Kadner: A Chicago summer without baseball
By Phil Kadner email@example.com July 30, 2013 8:50PM
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher John Danks walks off the field after the top of the first inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers Wednesday, July 24, 2013, in Chicago. Danks gave up three runs in the first. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Updated: September 1, 2013 6:20AM
It’s gloomy inside and out. This has been a summer without baseball.
People were talking hockey into early July and then it was all Bears all the time. It even feels like football weather.
The history of baseball in Chicago is a tale of broken dreams, unfulfilled promise and heartbreak. That’s simply a way of life.
Why, if it hadn’t been for 2005, do you realize the White Sox would be creeping up on 100 years without a World Series championship?
Still, through all the seasons of mediocrity, or less, there seemed to be something to cheer for, some reason to hope for better days ahead.
Maybe Cubs fans can see the silver lining in that dark cloud hovering over Wrigley Field, but all I see from the South Side is the giant shadow cast by Adam Dunn.
Have things ever looked this bad?
I haven’t been able to watch an entire game on TV. Haven’t wanted to go to the park.
Don’t even check out the baseball statistics, a ritual that has stuck with me since I first picked up a newspaper.
Chris Sale! That’s the name that pops out of the mouths of buddies who are desperately looking for sunshine.
The White Sox pitcher, in only his second full season as a starter, indeed seems to have the potential to be a star. But how long is this guy going to want to stick around with a team that can’t score runs?
And how long before the Sox brass is tantalized by the notion of trading him for three or four minor league players with “potential?”
Potential. The word makes me want to vomit.
The Sox have Potential starting at second base, shortstop and left field. Potential had the third-base job handed to him, and then Brent Morel went bust.
Looking on the bright side, Chicago hasn’t been touched by the doping scandal that has enveloped baseball since Sammy Sosa was seen leaving Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, we haven’t had anyone who could be labeled a superstar since then either.
I was thinking about that 2005 White Sox team the other day, the one that won the World Series in a four-game sweep, and realized there may not have been one Hall of Fame ballplayer on that squad. It was a fun team, a competitive group of guys, but looking back most of the players were ordinary.
How the heck is it possible for the third-largest city in the United States to have two baseball teams this bad?
Oh, I forgot. On the North Side that’s the plan. Two, three, four or five really bad years and then, well, the team will be competitive.
That’s genius. In what other industry could a CEO pitch the idea to consumers of paying full price for second-rate merchandise and have them remain loyal to the brand?
Yet, the Cubs are likely to finish this season with a better record than the White Sox.
The thing about the Sox is that they are just bad. Hopelessly bad. Mercilessly bad. Pathetically bad.
There’s no other way to say it.
I consider myself an expert on bad baseball, having watched the Sox in the 1960s and 1970s.
My gosh, there was a player named “No Neck” Williams whom we cheered for because, well, you felt bad for a guy so rotund he didn’t seem to have a neck.
Wilbur Wood. He was actually a good pitcher, but the teams he was on were so bad that the guy had to take the mound nearly ever other day.
In 1973, he won 24 games and lost 20 on a team that finished in fifth place with a record of 77-85.
See what I mean. That was a terrible baseball season on the South Side, but fans still had Wilbur Wood to cheer them up.
Forty years later, I still smile thinking about the guy, a knuckleball pitcher who couldn’t break a pane of glass with his fastball.
Maybe Dunn will leave those kinds of memories behind for today’s young fans. The guy strikes out more than any player I have ever watched.
He’s such a bad hitter that other teams shift their players over to the right side of the infield and dare him to hit to the left side. He can’t do it.
Still, he hits home runs, mighty blasts, and drives in runs on a team where almost nobody else can reach base.
And despite the fact that he’s batting .212 and has struck out 120 times, he leads the team in walks.
Why would any pitcher ever walk this guy? Why would teams continue to employ a pitcher who was afraid to throw a strike to a .212 hitter?
Someone ought to do a study on the topic, or a TV documentary.
Dunn is one of the reasons I can’t watch an entire White Sox game. His existence on a major league roster violates everything I grew up learning about baseball.
But he apparently doesn’t use steroids, which makes him better than a lot of players who have
collected a paycheck in recent years.
So here we are in July, waiting for the Bears to open the season.
It’s not summer without baseball.
The other day, I found myself muttering, “those stinkin’ Sox,” for no particular reason.
It was one of my dad’s favorite phrases. All season, every season, he would walk around the house saying, “those stinkin’ Sox.” Now I understand the futility he was expressing.
Baseball is supposed to be an escape. You forget your family problems for a few hours and live and die with the team.
Of course, to many of us, the team becomes part of our family. And like a family member you sometimes hate, you’re always going to love them.
At least that’s what I believed.
This year, I just don’t care. I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing, like a week without heat and humidity.
There’s a line from “Casey at the Bat” that keeps coming to mind.
“There is no joy in Mudville ...”
There’s a Stanley Cup trophy still making the rounds and maybe even a Super Bowl on the way.
But the sky is gray outside my window. The sun has gone away. There’s no baseball in Chicago this year.