Grace period doesn't apply to 2005 White Sox

It's been five years since the White Sox won the World Series, and that's both too long ago and perfectly timeless.

In the aftermath of the New England Patriots’ first Super Bowl title in 2002, Bill Simmons wrote in his “Rules for being a true fan” column:

12. After your team wins a championship, they immediately get a five-year grace period: You can’t complain about anything that happens with your team (trades, draft picks, salary-cap cuts, coaching moves) for five years. There are no exceptions. For instance, the Pats could finish 0-80 over the next five years and I wouldn’t say a peep. That’s just the way it is. You win the Super Bowl, you go on cruise control for five years. Everything else is gravy.

Well folks, the five-year grace period for the White Sox is up today. Oct. 26, 2010 marks the wood anniversary of the White Sox winning their first World Series in 88 years. Having lived those five years, I think we can throw out the concept of any kind of established honeymoon.
In one sense, the grace period was over years ago. In another, it may never expire.
Whether or not their team won a recent title, paying customers deserve the company’s best shot at creating an enjoyable product. If it doesn’t result in wins, it should reflect that attitude in other ways (cheaper ticket prices, better promotions/distractions, more connections between the players and the fan base).
The White Sox do it by attempting to make a run for the division title every year (except for the secret rebuilding year of 2007), whether or not that’s the best idea for the long-term health of the franchise. In fact, they kind of put all their eggs in this basket. They certainly charge championship prices, and Kenny Williams’ attitude toward the common paying fan can turn Yankee-grade cold when the attendance numbers drop during a bleak, fan-murdering rut.
[Lengthy aside] I think the White Sox struggle with connecting to the average fan, waaaaaay more than they should. They have the pieces to be a lot friendlier than they are. Their players have fine personal reputations, so much so that acquiring Manny Ramirez was almost immoral to some people. Scott Reifert and Southpaw have frequent bursts of pleasant engagement on Twitter, and also through White Sox Charities. They have taken baby steps to increase access for us blogger/independent media types. Throughout my years of blogging, I’ve heard a lot of great stories from fans on how well individual members of the franchise — players, coaches, employees, executives — treated them in various encounters. From what I can tell, there is very little face-to-face big-timing going on.
But when it comes to the most important issue in every professional relationship — money — they’re not very good at bridging the gap. For the last few years, it’s gone like this:

  1. Williams will voice concerns when the gate receipts are down as summer rolls around.
  2. Sox fans, whether in writing or with their feet, tell the organization the cost is prohibitive for repeat business.
  3. The marketing department announces a raise in ticket prices after the season.
  4. At the end of the winter, the Sox introduce a new marketing campaign emphasizing hard work instead of fun at the ol’ ballpark.

And the cycle repeats, of course. This year had a neat wrinkle, as Brooks Boyer said the Sox were attempting to scalp their own tickets prior to the announcement about price increases.
Obviously, they have a business model, and the plight of the common fan falls behind the TV deal, corporate sponsorships, suite sales and the season-ticket owners. That’s just reality, and if you want to go to a place where the five-games-a-year fan is a higher priority, you’ll have to go see the Kane County Cougars. But I still think the Sox can work on their messages from the top, because it masks a lot of the good deeds being done on the ground level. Most fans aren’t all that tuned in to find out about the smaller gestures. [/Lengthy aside]
When you live solely by stressing the quality and effort on the field, and then Williams makes a clearly wrong move that undermines his chances for years (like the second Nick Swisher trade, and potentially the Dan Hudson trade), I don’t think any kind of grace period should cover that. A title makes it easier to shrug off subsequent iffy decisions (like the Jose Contreras extension), but too much money is involved to stand idly by as the guy in charge shoots his product in the foot.
But on the other hand, when Juan Uribe fired the ball to Paul Konerko for the final out five years ago to the day, it definitely changed something about how my brain functions as a baseball fan.
There aren’t many advantages to rooting for a historically insignificant franchise. It’s harder to get national recognition, it’s harder to find good historical reference material, and it’s harder to find the more interesting merchandise.
But being able to savor victories is one of the benefits. From what I can tell in the office, I enjoyed an 88-win season without a playoff appearance more than Yankees fans enjoyed reaching the ALCS, and I honestly don’t think I would want the roles reversed.
Maybe I’ll start to get tired of the 2005 White Sox if they turn into the 1985 Bears, when they’re honored every five years and serve as the comparison for every decent White Sox team, complete with Jon Garland occasionally surfacing to say the starters lack heart. Right now, I can still remember what it was like when 1917 was the last championship year listed. That really sucked. This doesn’t, and so the grace period is extended indefinitely in this sense.
We know it could be a lot worse. I keep thinking of the devastating series of events in the mid-1990s — the loss to the Blue Jays in the ’93 ALCS, the Jerry Reinsdorf-supported strike that killed a potentially historic season, the White Flag trade. That was the last best chance for too many Sox fans. Millions upon millions of die-hards up and died before seeing a championship in their lifetimes.
Five years later, that realization isn’t any less real. And I don’t think it should ever be.
**********************************
Minor league roundup:

