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Why the White Sox Should Relocate

On opening day of this season the White Sox attracted a crowd of 37,422 in a win over the Minnesota Twins. In much contrast to their sell out crowd on opening day, their 2nd and 3rd home games drew much less people. The White Sox reported that their 2nd home game of the year was attended by 10,625 people however, there appeared to be much less people in the park then the club reported. You can decide for yourself, but there are clearly less than 10,000 people at this game and the attendance figure was probably closer to 1,000. The Sox saw very similar attendance in their 3rd home game of the season as well. These numbers are pathetic but people might argue it’s because the team is in a rebuilding stage and fans have no expectations for their team this year.

That might be part of the issue but the amount of people that have attended their games so far is embarrassing to the organization. Also, in White Sox history when the team is contending for a playoff spot they have always struggled to sell to tickets to very important games. A prime example of their woeful attendance when they are in contention was on September 25, 2012. The White Sox were tied atop the AL Central with the Detroit Tigers. With 8 games remaining in the season, the Sox were facing the Cleveland Indians in a crucial home game. Almost any other big league team would get a sell out crowd but the Sox only attracted 13,797 people which filled about a third of their stadium. These attendance figures should be very alarming to the Sox organization and show that changes of some type are needed.

Another interesting part of the Sox’s attendance problems is that offseason signee Jose Abreu isn’t helping draw crowds at all. Typically if a big name player, is debuting for a team, fans will come out to see them play. Abreu, had tons of hype surrounding him as he had shown elite power and the ability to hit for average in the Cuban league. The signing of Abreu is obviously not a publicity stunt, and is a move to improve the quality of the team. fans however, have shown no interest is seeing their potential all-star 1st baseman play. The fact that this young, exciting player is a negligible factor in whether or not fans will attend games is problematic to the franchise.

Another problem with the White Sox is that the games are fun to go to, yet people still don’t go. From first hand experience going to White Sox games, I actually really enjoy the environment there. As an fan who will go to US Cellular Field not to root for a particular team but just to watch baseball, I have always enjoyed my experiences there. The park is in very good condition and the food is unique and pretty good. The firework shows at the end of night games I have always found to be very cool and have been known to attract people to games who aren’t necessarily big baseball fans but just want to have a good time. Ticket prices aren’t unreasonably high as the average ticket cost $29 as of 2012. Going to White Sox games are an enjoyable and affordable experience yet nobody goes.

Not attracting crowds when in contention, when having high profile players, and having a quality stadium suggests that people in Chicago flat out do not care about the team at all. The organization might need to do something drastic to attract more fans. An option for the Sox that might help the organization is relocation. There are many cities that would love to have and MLB franchise and I think that Portland, Oregon would be an excellent option for the White Sox.

Portland is a city populated with just over 600,000 people similar to Seattle and Denver. Portland only has one major sports team (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA) and has shown in their attendance figures that they love and will support their team (5th in the NBA in attendance). Another notable piece of information is that the Portland Timbers the Major League Soccer franchise based out of Portland sells out every single game and attracts over 20,000 people for home games. In a very low market sport that is in the shadow of the major four sports in the USA, Portland has supported their MLS team. If Portland were to receive the Chicago White Sox, attendance figures would skyrocket and the team would be a much more relevant part of the city. The change from Chicago to Portland might be a problem with the fact that the Sox are in the AL central and Portland is dead west, but the MLB could easily realign to make things more easier in terms of travel.

Another problem people might point out is that Portland is a much smaller market than Chicago and the franchise might not make enough money. However, around the MLB the White Sox are widely considered a smaller market team as they are in the shadows of the Cubs who have a much larger fan base and is the more prominent team in Chicago. A move to Portland would allow the team to receive much more attention, and would help the organization sell more tickets. This is why Portland would be an excellent fit for the Sox and would drastically improve the state of the franchise.

