In the Wake of the News
September 26, 2012
Jerry Reinsdorf's day started so well Tuesday before his team played baseball.
In the morning, the White Sox chairman attended a touching dedication of a 40-foot mural at 35th and Federal that pays tribute to the impact black players such as Minnie Minoso and Sam Hairston had on baseball on the South Side. After artist Billy Jackson broke down in tears during a speech thanking everybody who contributed to the project, Reinsdorf hugged Jackson.
"That was beautiful," Reinsdorf told him.
Minutes later, it was Reinsdorf searching for the right words in the Sox clubhouse when he presented Adam Dunn with a ring commemorating the 400th career home run Dunn hit Aug. 18. Then Reinsdorf left to watch the Sox lose 4-3 in a game in which they needed more of Dunn's home run heroics but ultimately reminded us, in baseball, momentum really is the next day's starting pitcher.
And when that guy is struggling lefty Francisco Liriano, who left after 32/3 erratic innings, it doesn't matter how many crucial home runs Dunn hit one night earlier. Not to say the Sox seemed tight after losing to an Indians team 27 games below .500, but don't be surprised if WD-40 sponsors Wednesday's game.
"When you win it's easy," manager Robin Ventura said before the loss. "But I find out more about these guys during a rough stretch."
It has been a week of discovery on the South Side.
This pennant race stuff is not for the faint of heart, fraying the nerves of Sox fans everywhere suffering through September — including the one who signs the checks.
"Watching these games is killing me, I'm dying here," Reinsdorf said with a smile. " I enjoy them all — after they're over."
Whether the season will be over next Wednesday or in the playoffs depends on a good Sox team playing great for the final eight games. Their margin of error remains so thin that a disputable safe call at first base wiping out a potential Sox double play loomed too large. So did Dunn striking out in the eighth with a runner on against the same pitcher, Vinnie Pestano, who gave up his three-run homer Monday.
Six American League teams have more victories than the Sox, yet it might take a 6-2 finish to win the AL Central. Can they? If the Sox can't, how will the 2012 season be remembered by those who don't repress the memory?
"If you look back, years from now, and we didn't make the playoffs, you could look and say this was a team like the '72 White Sox, the '69 Cubs," Reinsdorf said. "Those are successful years even though they didn't win. But as far as this week is concerned, if we don't make the playoffs it's not a season for us."
Can a team be a disappointing success?
If the Sox blow this, it will take time before anybody extols the virtues of finishing second in a division nobody wants to win. When Paul Konerko declared in spring training the Sox could have a good season without making the playoffs, the comments came in the context of offering a healthy and realistic perspective of a team most figured to flirt with .500.
But from captain to chairman, nobody began the season expecting to spend the summer being chased by Tigers. Occupying first place for so long altered expectations and changed the way everyone will classify this season — a point Reinsdorf acknowledged when praising Ventura.
"We didn't necessarily expect to be in first place the last week of the season, but we never had a doubt Robin was the right guy," Reinsdorf said. "There weren't too many people who agreed with us at the time. No matter what happens, I think Robin has proven that he's a big league manager. We knew that."
Inside the clubhouse, Konerko only knows he never has been on a team as driven every day as this one — and that includes the 2005 World Series champs. That focus kept Konerko from considering yet, so close to a playoff destination, if he still believes the value of this Sox journey matters most.
"Right now is not the time to be delving into the season-ending analysis, but I feel like we're in a good spot regardless of the ending of the season," Konerko said. "Nothing can deny what went on here this year, tons of great stuff. We'll be disappointed as hell (if we don't win it) because we've worked hard, but it's not even entering our minds. We're going to grind this to the bone."
That sounds as painful as watching the Sox has been lately for guys like Reinsdorf who have invested heavily, in every way, in a season yet to be defined.
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