Monday was a surreal day to be a follower of the White Sox. Come SoxFest time, a panel memorializing the 2005 World Series winners seems like a mandate, and if anything, recent Sox history is challenged to provide anything as relevant as their now 11-year-old triumph. But on Monday, every paranoid suspicion about the Sox’ national irrelevance got enough validation to power us for decades.
Wrigley Field is prepping this morning for an event Chicago hasn’t seen in 71 years: the World Series. pic.twitter.com/MordBAiILj
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) October 24, 2016
CBS tweeted a clarification a full three hours later, perhaps only to give weight to the idea that Twitter accounts for large, national programs really are manned by the mythical underpaid social media intern. But at least they can claim unfamiliarity with the topic. ESPN was still doing this by the end of the night.
— Bradley Macciocchi (@bmacciocchi35) October 25, 2016
Optimistically, the basic sin is that the Sox could simply never hope to compare to the notoriety of the Cubs’ World Series drought, and the 2005 series has simply fallen victim to everyone’s rush to communicate the enormity of this moment in the most extreme terms. Those who have decided to commit to memory the graphics that FOX aired during the ’05 series will recall they had to put up notices to remind viewers the Sox had a World Series drought of their own, albeit one still not as long as the Cubs. All of these stories are essentially trying to report on that drought, because it’s simply the most notable of its kind in sports. For another week or so, the Sox and their fans can still be glad that this is not them.
Less optimistically, this is just a reiteration of what we already know. The Sox have almost nothing in the way of a national footprint. A combination of lack of sustained success, their own self-isolating moves, the fact that baseball teams transcending their local markets are rare, and they just so happen to share a city with one that has, means the first Chicago baseball association is with the Cubs, and the casual out-of-towner — or morning news producer — might not go beyond that. It’s frustrating but also fitting for the isolated, South Side identity the Sox have made for themselves, and I can’t imagine any Sox fan furiously filling Twitter mentions of ESPN would never have imagined previously that they would need to remind others of 2005.
Finally, while the 2005 World Series was exciting, while it had signature moments and represented the career peaks of relevant baseball figures such as Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, even Jose Contreras, and probably put Juan Uribe on the national stage for the first time, it was kind of there and gone.
The White Sox quietly went from irrelevant to dominant overnight, and before the baseball world could get used to knowing their names, they were a third place team in 2006, and then a doormat the year after. While the Sox had their standouts, they were more without flaws than they were powered by stars. The roster’s only Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas, watched from the bench with a broken foot. Maybe if the Astros had won, it would have served as the career culmination for Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte (who both had separate championship legacies already), but instead they all had forgettable series, and being dependent on such a veteran-laden roster lent itself to a 10-year playoff absence.
A year or two later, remembering the 2005 series was pretty non-essential for understanding the baseball world, and given the forces of anonymity the Sox were already fighting, a hard-fought but swift steamrolling of the 89-win NL Wild Card team was not the magic bullet for long-term relevance for which we might have hoped.
Might have. Striving to see the Sox grab the biggest share of the spotlight all the time must feel like a losing battle, pushing for something that is never meant to be. While the franchise cannot be absolved of their hand in what has made them easier to ignore, national acknowledgement has never been the appropriate lens through which to judge and appreciate them. Closing on 30 years of watching, the Sox being a South Side secret has been a much a part of their identity for so long that it feels sort of right, even if it means outsiders will always get them wrong.
Lead Image Credit: Adam Hunger // USA Today Sports Images