way to do things. The right way includes hitting the cutoff man - the Sox do this fairly well - and running the bases with aplomb and intelligence, a trait that eludes this bunch too often. They do lead the major leagues in stolen bases which might not please the analytic crowd which disdains this statistic, but at least Renteria's athletes are good at something. Now if only they stopped getting picked off and getting hung up between bases, we could laud the coaching staff for teaching this fundamental of the game.
Tip Number Three. Tune in or arrive late. The first inning has been killer for this team. They've been pummeled for 57 first-inning runs, which is 17 more than any other inning so far this season. Meanwhile, the Sox have scored only 26 times in their half of the first. The opposition has scored at least two runs in the opening frame 17 times, putting the South Siders in an early hole on a regular basis. Start watching, say, in the fourth inning, where the Sox have outscored the opposition 39-38. So be an hour late. No worries.
Tip Number Four. If you decide to actually travel to 35th and Shields and you enjoy sitting downstairs - judging by the near-empty and sometimes-closed upper deck especially for weekday games, the lower bowl contains the seats of choice - please know that good seats always are available unless fans from Milwaukee or the North Side show up to see the Brewers or Cubs. The Sox-Brewers series last weekend drew approximately 75,000. But in the handful of games I've attended this season, I can't remember a red-jerseyed usher ever checking my seat location. I'm not complaining. The opportunity of being able to sit just about anywhere makes going to a Sox game kind of nice.
Keep in mind also that starting in Box 119 in short right field and continuing to Box 145 in short left, tickets average about $16-$21 more expensive than those just one box over and continuing to box seats in the corners. In other words, like most parks, you pay more for seats between the bases. The only problem is that whatever the price or seat location, the fan, more often than not, watches the same inept team, notwithstanding last weekend's series win over Milwaukee. And, as I've already pointed out, you can elect to move closer to the action without being hassled. If the Rebuild is successful, that option will quickly disappear.
Tip Number Five. Keeping with the theme of buying a ticket and going to a game, know in advance that you have much less access to video replays than the fans watching at home. Just about every at-bat and many pitches, regardless of how they impinge on the Sox' reputation for proper performance, are shown on television. However, the monstrous centerfield video board only shows replays when the Sox get a hit, make a nice play, or do something that good teams tend to do. Of course, that happens far too infrequently these days. Management could unplug the huge sumbitch overlooking centerfield and little would be lost other than the never-ending fan cams capturing folks of all ages dancing, drinking, laughing, kissing, and just having a grand old time at the ballpark.
Two other items about the scoreboard in centerfield. If you haven't figured out as yet what "MVR" means, it's "Mound Visits Remaining," of which each team gets six. (Changing pitchers doesn't count.) This could be so exciting if that number ever came anywhere near zero. At least in the NBA, keeping track of timeouts can be important, especially if you're J.R. Smith. But mound visits? I say limit them to three or four if the commissioner's office is truly serious about shortening games, or how about requiring each team to have a set monthly number of complete games thrown by starting pitchers?
On that note, Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco and Seattle's James Paxton each have thrown two complete games this season. No one else has more than one. The four complete games of Carrasco and Paxton have averaged 2 hours, 35 minutes, or a half-hour less than the MLB average.
Getting back to the White Sox video board, whoever presses the buttons for balls and strikes is terribly slow on the draw. The lapse between the call at the plate and the posting on the scoreboard is unexplainable, especially when compared to the ballpark across town where the balls and strikes are posted almost instantaneously on a board that was built in 1937. Call it heresy if you must, but Sox bosses should send their personnel to the North Side to witness the dexterity of the Cubs' scoreboard operators and their practice of showing replays of every action on the field regardless of whether the home team looks good.
Tip Number Six. Celebrate players like Daniel Palka, Charlie Tilson, Jose Rondon, Trayce Thompson, Matt Skole, Alfredo Gonzalez and Dylan Covey. These are guys who in almost any other organization would be toiling in the minor leagues. Due to the talent on the White Sox roster and a flurry of injuries, they currently are members of the White Sox.
Thompson, who was released by three other teams earlier this season, owns a .133 batting average over 34 games. Palka, a good hitter whose pinch hit home run Sunday turned out to be the game-winner, is a liability in the outfield. Last Monday in Cleveland with the Sox ahead 5-2 and two outs with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning, Palka came running in to capture Edwin Encarnacion's pop fly in short right field. The ball hit him in a vulnerable spot - his glove - before dropping to the ground as all three runners scored. Before the inning ended, a three-run cushion morphed into a two-run deficit. Tilson, the New Trier product, is a feel-good story, playing in front of his hometown friends and family after recovering from injuries that took almost two years to heal. He can't hit like Palka, but he can run and play the outfield, two skills that Thompson also possesses. Skole made his major league debut in the same game as Palka's tribulations, singling in his first-ever at-bat and launching a homer deep into the right field stands in his second plate appearance. Moonlight Graham would have been thrilled.
After appearing in six games two seasons ago for the Padres, Rondon was recalled on May 5th, and the 24-year-old has responded with three home runs in limited action. Gonzalez, who replaced the suspended Welington Castillo, got his first major league hit on Sunday to tie the game at one. Because of injuries, righthanded pitcher Dylan Covey is back for his third try in the big leagues with the Sox after going 0-7 last year with a 7.71 ERA. After five innings on Sunday when he didn't allow an earned run, Covey has covered his last three starts over 16-plus innings on a yield of just three earned runs. No matter what happens in the future, these athletes can tell their grandchildren what it was like to play major league baseball. We can be happy for them. We can share in their joy.
Final Tip. It's only baseball. Lighten up. Easy for me to say. If only I could do it.
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