- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
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When a team fails to get the job done it is a weak argument to blame the fan base for a lack of support. The Chicago White Sox have no one to blame for their present predicament but themselves. Still, a little home field advantage would have been a welcomed sight for this stumbling group that has played its heart out all season long.
The Sox have averaged 18,000 fans over the first four games of this crucial home stand and just under 24,000 on the season, which is 23rd in the league.
"We are going to play hard no matter what," Robin Ventura said. "Is it a better environment if it is full? Yeah, but it hasn’t been. It doesn’t make you try harder or play worse, but you have more of an advantage if you have a full house."
The Sox players refuse to make any excuses for their recent failure, especially the old, beaten-down attendance story. That said, the players understand the pressure an opposing team has on it when things are going poorly on the field. Things can get more difficult when 40,000 people are on your case with the game on the line.
"It puts a lot of stress on the other team," Ventura said. "It makes that ballpark a harder place to play. That is what happens when you go to places that are full. It is a tougher place to play."
The type of impact a big crowd could have made was seen in two situations Thursday agains the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox had the bases loaded and no one out twice, yet managed to score only a single run in the fourth and fifth innings. No one is saying the players would have done better, but the pressure on the Rays and starter James Shields perhaps would have been more intense.
"We can’t control why they come and don’t come," Ventura said. "We have fans that come out here and they are loud and we appreciate that."
Third baseman Kevin Youkilis had immediate culture shock when coming from sold out Fenway park to half-full U.S Cellular field in a midseason trade.
”There is a great fan base here “ he said. "There is a few in between you hope they come out for but you can’t ever blame the fans for you not playing well."
The Rays are another example of a team that succeeds despite its low attendance. Tampa is dead last in the majors this season with an average of 19,418. The Rays traditionally have one of the smallest fan bases and play in perhaps the toughest division, but still manage to contend almost every season.
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