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Friday, June 13, 2014
Sale not exactly spinning Sox turnstiles

By Jon Greenberg

Chris Sale is money in the bank for the Chicago White Sox when he takes the mound at U.S. Cellular Field. Metaphorically, at least.

The White Sox drew an announced crowd of 20,626 for Sale’s start Thursday against the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers, a 4-0 loss.

If you’re a glass-half-full type of person, the stadium was half full.

Now, this isn’t a screed aimed at no-show White Sox fans. That’s old news.

The team’s attendance problems are tied to a low season-ticket base, which withered away after the 2006 season. Buying season tickets is a costly, time-consuming investment and, without any fear of scarcity, there’s no rush for spectators to guarantee themselves tickets.

But conventional wisdom would tell you that fans, eager to see one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be proactive and buy seats for Sale starts. Of course, conventional wisdom is usually wrong.

Through the first two months and three June starts, Sale hasn’t provided much buzz in walk-up sales. There has been a strong showing for the “K Zone for Sale” sections in the outfield corners. Maybe the Sox should print up enough K cards for the whole stadium.

The Sox need to leverage one of their two marketable assets -- and you can’t promise fans a Jose Abreu home run.

Would you believe the Sox draw worse than average when Sale starts? I didn’t, and neither did a Sox official when I posited that fact.

If you throw out his Opening Day start -- you could start Southpaw and draw 37,422 for the opener -- the White Sox are averaging 18,464 fans in six Sale starts. Yes, that’s actually worse than the Sox’s abysmal average of 19,765.

Game days matter, particularly early in the season when it’s cold and “the kids are in school.”

So far at home, beside the opener, Sale has started three Thursday games, one Tuesday, one Friday and one Sunday. Sale’s next start is slated for Wednesday against the visiting first-place San Francisco Giants.

Here’s the breakdown: In his previous home start, June 1 (Sunday), the Sox drew 23,185. Against the Yankees on May 22 (Thursday), they drew just 21,677. On April 17 (Thursday), the Sox drew 17,454 against Boston. On May 27 (Tuesday), they drew 14,237 against Cleveland. Back on April 11 (Friday), also against the Indians, the Sox drew 13,605.

Sale’s bobblehead day, however, drew 33,413 on May 24, a Saturday game against the Yankees.

Maybe that’s the answer. Bobblehead dolls every time Sale pitches.

Get the bobblehead plant running, Sox marketing exec Brooks Boyer, and put Sale on a Saturday-only schedule. Sale, the maestro of the mound, deserves a packed house for his performance.