Column: Nervous Chicago White Sox fans?  "If you don't like that, this probably isn't your place," says former slugger Paul Konerko.

These are tough times for Chicago White Sox fans.

The team they’ve waited years for has been stuck in neutral for nearly four months, greeting every big win with a debilitating loss.

The Hall of Fame manager has not been the answer, and many feel he is part of the problem. Some of the promising young stars who signed long-term deals before lifting a finger in the big leagues have fallen short of expectations due to injuries or inconsistency. The much-hyped collection of guns in the bullpen has been up one day, down the next, and unavailable to throw when it’s needed most.

It has been one thing after another, culminating in a shaking head, upset stomach, 6-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday in a game so horrible it even ruined the day off on a beautiful Thursday afternoon in Chicago.

The Red Sox return to Guaranteed Rate Field Friday night with a .500 record, three games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins with a chance to make a move in the League Central. American against the Oakland Athletics, the worst team in the American League.

But no one can get too confident, even with Lance Lynn taking the mound after his best performance since his return.

Sox fan angst could be at an all-time high, making this upcoming homestand against the A’s and Kansas City Royals more important than ever.

When trying to gauge the state of mind of Sox fans, I turned to an expert, former first baseman Paul Konerko, who was visiting town with his three children. I have known Konerko since covering the Sox as a beat writer in the early 2000s, but hadn’t spoken to him since he retired after the 2014 season.

Konerko suggested that Red Sox players should have tough skin because no one will coddle them if things go wrong.

“Any city that has two teams where you fight and strive to be the talk of the town for over 100 years, you definitely create an advantage there that other cities don’t get because you’re the only show in town. Konerko said.

“My perception as a player who played here was quite simple: I felt that every time I was criticized, I deserved it. Every time I was doing well, they cheered me on and were proud to have me as a player.

“It was the right amount, never overboard. Maybe a couple of times, but I felt like everything I was getting in terms of feedback was pretty much on point. You didn’t have just blind support, blind cheers, like ‘Oh, we’re behind you 100%,’ even if you don’t do anything on the pitch.

“If you don’t like that, this probably isn’t your place. I felt that that was a good thing and I didn’t shy away from it. I felt they were fair. I had moments, a stretch or even half a season where I wasn’t good, and I felt like what I got was deserved. I got booed a couple of times, like in 2003 or 2008, when I had some really bad starts.

“But I always felt like they knew the effort was there. They never questioned the story behind the scenes. It was just about production and not doing it right.”

The Red Sox have not produced as expected, especially at the Guaranteed Rate. They enter Friday with a 21-27 record at home, a vexing issue for which manager Tony La Russa and his players have no explanation. Last season, the Sox went 53-28 at home with most of the same players, sailing to the Central title.

History says the Sox must have a winning record at home if they are to play in October. None of the 11 Sox teams that have played in the postseason since the 1906 World Series have been under .500 at their stadium, be it South Side Park, the old Comiskey Park or the new Comiskey Park, which has since it has been renamed twice.

Konerko knows Sox fans will root for the team in the summer, but only if it shows in the spring. They don’t understand the tourists who help pack Wrigley Field, even for a terrible Cubs team, but the ones that do show up are vocal, whether it’s cheering or singing “Fire Tony”.

“I was with someone last night, he was 60 years old and he said he had been to a billion Red Sox games, but the funniest game he had ever been to was the 2008 Blackout game (the division playoff against the Twins)” Konerko said. “And that includes the World Series, everything. It was the most memorable White Sox game of his life.

“I don’t know much about other places, because I’ve been here a long time, so this is my only context. But I feel like they’re good, hard-working people who know the game and aren’t blind to what’s going on. They understand what makes a guy beat, or when a guy saves a run with a good play. There are other teams that don’t notice that kind of thing, where someone hits a popup and everyone in the building thinks it’s gone. Not here.”

The Red Sox are averaging 24,364 fans per game, ranking 18th in the majors despite starting the season with World Series expectations. Konerko said that’s not surprising, since Sox fans are known for having a wait-and-see attitude.

“As a team, because of a lot of different variables that you know, this fan base is like, ‘Hey, we’re going to come out and be behind you in July and August. Show us you’re a good team,'” he said.

“Some might say, ‘Well, why not start from the beginning?’ But I always felt like it was a good target for us every time. Do you want people to pack the house? Be first in July and August. And they were. I wish we had done it more often.”

The Sox haven’t been back to the World Series since the 2005 season, when Ozzie Guillen’s team fulfilled their fans’ wildest dreams. They still hope that the 2022 team, with all its talent and resources, can replicate that season.

But for now, it’s still a wait and see.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.