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Remember the White Sox pursuit of Jake Peavy back in late May? Remember how the White Sox were willing to take on the remaining three years and $48 million of his salary, if Peavy agreed to waive his no-trade clause?
Well, that same scenario involving any high-priced acquisition might not play out again in the next few weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, according to general manager Ken Williams.
“Well, if I’m being completely honest, money is more of an issue now,” said Williams, during a 10-minute conversation with the Chicago media prior to Tuesday’s 10-6 victory over the Indians. “We expected a little more support than we have gotten.
“It’s a reflection upon the economy what’s kind of happened in regard to attendance. And I don’t’ know if we’ve played consistent enough or been exciting enough for people to get behind us yet. So, we are still hopeful, but yeah, that obvious, not to mention some of the other peripheral things, that obviously is going to have an impact on what we can and cannot do.
“We have been a little aggressive in our projections initially,” Williams said. “We might have to take a lot closer look at it because the Dodger series certainly was one that was an eye opener for us.”
When the White Sox played host to the Dodgers, Major League Baseball’s best team by record, from June 23-25, the White Sox drew 22,251 fans on the Tuesday night of that series, 20,142 on Wednesday and 20,051 on Thursday afternoon.
Weather was not an issue on any of those days, and the crowds weren’t hampered by school still being in session. So, what was the issue leading to the relatively low turnout?
Brooks Boyer, the White Sox vice president and chief marketing officer, quickly pointed to the problem.
“We overpriced it. That was the major thing,” Boyer told MLB.com. “We set the prices in October. We looked at the series and said that it’s a quality-quality opponent in town and one that is not in town all that often. They also have a drawing superstar.
“But we set those in October. The economy has worsened since then, when we priced it. You get to this series, and where are people going to spend money? They are going to spend it (the following) weekend, for the Crosstown series (with the Cubs). We simply overpriced the tickets. We made a mistake in October of last year.”
In fairness to the White Sox, they had no idea that Manny Ramirez, one of the true drawing superstars in the game, would be absent from the starting lineup. But Boyer specifically was referring to the Dodgers tickets being classified as Premier, the same status given to the ensuing Cubs series, of which all three games were sellouts
There are four ticket classifications for the South Siders’ home games, ranging from Value Mondays to Regular to Prime to Premier. A $10 difference exists between Premier and Prime tickets, and a $14 difference exits between Premier and Regular.
For the Dodgers and Cubs series, the cheapest premium seat was $63. The cheapest seat available overall, in upper reserved, checked in at $33. That cost dips to $19 in that same area for Regular.
“Granted, the Dodgers are a first-place team, with the best record in baseball, and they were very competitive games,” Boyer said. “We just missed on the pricing.”
Boyer said the 2009 attendance has been an interesting phenomenon, in that they were pacing where they were last year and even a little bit up through April. But the rainy and cold weather that extended into June clearly has hampered ticket sales.
“During the homestand we had (ending June 11), in the last game we started, it was in the 40s,” Boyer said. “Then, we come back here and it was oppressively hot.
“So, we haven’t had much luck there. The team is playing better, and as we play better, if we stay in the race, we’ll be fine.”
As for an early fiscal outlook to 2010, Boyer points to the past Dodgers series as an example of the situation being too far off to make an accurate read.
“We are not out of the economic issues,” Boyer said. “There’s not anybody taking deep breathes and saying this is going to be better or isn’t it amazing how much better it’s getting. The scenario we are in, it doesn’t look like it’s getting much better.
“Now, for us to start predicting things about 2010, it’s way too early. But we have to be really smart about it.”
The White Sox basically are run to not necessarily make a profit in their drive to get to the postseason. But they also don’t want to lose any money in the process.
With Tuesday’s attendance announced at 23,758, these less-than-full houses just might hamper Williams in going after a top prize.
“We are going to go down the same roads we always have,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, we take a look at opportunity A vs. B and C and you figure out, ‘Here’s where we can go with this, but do we have the resources to make it work? Where are we situated in the standings and where’s the excitement level? Can we swing it.’
“I’ve maintained forever, most times all (White Sox chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) wants to do is break even. Give yourself the best chance to win and break even, and in many cases, he has been willing to absorb a loss in an effort to win a championship. I don’t know if that would be any different, but my job is to present opportunities to the group and we will see where we come out in terms of actually making the decision one way or the other.”