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Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Updated: August 4, 2:54 PM ET
Mediocrity a rough road for the Sox

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- While the president celebrated his 50th birthday in Uptown, it was Mayor Daley Night on the South Side. This got me to wondering which was a worse deal: Daley's parking meter sale that likely stiffed the city of billions in potential revenue, or Adam Dunn's free-agent contract?

White Sox
The White Sox were never really on track in an embarrassing, nationally televised loss Wednesday night.

It's a tough one. At least the meters have made it easier to park in the city. But the answer is C. Alex Rios.

At some point during the Yankees' seven-run third inning Wednesday, I had another thought: Can "Da Mare" raze the Cell in the middle of the night, too?

I think it would save a lot of people a lot of heartache.

When Gordon Beckham had a breakout rookie year, there was every reason to believe he would be the face of the franchise.

Two years later, it's come to fruition, for all the wrong reasons.

Let Beckham explain:

"The thing that's frustrating is that I'm hitting .250," he said before Wednesday's game. "Is that good? Is that bad? It's not either. It's just middle of the road. But to me, it feels awful."

Well put. The White Sox are embodied by Beckham, a guy with all the talent in the world who came into the game hitting .250, wondering when in the hell that hot streak is going to get here. Godot arrives quicker than this team.

The White Sox aren't truly terrible like the Cubs. They're not good like the Yankees. They exist somewhere in the gloaming, a $127 million mystery.

"You're right," Beckham said. "We're not doing that bad, but we're not that good. We're still around. We're still able to win this thing, but we got to pick it up and somehow find a way to get on a roll."

We've heard those words before. The White Noise Sox have been singing the same tune seemingly since the season began. Now it's just static. With Wednesday's 18-7 loss, they've dropped five in a row and are 52-57, 6 1/2 games back of Detroit, nestled comfortably in American League Central mediocrity.

The Sox fans, whose claims to fame are being fickle and hard to please, either have abandoned this team -- only 69,676 came to the first three (high-priced) games of this series, which is shameful -- or are unnaturally angered by it, demanding rolling heads.

While Ozzie Guillen still has plenty of boosters, the vocal minority has focused its ire squarely on the manager.

It's a shame. He's the best thing that's happened to this franchise since Frank Thomas. While he has hope for his team, those of us who wield recorders and notebooks want him to get a lifetime deal. But with the Sox in third place, Dunn still in the lineup and Dayan Viciedo in the minors, Twitter, and basically the entire Internet, isn't a kind place for the Guillen family these days.

As you might have heard, Guillen's three sons are active on Twitter. They also listen to the radio and can't help themselves from reading the stories and message board posts. Oney, the self-described Twitter king, gets the brunt of the fans' abuse and quickly dishes it right back.

And there is a lot of abuse, both on the airwaves and online. Ozzie Guillen got the credit after the Sox won the World Series, and now he takes the heat. That's how it should be, right?

The oldest Guillen son, Ozzie Jr., is a more even-keeled communicator, and he's been taken aback by the nastiness directed at his father. Still, as a fan himself, he understands the origin.

"I think Chicago is just being Chicago," Ozzie Jr. said before Wednesday's game. "I went on this website, Soxtalk.com, and, wow. It gets to the point where you don't want to read what you're reading. Obviously you're going to have to have tough skin not to reply to it.

"It gets kind of scary sometimes with the stuff people write, death threats and, 'Get out of here you Mexican.' ... They're frustrated. Fans know the talent is there. I still believe in this team and I think they feel the same way."

Ozzie Guillen
White Sox fans have put most of the blame for the team's struggles on manager Ozzie Guillen.

Ozzie Guillen is as close to the fans as any coach or manager this city has ever seen. While his kids battle his haters, he defends the fans' right to vent.

"If they're angry and they're embarrassed, they should be," Guillen said of the fans. "I'm not angry because I have to come here every day and work. They should be angry because our thought and our mentality was different than right now, playing this way. They're very upset about it; they have a reason to [be upset]. But I keep saying, don't give up. Don't give up. We're still there, and hopefully we play better for them. If they're angry and they're upset, they have all the right to be. We're not playing the way we should be playing."

If they're not tweeting or posting angry messages in online forums, fans are staying away from the park in droves. The team is one Bears preseason game from being outright ignored, but everyone has at least one eye on the team, waiting for the other cleat to drop on the tempestuous relationship between Guillen and general manager Kenny Williams.

Aside from Dunn's race to keep his strikeout total less than his batting average, the Kenny-Ozzie storyline is about as interesting as this team gets.

With some of the highest ticket prices in baseball, the Sox are averaging slightly less than 25,000 fans a game, down about 1,200 per game from last year. They drew more than 30,000 fans only one time in last weekend's series against Boston and are averaging 23,225 fans per game in a series against the Yankees.

"It is weird," Beckham said of the crowds. "This weekend was weird. Boston on a weekend series with a lot of fireworks, usually that would mean full house. And it just wasn't. I don't know."

I do. This team is uninspiring, listless and aggravating. Gavin Floyd lasted all of 54 pitches Wednesday night. No other Sox pitcher had given up at least 10 runs in less than three innings since 1931. That's historic awfulness.

To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever heard 23,000 fans boo quite as loudly as they did after Mark Teixeira hit a two-run triple to make it 12-1 in the third inning. And I've seen a lot of games at Wrigley Field.

But conversely, those fans cheered just as loudly when Carlos Quentin belted a three-run homer to get the Sox within a touchdown at 13-6 in the fourth and chased Yankees starter A.J. Burnett in the fifth. For all the grief Sox fans get, at least the paying customers care. For how much longer is anyone's guess.

"They expect a lot, we expect a lot and we didn't exactly put out what they've expected," Beckham said. "Maybe we can get back in it and really get some people to show up. We've still got a chance and we're not out of this thing. We're not out of it until the standings say we cannot win. That's the way I look at it."

Beckham's words almost make you believe it can happen. And then you remember he's a .250 hitter on a .250 team, and it's all just White Sox Noise.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.