White Sox need to get more fans in seats

  • Fans congregate outside U.S. Cellular Field before a game earlier this season.

      Fans congregate outside U.S. Cellular Field before a game earlier this season. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/14/2011 12:04 AM

For the sake of discussion, let's say the White Sox bring everybody back in 2012.

Kenny Williams is still the general manager. Ozzie Guillen is still the field manager. Adam Dunn is still the designated hitter. Alex Rios is still the center fielder.

 

What else to do?

Get more people to join them, that's what. More fans and their families and their fannies in Comiskey Park seats, that is.

When it's pointed out how stale the Sox seem to have become, it's more than just the product on the field.

Attendance -- hardly ever what it should be for a baseball team in a big baseball market like Chicago -- has become an embarrassment.

Even when the Sox remained within one's imagination of first place, too many sections from the box seats to the bleachers to the upper deck were filled with empty seats.

Something is wrong here -- maybe marketing, maybe advertising, maybe community relations, maybe the people, maybe the strategy, maybe the overall aura of a less than likable group of people.

Whatever it is, the Sox have to do something drastic if the team is going to get to where it should be, among baseball's elite franchises.

The Sox weren't always an afterthought in the major leagues, you know. Nor were they always second to the Cubs in Chicago.

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But that's where the Sox are now because they haven't been aggressive enough or creative enough or smart enough to do much about it.

No professional sports team in Chicago is as vocal as the Sox about the size of its payroll being tied to the size of their attendance figures.

How tiresome does it become to hear Williams say that gate receipts will determine how much the Sox can spend on players?

But it's true, even though Jerry Reinsdorf approved a bloated payroll this season in the hope a contending team would draw bloated crowds.

The Sox' chairman lost his gamble because he spent it and they still didn't come.

The White Sox began the season with a payroll of about $128 million. The Tigers began at about $108 million.

By the July 31 trade deadline the money translated into both teams being in hot pursuit of the division championship.

But at that point, as now, the Tigers in an economically challenged city were on the way to a season attendance of about 2.6 million and the Sox were struggling to reach 2 million.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So here's what happened at midseason: The Sox had to cut their payroll by a few million bucks and the Tigers added to theirs.

Detroit acquired a couple of hitters, Delmon Young and Wilson Betemit, and a couple of pitchers, Doug Fister who has been outstanding in the starting rotation and David Pauley who has eaten innings out of the bullpen.

The best the Sox could do was trade starter Edwin Jackson for two pitchers who made no difference and bring up a few minor-leaguers who made little difference.

So the Tigers have gone from 2 games ahead of the Sox to so far ahead that the only suspense is what Reinsdorf will do with Williams and Guillen.

Whoever is around next season won't matter unless the Sox solve this persistent dilemma of how to get people to attend games on the South Side.

If they can't, the White Sox never will consistently be the team they should be, want to be and can be.

mimrem@dailyherald.com