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White Sox Will Lose Their BIG Gamble On Early Attendance

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

As spring officially begins on Sunday morning, the changing of season means that America's past time is right around the corner.  Opening day for the Major League Baseball season is now two weeks away and camps in Arizona and Florida are beginning to trim their rosters down to the final 25.  As each hour passes in the countdown to first pitch, excitement continues to build as fans look forward to a new season and a fresh start for their respective team.   
The 2011 Chicago White Sox are what they have termed "All In".  With the off season addition of slugger Adam Dunn and re-signing veterans Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski, the White Sox could possibly have the best assembled roster in the American League Central.  To have a roster of that caliber, the White Sox have had to raise their payroll to a record high 125 million dollars.
While the White Sox front office is making a large investment in a team that has only made one playoff appearance since winning the 2005 World Series, their logic on how to justify this record payroll is somewhat skewed.  How can the Chicago White Sox gamble on their own fans to support the reasoning behind this risky financial decision?


Without question every team would like to get off to a fast start in the upcoming 2011 MLB season.  Following a season where the White Sox were nine games back on May 15th of the 2010 calendar, the Chicago White Sox cannot duplicate the slow start that they had last season.  The Chicago White Sox spent a total of 103 million dollars on their team last season yet had their lowest home total attendance since 2004.  The White Sox are taking a big risk by spending over 20 million dollars more than last year's payroll and betting that their fans will come out from the start to support a team which has only one postseason appearance since their 2005 World Series title.   
"We know we have to prove we have a team worthy of winning the division." Jerry Reinsdorf said to an assembled group of the media.  "If we do, we'll draw better. Last year's attendance (2.28 million) was the lowest in a long time, so it's obvious we have enough fans to come out and have us draw 2.6-2.8 (million) if they like what they see."
Reinsdorf stated that the White Sox would have to reach 2.6 to 2.8 million in attendance to break even with the increase in payroll from last year.
"The idea of being bad for two to three years was a horrible thought when you're 75 years old," said Reinsdorf.
The biggest problem facing the White Sox however is that White Sox fans have not been exactly flying through the gates the last couple of seasons at US Cellular Field.  The facts are that attendance on the south side of town has decreased every year since the end of the 2006 campaign where the White Sox set a record high for attendance.  Of course with the organization's first World Series title in 88 years, you would expect fans to come out to see a defending world champion.  Since that season however, the payroll has increased year to year in three out of the last four seasons, but fans continue not to show up.
Why should "all in" be any different?
Looking at the first month and a half of each of the past four seasons at US Cellular Field, let's see how the White Sox fans showed up through May 15th of each year and what the White Sox record was on that date.
2007 - 15 Home Games - 30,829 per game (18-16   3 games out)
2008 - 17 Home Games - 25,294 per game (20-21   2 games out)
2009 - 16 Home Games - 24,925 per game (15-19   3 games out)
2010 - 19 Home Games - 22,843 per game (15-21   9 games out)
Kenny Williams (March 2, 2011 Chicago Suntimes)

"We need to start off well, we need early fan support and that's just to get back to even. Unless there are revenue streams I don't see coming right now. In an effort to put the best club on the field from the beginning, we went beyond the limits.''
Judging from the last four seasons based on the first month and a half of the season (roughly about 18-25% of your home schedule), Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams are delusional in gambling on their fans showing up early to fill the stadium.   The White Sox for the last few seasons have been very consistent in hovering right around the .500 mark, but the fans are not showing up like Reinsdorf and Williams hope they will in 2011.  Even in the 2005 season, White Sox fans did not show up.
2005 - 18 Home Games - 23,732 per game (27-11   1/2 game UP)
There are several factors that could go into this.  For instance the weather in Chicago during April and early May is not exactly the same as it is in July and August.  Also the teams that face the White Sox at US Cellular Field has a lot to do with how many people show up.  However simple math shows that what Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf both hope for early in the season has NEVER happened.   
To think that White Sox fans will break habits and support a team because they are "all in" after spending a record amount on payroll is foolish.  The only way to increase attendance early in the season in Chicago is to be the defending World Champion.  See 2006.
2006 - 20 Home Games - 30,939 per game (25-12   1 game UP)
Starting out the first quarter of 2006 with that average attendance got the White Sox to 2.96 million fans in the door.  The only thing that contributed to that major increase in attendance from the year previous was a World Series title, not Jim Thome.   
For a White Sox organization to gamble on their own fans showing up early when they have yet to win a playoff series since winning a World Series five years ago is foolish and absurd.  It is a known fact that if you want the White Sox fans to show up early, you need to WIN BIG the year before.   
That did not happen.  
Reinsdorf and Williams have already lost the gamble before showing their hand on opening day.
John Rock Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and Host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
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