  • Peoria 5, Scottsdale 4
    • Jared Mitchell is now hitless in his last 15 at-bats after going 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
    • Eduardo Escobar also went 0-for-4.
    • Anthony Carter pitched another perfect inning, but only struck out one this time.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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iowaoaks

“But being able to savor victories… …I honestly don’t think I would want the roles reversed.”
-Amen Brother!
Jim, thank you. That was better then nearly anything I’ve read about our Sox recently. You could not sum up the state of most Sox fans hearts here in 2010 better. (Hell, that could be the preface of a book…. hmmm… Know anyone who writes a Sox book every year…)

fustercluck

Hear, hear. There’s a huge difference between “we might never see them win it all” and “we might never see them win it all again”. The arbitrary Simmons grace period may be over. But a team that wins it all in your lifetime, while you’re old enough to appreciate it, earns some measure of lifetime pass. On top of the books and DVDs that cement the ’05 team’s legacy, we’ve been rescued from championship drought graphics for a long time.

Shinons

Bill Simmons is a tool. Look at those five years after the Bulls’ last title. Oh no Bulls fans, can’t complain about trading a 20-10 guy in his second year for a high schooler because Simmons says so.
Every team is different and there’s no universal rules for fandom. If you’re the Royals, a World Series win is going to give you a 20 year high but for a Red Sox or Yankees fan it’ll probably only last 2 or 3 years before they start getting antsy, and that’s fair enough. But echoing Jim’s sentiments, I’m definitely grateful growing up a Sox fan where wins are a lot more special.

john

What’s humorous is he constantly nitpicks about the Red Sox off-season moves yet they’ve won two championships in the last 6 years.
If you’re not allowed to care about what your team does for the next five years, what’s the point of following them? I’m all for having a grace period, but I don’t think it should last more than 1 season. After that, the glow is gone but the memories will always remain.

dalton

I think it is important to remember that, historically, if your name isn’t the NY Yankees, it is really, really hard to win a World Championship (or, if your name is former NBA player and TNT analyst Kenny Smith, a “World’s Championship.”).
I don’t mean to write that we cannot concern ourselves with off-season moves, gripe and complain, etc., when things don’t pan out or “our” team doesn’t win it all. We have that right as Americans. Heck, in the old Iraq, during the days of Saddam, one of his sons would have players of the national soccer team tortured after losses. I think a little spleen-venting on the blogs after a disappointing 88-win season is acceptable.

dalton

Bill Simmons is in the business of Bill Simmons.

knoxfire30

Mitchell 0-15 what the heck is Greg Walker his hitting coach or something?

soxfan1

Jim you have summed up my feelings perfectly. You have fantastic insight into the White Sox and its fans!!

ceverettsdinosaurs

I think Jeffrey Loria, the owner of the Marlins has been reading too many of Bill Simmons’ articles. Seems that their whole front office strategy is built around the 5-year grace period. Win the World Series, quickly dismantle the team during aforementioned grace period, and build it back up with prospects so that by the time the 5 years is up, you’re ready to compete/win again and start the process over. Seems like a good strategy for a small market team. In the time you have between periods of actual hope for a title, you are allowed to watch the promise of young talent develop on the farm and before your eyes on the ML club. Unfortunately, I think Simmons’ theory is perfect for small market teams, yet misguided on large market teams (like his beloved Red Sox) where competing for championships is expected every year.

knoxfire30

Sox picked up thornton and castro’s options, and put carlos torres on waivers because he wants to pitch in asia somewhere, 3 good moves!

cushinglee

Maybe Torres is going to Asia on a secret mission to kill Taliban agents.

cushinglee

The one thing I wanted in my life, sports-wise, was to see the White Sox win a World Series in my lifetime. And it happened. And because of that, my outlook has changed somewhat. I’m not saying that I don’t care whether the Sox win or lose (I wouldn’t be visiting this site every day if that was the case), but the fact is that 2005 makes being a White Sox fan a little bit easier.

trumpd52

I remember when my kids were young in the 80’s and the White Sox would be playing on the west coast, I would get up on a Saturday morning and call this phone number for scores (cost 50 cents) to see how they did. Pretty pathetic and the kids would wonder why I usually looked glum when I hung up. I knew it was wrong, but I could not kick it – not after watching Joe Cunningham do the splits at first when I was six and all the travails those many years after. So when Oct 26th 2005 rolled in, I was thinking in the 8th – can’t take it, going to bed and my wife stood up and commanded I stay up for the end. Did as told and after the win, figured I’d move on to other concerns. But no…I read this site everyday. There must be a drug to get off this fix, but I suspect if I could buy it, I would and then let it sit in the bathroom cabinet.

otter4

Then why follow the Sox at all any more? Why not just go watch the DVDs of 2005.
I’ve also always thought the five year grace period is one of the
dumber things that Simmons has ever written. The goal is to win every
year, not every five years.
Yankee and Canadian fans have it figured out. It’s about always
winning. If it was only about doing it once or once in a while, as I just said, then why even watch and follow the team in the first place?