Experiencing 2005: The Offseason

Looking Back: LL Bitmoji didn’t exist in 2005, but man, she would have loved it.

As the 2005 season got underway, and the White Sox were regularly winning two of every three games they played, I started to keep things — ticket stubs, newspaper articles — and I began to jot thoughts down. (I also did this in 1983, at the age of 12, but that’s a retrospective series for another year.) I started an essay after the 2005 season that I never finished. All of those writings have never seen the light of day, but here we are, 15 years later, so maybe it’s a good time to drag them out. Some of these entries will be full-length, others only a paragraph or two. But they were my thoughts and feelings at the time, edited very little in present day. Expect a new post every seven-to-10 days.

I have, stored in a box under my bed, a scorecard from a baseball game. I have many such scorecards from many baseball games, but this one is special. This one told the future. White Sox vs. Twins, Sept. 22, 2004. The Sox won, 7-6, on a bottom-of-the-ninth double by Paul Konerko. Our beloved Mighty Whities, as my dad was fond of calling them, were long out of it by this point, having predictably swooned in September, once again outdone by the Twins. Still, a win is a win is a win, and they must be celebrated. Across the top of the scorecard, in my dad’s block-letter scrawl are the words, “Wait ‘till next year!”

* * *

The 2005 season begins during the Hot Stove league, December 2004. I wake one morning, turn on ESPN, and learn that the White Sox have traded left fielder Carlos Lee, he of lots and lots of home runs, to Milwaukee for some light-hitting guy I’ve never heard of. Scott Podswhositswhatsit?

My first action upon hearing this news is to call my father. I do not make pleasantries, I don’t even say hello. “What do you think?” are the first words out of my mouth.

Dad sighs large, and I imagine him at the kitchen table, maybe just finishing breakfast, rubbing his hand across his forehead in the weary frustration that long-suffering Sox fans know all too well.

“Well, Laura,” he says with an edge of bitterness, “I can tell you this: I’m not real keen on spending $3,000 of my hard-earned money to go see that team.” He and Mom have been considering celebrating their 35th anniversary this summer with a large group gathering at the park; this is the $3,000 of which he speaks. I don’t blame him.

Then in February, Magglio Ordoñez, probably the Sox’s best all-around player, signs with the Tigers. I have been a White Sox fan as long as I can remember, from the moment I knew what a baseball was. I share my dad’s disappointment. I’m bitter, too.

* * *

Winter passes, and so does my bitterness, and even little of my skepticism. At least, I point out to Dad as spring training approaches, when they lose, we’ll see them lose in a different way. We’ve had many seasons of Sox teams that slugged eight, nine, 10 runs in a game and the next day are unable to scrape together a single measly run and lose 2-0. Maybe this year, they’ll lose 3-2. I am interested in seeing this new-look team play.

At a family gathering in mid-March, my parents and I engage in our annual prognosticating.

“I don’t know,” Dad says, sipping a beer in my parents’ basement, one corner of which has been dubbed The Shrine for its collection of Sox memorabilia. The collection is about quality, not quantity — a seat from Old Comiskey anchors the corner, and the only two autographs are from Bill Veeck and Harry Caray (when he was with the Sox, of course). “They’re going to have trouble scoring runs, and the pitching has lots of question marks. I think they’ll win 85 games.”

I shake my head. “I’m more confident. They’re going to be better than that. I say 88 games.” Dad laughs at what passes for confidence — a whopping three games difference.

“You’re both wrong,” my mother challenges. “They’re going to win 100 games.”

I look at her and ask her what the hell pipe she’s smoking.

My optimism eventually becomes strong enough that I decide to do something I’ve never done before: attend Opening Day. [Note from the future: Yes, my very first Opening Day happened to be in 2005. Was this unprecedented event solely responsible for the Sox’s success that year? Discuss in the comments.] I make plans with my friend Wally and consider myself slightly mad as I purchase the tickets. What am I so excited about?


Shut up, haters: Tim Anderson wins batting title

It’s always a little sad when baseball is done for the season. (Well, not last year; it was a relief when that mess was over.) But this year’s White Sox team was just better enough (with some putrid exceptions — hello, month of July) that there is a hint of bittersweet in the autumn air.

This year, there was some actual good baseball played and several accomplishments to celebrate. Give it up for José Abreu and his AL-leading 123 RBIs, Yoán Moncada for finishing third in the AL batting race (and being the clear, all-around best player on the Sox), and Lucas Giolito for a miraculous turnaround that will garner him a few Cy Young votes.

And, most pleasantly surprising of all, Tim Anderson won the American League batting title, joining only Luke Appling (1936 and 1943) and Frank Thomas (1997) as South Siders to accomplish the feat. Anderson and Appling in 1936 are the only White Sox to lead all of baseball in batting average.

Oh, hey, Bitmoji. Good to see that you’ve recovered from your um, unfortunate Lucas Giolito incident. But why are you looking so … pissed off? You love Timmy.

Is it because all the advanced stats folks say batting average is meaningless?

Or that Tim’s OBP is disappointingly low because he doesn’t take many walks?

Or that he just makes too many gosh-darned errors and should be moved to the outfield?

I hear ya. Look, Tim is who he is — he will never take many walks. A few more would be nice, sure, so he could steal a few more bases, but that just ain’t his style. And some of the simple errors can be confounding, particularly with his ability for truly spectacular plays. But when Timmy is on, he is fun as hell to watch. And by all accounts, he loves Chicago and genuinely wants to help his community. He’s an easy guy to root for.

Some people only want to see Tim for his shortcomings. But you know what? At the end of the day, he’s a batting champion and they’re not.

That’s right, Bitmoji, let them stew. We’re going to celebrate Tim being Tim. And if other players, like Eloy Jiménez and Zack Collins, take similar steps forward, and Luis Robert is all that and a bag of chips …

That’s the hope, isn’t it? With TA and his bat flips leading the way.