The White Sox season is finally, mercifully over. It was a long one, and it feels like that opening day carpet bombing of the Cleveland Indians was three years ago, not six months. This season, much like the two before it, comes to an end with us having to watch other teams fight it out for a World Series championship.
Though, if there's a bright side, at least it's the Detroit Tigers moving on to the playoffs this year, and we all had a chance to enjoy watching the Minnesota Twins struggle so mightily. That being said, it really doesn't do much to erase the frustration that 2011 brought for White Sox fans.
Yes, this past spring we were all a bit optimistic about what the season would bring. The Sox had what was supposed to be one of the best starting rotations in a very winnable division, and had brought back both Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. While Konerko was the key signing, given the question marks at the catcher position after Detroit signed Victor Martinez, bringing back Pierzynski was a necessary move.
Throw in the 40 home runs and 120 RBI that Adam Dunn would be bringing to the middle of the lineup, and there was no telling what was going to happen!
Well, we all know how it ended.
Still, it took me a few months to accept that 2011 would be exactly what 2011 would be and make peace with it. I ignored the signs that were evident right from the start, too, unwilling to see the freight train headed straight for me.
It started with the home opener against Tampa Bay. The girlfriend and I got in my car hours before the first pitch and headed down Lake Shore Drive to The Cell. When we got there we were in the middle of a fantastic shit show. I followed all the directions that were out to find parking, only to repeatedly be told there was no parking available. After about 90 minutes of moving at a snail's pace, we were directed to head back to the McCormick Place parking lot to park.
Exactly where we'd gotten off of LSD in the first place.
This was a final straw for me, and I snapped. If the White Sox thought I was going to park more than two miles from the park and then walk all the way back so I could get into my seat just in time for the 5th inning, they had another thing coming. Instead we just went home and watched the White Sox win on television.
The win subdued my anger and blinded me to the omen that was the opening day fiasco. The White Sox were all too willing to take my money for the tickets, but they couldn't really be bothered with trying to make me happy.
A few weeks later the girlfriend and I again made the venture to The Cell. This time we were even able to find parking and get into the actual stadium! We were then able to freeze through a 1-0 game against the Athletics, in which we saw Brent Lillibridge hit the 10,000th home run in White Sox history. The first of what would be more Brent Lillibridge homers than any of us were expecting.
We were also then witness to one of those April bullpen implosions in which Matt Thornton couldn't get anybody out and Juan Pierre dropped a fly ball. A Kurt Suzuki home run later and the loss was official.
Making matters worse, what memento from this game do I have to see every time I go into my closet? This one.
What the hell was I thinking?
I needed a new jersey. The last one I bought was a Joe Crede jersey, and though my love for Joe Crede will never die, the fact is I had to have one of a player that was actually still on the roster. So I sat in the White Sox team store with the girlfriend debating between Alexei Ramirez and Adam Dunn. Eventually I settled on Dunn because much like him, I'm really just a big oaf who can't hit Major League pitching.
I have not worn the jersey since that night. All I can do is hope that Joe Crede finds it in his heart to one day forgive me for my transgressions.
Still, it was yet another night of suffering at the hands of the White Sox, jersey or no jersey. I fooled myself, though, saying that it was only April. This team is just getting the folly out of the way early.
Five months later and here we are. Finished with a team that surely improved at the end of the year, but at the same time was never all that good. A team that hung in the playoff picture by accident just long enough to make sure we kept paying attention.
Paying attention to Adam Dunn and Alex Rios continuing to amaze us with their ability to let us down.
Paying attention, although against our will, to yet another season of Kenny vs. Ozzie as the team's general manager and manager did their best to make sure we understood that it was the other one's fault.
Paying attention to the performances of guys like Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza down in Charlotte, all the while wondering how long it was going to be before either player finally got a chance to help out in Chicago.
Paying attention to everything but the signs that were there right from the start that were screaming "STAY AWAY. MISERY AHEAD."
But it's all over now, and while we can't erase the past, we can do our best to try and forget it. Yet, at the same time we must prepare ourselves for the changes that this winter is likely to bring.
By the time this team takes the field again in Arizona next spring things will be different. There is going to be a new manager and it's possible that Mark Buehrle will be gone, or Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin.
Whatever happens over the next couple of months, let's all just make sure we pay attention to what the signs are telling us, and hope as hard as we can that those signs give us a reason to be optimistic.
Most importantly, at the first White Sox game we attend next season, let's just buy the damn Paul Konerko jersey. At least we can wear that one with pride.