If Only 20,000 Sox Fans Go To the Games… Do They Make a Sound? (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of Part 1 where I look for the correlation between Sox attendance and it’s continued decline over the past 7 seasons since winning it all in 2005.  Let’s pick up with 2009 and the last years of Ozzie’s reign on the South Side)

2009: Attendance – 2,284,163 (6th of 14); Record: 79-83  (Finished 3rd)

Positives: Gordon Beckham’s spectacular rookie year, winning 2 ROY awards (but not the MLB award);  World Series hero Scott Podsednik returns to Sox, provides spark and return to lost form;  Trade for CY Young winner Jake Peavy, wins all 3 starts. 

Negatives: Sox starting pitching mediocre (no starter finishes more than 3 games over .500); 2005 WS hero Jose Contreras has 2nd awful season out of 3 (5-13 W/L); Scott Linebrink epitomizes underwhelming bullpen efforts as free-agent bust; Thome, Konerko & Dye have good, but not great offensive seasons. 

Conclusions: A nearly 300K attendance drop coming off of a surprising playoff run likely due to perceived return to mediocre form.  The Sox never stood out, played .500 against the division, and outside of Beckham and Podsednik, this season could be summed up in one word: MEH.  

2010: Attendance – 2,194,378 (7th of 14); Record: 88-74 (Finished 2nd)

Positives: At 24-33, Sox go 26-5 over next 31 games to move from 9.5GB (games back) to 1st place; Win streaks of 11 and 8 games; Great offensive seasons by Paul Konerko (39HR,111RBI) and Alexei Ramirez;  Infielder turned Closer Sergio Santos emerges and dominant reliever; Freddy Garcia and JJ Putz provide solid veteran pitching;  Alex Rios’s solid season justifies high salary waiver claim. 

Negatives: Ozzie Guillen’s DH by committee fails as Mark Kotsay/Andruw Jones combo underperforms; 5-13 W/L record against Division Champion Twins;  Continued decline of Bobby Jenks; Sox trade promising prospect Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson for minimal improvement;  September 8-game losing streak ends playoff hopes.  

Conclusions: 100K drop in attendance continues decline.  The Sox hot stretch in June/July probably kept the attendance from dropping further by stay in contention until September.  And the Sox’s poor start in April/May naturally didn’t help.

2011: Attendance – 2,001,117 (7th of 14); Record: 79-83 (Finished 3rd) 

Positives: Paul Konerko has All Star Season (31HR,105RBI);  Sergio Santos saves 30 games as eventual Full Time closer; Chris Sale shows promise in relief role.  

Negatives: Adam Dunn’s historically bad season (.159BA/.292On-Base%/.277Slugging%/177K-Sox record); John Danks begins season 0-8; Alex Rios falls off table with bad Offensive & Defensive year;  Matt Thornton & Juan Pierre combine to blow multiple early season wins; Gordon Beckham is a non factor offensively; team 5-13 W/L vs Division Champion Detroit; Losing home record 36-45; Ozzie Guillen finally loses to Ken Williams, resigns w/2 games left to manage Miami; Adam Dunn. 

Conclusions: Highly anticipated addition of Adam Dunn along with resigning of Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski completely busts “All-In” campaign, likely to go down as the worst tagline-in-hindsight Ever.  Team never was in contention in key summer months to prevent 200K attendance drop. 

2012 (As of 6/19/12): Attendance – 788,745 (11th of 14); Record: 35-33 (2nd Place)

Positives: Chris Sale and Jake Peavy are having  Cy Young caliber seasons (14 combined wins, sub-3.00 ERA);  Paul Konerko is a legitimate MVP candidate (.357BA/1.025OPS/nearly reached .400BA in June); Adam Dunn (yes, he actually belongs in this category)is a virtual shoe-in for Comeback Player of the Year already doubling HR totals (23vs11) and exceeding RBI output (55vs42); Young bullpen arms are off to strong start (new closer Addison Reed 8 saves); AJ Pierzynski is having a career year; Alejandro De Aza/Dayan Viciedo/Alex Rios solidifying outfield and producing offensively; Philip Humber pitches 21st-ever Perfect game in Seattle. Minor Leaguer Jose Quintana fills in for injured John Danks, exceeds expectations in 5 starts with 1.53 ERA; 9 game win streak puts Sox in 1st place by June 1.

Negatives: John Danks slow start (3-4; 5.70 ERA) + injuries have combined for negative impact on pitching staff; Gavin Floyd & Philip Humber (when not pitching perfect games) have been mediocre to awful.  Brent Morel (39Ks/125AB) complete non-factor before back injuries and creepy Joe Crede-like aura sends him to DL; blown leads in late innings cost Sox 3-4 wins; Sox offense has been inconsistent (see Jake Peavy’s 3 losses; Sox scored 1 run total); Sox June record as of 6/19:5-11to drop into 2nd place; overall Home record 16-20.

Conclusions & Solutions 2012 has been a roller coaster of a season to say the least.  Team-wise, they started off slow… got extremely hot for 4 weeks…and have fallen back down again.  The Sox  have a losing record at home and combine that with poor performance now that school is out and the weather is warm is what’s got the Sox attendance 11th in the AL at 21,909 per game.  And Ken Williams didn’t help matters by basically saying it’d be difficult for the team to add players at the trade deadline without improved ticket sales.  A statement like that does not galvanize a notoriously (and statistically documented) fickle fan base that votes with their wallets and had plenty of mediocre baseball to watch along with yearly ticket price increases (and don’t forget parking!)  

I believe that the only way to a Sox fan’s heart and an actual sustained increase in yearly attendance is the one thing a Sox fan has never experienced: SUSTAINED SUCCESS.  Yankees. Red Sox. Cardinals. Three storied franchises with multiple World Series titles in the 20 years and have achieved consecutive playoff appearances (I repeat: Consecutive. Playoff. Appearances.  Something the Sox have NEVER DONE in 100+ years!)  Even the Cubs went back to back years in 2007 and 2008 (the 2 full seasons I worked for them; Don’t freak out. I’ll explain in a future post titled “I Sold My Sox Soul and All I Got Was Zero Playoff Wins”) 

If the White Sox can just give their fanbase the appearance that there is some sort of “plan” to achieve sustainable success, (Great. I’m ripping off Theo Epstein’s Genius.  Ugh.) Sox fans will support those efforts and start showing up to the Cell again.  But the years of big free agent acquisitions, high spending, and underperforming stars have to come to an end.  And Kenny Williams is the man who has to lead this team from slipping back from the brink of irrelevancy.

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