The good news is that I found the Indians fans who aren’t attending games in Cleveland. The bad news is that I found them when I went to see the Indians play in Chicago over the weekend. At least in the left field stands on Saturday, about a third of the fans were rooting for the Indians, which led to some awkward moments, such as would happen if a loud drunk showed up at a funeral. In some cases, that’s exactly what happened.
I left Columbus just as game one was starting Friday night, and crossed the Indiana/Illinois border just as game two was starting. If I had known it was going to go that way, I would have left work early and gotten tickets, but I had to get up early Saturday, so it’s just as well that I didn’t. It was 5-0 when I lost the Cleveland station in northwestern Ohio, then it was 9-5 Indians when I picked up the Chicago station just west of Fort Wayne. I was so pissed at Trevor Bauer that I nearly didn’t even turn it back on. The White Sox radio team is Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson, and they have not quite come to grips with how bad their team is. Either that or they are mortally offended by the idea that they could be losing to Cleveland. I guess by Sunday they should have been used to the idea.
Farmer can be wickedly funny, but he can also say things like, “well, we’re down five but if this guy hits a two run homer, we’ll be down three,” to which Jackson invariably responds, “That’s a fact.” I listened to them on the way home Sunday, and, between the fact that they went the entire top of the seventh plus the seventh inning stretch without giving the score and the constant implication that Chris Sale was dominating the Indians and Justin Masterson was just scraping by, I was convinced the White Sox were winning.
The other thing that is annoying about the Chicago broadcasts is that everything they say is sponsored by someone. You know how Tom Hamilton will say “it’s the Verizon call to the bullpen.” These guys will say “What would be good right now would be a McDonald’s line drive” or something like that. Same concept, just ten times as much of it, so much so that it becomes white noise and the names of all the sponsors never register with you. The White Sox, after all, are the team that changed the start time of their games to 7:11 so the convenience store would sponsor them a few years back. They will no doubt be the first team to cover the uniforms with sponsor logos like NASCAR.
If the Indians are seeking ways to create a more fan-friendly atmosphere, one thing I would not recommend is painting everything in sight black. The entire exterior of U.S Cellular Field is black, the seats inside are dark green, and most of the trim is black. Aside from looking like the opening scene of a Batman move, it makes the inside of the ballpark fifteen degrees warmer than anywhere else. In Chicago in April that may be a plus, but in late June it was like being inside a frying pan.
The other very noticeable thing about the Cell is that the area around the ballpark is no more developed than it was twenty years ago. That may be what was intended, because a lot of people still live in the area around the stadium, but the only restaurants within a mile are a Starbucks and a Jimmy John’s. The trains in Chicago are fantastic, so you can ride to the south side, go to the game, and get right back on the train in time to do something fun on the north end of town, but the idea of a sports franchise boosting the neighborhood economy seems to have been lost here. Like I said, maybe they like it that way, but it is much easier to make an event of a Cubs game (or for that matter, an Indians game) when you can have some dinner or do some shopping before or after the game. The other thing the Indians do better is to provide information on the scoreboard. Chicago had plenty
We came across three groups at the game that were having their bachelor parties, which made me want to have a do-over on my bachelor party, but I’m too late by thirty years. The group closest to us was mostly Indians fans, and they apologized before the game began for being drunk, then they took their shirts off (obviously for the first time this summer) and kept drinking. They got more and more boisterous as the game shifted in the Indians’ favor, which did not sit well with the disconsolate Sox fans around us (Their chant of “Adam Done struck out” was especially grating – it’s hilarious when you say it out loud).
Finally a fan behind us attempted to pour the contents of his water bottle on the loudest member of the bachelor party. Why he chose to do this when he had two kids with him is beyond me, but it precipitated an outpouring of obscenities and threatening looks in both directions, with me and my kids in the middle. Finally some idiot came charging down the walkway toward the bachelor party. “You a-holes aren’t even from Chicago… ” – that was all he said before the security guys tackled him. I would have loved to have heard the rest; the stream of logic that prompted the beginning of the sentence could have led most anywhere by the end.
Then one of the security guys came down and put his arm around the ringleader of the bachelor party and got him to calm down, which was a relief but also somewhat disappointing, since I haven’t been in a riot in quite a while. They also made some other fans stop holding up their T-R-I-B-E letters, since that was apparently also inciting the Chicago fans to vent their frustration. The bachelor party all put their shirts back on and were well-behaved from that point on. I noticed afterwards that one of them had a t-shirt commemorating Beer Night in 1974 when the Indians had to forfeit a game because the crowd got unruly. Maybe that was their inspiration, although it happened well before they were born.
There is a lot of debate in Chicago about whether the Sox should be sellers; the “no” side is made up mostly of people who think they Sox are underachieving. I’m not sure where this idea comes from, although I know I have often overrated the talent on the Indians, so maybe it’s a natural thing to do. There is nobody in the Sox lineup that really worries me; Dunn will hit a mistake out of the park but nothing else. The people who think this team can be better are probably still convinced Gordon Beckham will be an All-Star. Watching Jeff Keppinger hit fourth and fifth over the weekend gave me flashbacks to Jose Lopez last year.
The White Sox have a lot of money tied up in Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Dunn, and Paul Konerko, none of whom is helping or has trade value at this point, and they don’t draw much better than the Indians so they can’t spend their way back to contention without somehow shedding those salaries. The guys who actually could draw some interest in trades are younger guys like Alexei Ramirez, Chris Sale and Addison Reed, but those guys are actually helping and they have no replacements in the farm system, so if they move them they are looking at a total blowup of the roster like the Astros and Marlins are doing. It is interesting to watch, and nice that it isn’t us for once.