The White Sox aim to put their recent miserable, cold and slow starts in the past this season.
Much of the talk at SoxFest last weekend surrounded the team’s hope for a strong opening month. The White Sox haven’t played above .500 ball through the end of April since 2009. Though a good April could convince fans tired of the team’s losing ways to attend more games, general manager Rick Hahn said he’s more concerned with wins and losses. En route to their third consecutive losing campaign, the 2015 White Sox opened with a thud. They lost 11 of their first 19 contests and trailed eventual World Series winners Kansas City by 5 1/2 games.
“I don’t look at it from an attendance standpoint, I look at it from a standings and momentum standpoint,” Hahn said. “I think it’s extremely important that Robin (Ventura) and I, Kenny (Williams), Jerry (Reinsdorf), all of us talk about this, in terms of from the first day of spring training setting the tone about the importance of accomplishing what we want and what our goals are on and off the field, which will then translate into a better start at the start of the year. So it’s something that we’ve targeted, but it’s important for every club to get off to a good start. I don’t view it as any more important than in years past, but it’s a priority, no doubt.”
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A strong start won’t be easy.
The White Sox play 16 of 26 games on the road, including a four-game series at the Oakland A’s to start the season. Over the past three seasons, the White Sox are just 95-148 (.391) away from U.S. Cellular Field.
Poor March/April play has become the norm of late on the South Side. The team went 14-15 in 2014, 10-15 in 2013, 11-11 in 2012, 10-18 in 2011 and 9-14 in 2010. While a slow April doesn’t doom a team’s chances, it can make all the difference. One change Ventura talked about at SoxFest is potentially playing the team’s starters longer in spring training so they could get accustomed to one another. The 2016 White Sox will feature an entirely new infield, save for Jose Abreu at first.
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While Hahn isn’t worried about attendance, pitcher Chris Sale hopes for a byproduct of increased numbers of fans.
“I do think (a strong start is) important,” Sale said. “I don’t think it’s everything, but I would say that if you’re starting off on the right foot, you get a good taste in your mouth, fans are getting excited. I think that’s huge too. When there are people at the stadium, and its loud and rocking and there’s an atmosphere, there’s no doubt in my mind or anybody else’s mind that the players feel that. That’s an energy you can’t replicate otherwise. Hopefully we do that and we can get that support.”