What the Cubs Need to Do to Be Successful

The Chicago Cubs have gotten off to a very slow start in the 2013-14 season scoring a total of 9 runs in their first 5 games and as a result of that they are 1-4. The buzz around the city of Chicago is all about the excitement of top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Kris Bryant tearing up minor league pitching and rapidly moving up in the Cubs System. All of these players have fantastic stats but the stats don’t truly matter until these players can be productive big league players. The problem is is that these prospects have shown day in and day out that they are ready to move on to the bigs. Almora, might not be quite there yet but Baez and Bryant have proven they are by dominating minor league pitching and posting good spring training numbers. Cubs GM Theo Epstein won’t pull the trigger on sending these guys up. Bringing these players up will significantly improve the quality of the team but many more changes will need to take place in order for the Cubs to be a team to win games on a consistent basis. Here are 3 other things that need to happen for the cubs to start their path to being successful

1. The cubs need to find a reliable, all-around, everyday 2nd baseman. There are many different solutions the their problem at 2nd but first let’s establish what the problem is. Darwin Barney has proven that he is an excellent fielding 2nd baseman but he is an absolutely horrendous hitter. In 2013, Barney posted an atrocious slash line of .208/.266/.303. Not only does this show that he rarely gets hits or gets on base, but when he does it’s mostly because singles. The Cubs have many possible solutions to this problem. One possible solution is to bring up Javier Baez and play him at short and Starlin Castro at 2nd or vice versa. Doing this might slightly weaken the 2nd base spot defensively, but drastically improve it offensively. With the Cubs pitching being surprisingly good in the first few games of 2014, their offense is a glaring problem and Baez would improve it instantaneously.

Another solution would be to slide Luis Valbuena over to 2nd and make Mike Olt the everyday 3rd baseman. Currently, Olt and Valbuena are splitting time at third which is detrimental to the team because both players have shown offensive value to the cubs. Valbuena had an excellent eye and has proven to be adept at drawing walks. He also has shown solid power as he hit 12 homeruns in 108 games in 2013. Olt has also shown the ability to hit for power as he had 5 homeruns in a very good spring training that earned him a spot on the opening day roster. Either of these solutions would be a much better fit for the Cubs then having Barney as the everyday 2nd baseman.

2. If the Cubs want to be good now, their bullpen needs to be consistent, and deeper. The bullpen has been a problem for the Cubs for a very long time. However in 2014 they might show some signs of improvement. In 2013, reliever Pedro Strop Posted a solid 2.83 ERA in 35 innings with the Cubs. In his time in Chicago, he only gave up 11 earned runs, 5 of which were in one performance. Along with solid numbers Strop possesses a 97 MPH power sinker in addition to his best pitch which is his slider. Strop will be put into a much bigger role this season and if the cubs want to succeed he will need to continue to pitch at a high level. In the offseason the cubs also signed lefty Wesley Wright and Jose Veras who in recent history have proven themselves as reliable bullpen options to their clubs. Players like Brian Schlitter and Hector Rondon will also need to step up for the Cubs. If Strop can continue pitching at a high level and the rest of the pen can consistently pitch in late innings. The Cubs will improve as a team very much.

3. Lastly if the Cubs want to succeed Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro must have bounce back years. There are many things that I could criticize about these 2 players but there a few problems in their games that are in the most need of fixing. In 2013 Rizzo only hit .233 if Rizzo continues to hit in the heart of the cubs line up, a .233 average is unacceptable. If he was hitting 50 homeruns it might be a different story but .233 with only 23 HRs isn’t going to cut it. In order for the Cubs to succeed, Rizzo will either need to hit 10-15 more homers or improve is average by around 30 points.

Starlin Castro is a much bigger problem for the Cubs. Spending most of the season in the 3 spot, Castro posted a weak slash of .245/.284/.347. Castro’s numbers were only a bit better than Barney’s which makes him a big problem. In addition to his poor offensive play, Castro has been an extremely inconsistent defensive SS his entire career. There is optimism for Castro though. In Castro’s first 2 full big league seasons, he was voted to the All-Star Game and hit close to .300 in both of those seasons. Castro has shown in his career that he has the ability to hit, the question. is will he be able to have seasons reminiscent to his all-star years. Only time will tell for Castro but if he can bounce back along with Rizzo the Cubs might actually be a legitimate team.

Although many things need to happen for the Cubs to be a playoff contender, fans should be optimistic for the future. With a farm system fortified with elite prospects throughout and an improving bullpen, the cubs need their “key players” to perform at a higher level. If all of these things can happen, there might be October baseball played at Wrigley sometime in the near future.