Kenny Williams put the Chicago White Sox through a significant rebuilding process to pare down the payroll. That left the White Sox with unimpressive prospects to compete for the playoffs. Williams also left White Sox vice president of marketing Brooks Boyer with little to go with for a slogan.
Boyer rolled out the White Sox slogan for the 2012 season last week. The slogan is titled "Appreciate the Game." This isn't a rattling at the White Sox fan base to believe in the team's prospects for playoffs, nor is Boyer guiltripping White Sox fans for feeling pessimistic.
Actually, Boyer seems to be lowering expectations himself with this slogan. He explained the slogan to the Chicago Tribune by saying:
The thought of the slogan is not the White Sox telling the fan to appreciate the game, but it's more of a Robin Ventura philosophy of how he approaches the game...play hard and smart and appreciate the opportunity to play for the Chicago White Sox. We as fans should appreciate the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. ... Winning is the most important thing, but hopefully people will say when they leave the ballpark, "Wow, that was a fun time."
That's nice. Boyer went with a simple living-style message. He talked about the gratitude Ventura felt for the opportunity to play in the majors. Also, he talked about the joy of spending time with friends and family at the ballpark, even if the White Sox lose.
Baseball is a fun game, and it can be easily appreciated if embraced for the simple joy it provides for fans.
That's much different from "Win or Die Trying."
Doesn't That Sound Like A Chicago Cubs Slogan?
Chicago fans are used to having fire and passion preached to them. They want to hear about fire and passion. Passivity isn't embraced. Ozzie Guillen was a fiery manager during his eight years as White Sox manager. He swore, yelled and threw people under the bus.
Ventura is a much different manager from Guillen. Ventura is quieter and doesn't shift his attitude significantly from day to day. He doesn't take the Gandhian approach to the game that Jerry Manuel did, but he takes a calm approach nevertheless.
Boyer plays off this presented Ventura philosophy about appreciation for the game to try to pacify White Sox fans about the season. With little optimism to be had this season, Boyer hedges the expectations in the slogan and simply asks people to come to the game and enjoy themselves.
Boyer doesn't talk much about winning in the statement. He doesn't talk directly about the playoffs. While he says that winning is the most important thing, he hedges that phrase by mentioning that people leave talking about how fun the game was.
That's a classic Cubs mentality. Traditionally, Cubs fans are made to believe that winning is secondary to having fun at the ballpark. Cubs fans had long bought into this, believing that having fun at Wrigley Field is more important than watching the Cubs win. Cubs fans have often offset talk of the Cubs' losing record by talking about their sterling attendance record.
However, Cubs fan culture is changing rapidly. They're starting to demand winning teams, feeling ambivalent towards the lax attitude Mike Quade brought to the clubhouse. Theo Epstein is bringing a winning attitude, talking about how the Cubs will become a winning franchise.
As the White Sox drift into rebuilding mode, Boyer seems to be drifting the White Sox into an old Cubs mentality as far as the slogan is concerned. Appreciation of the opportunity to spend the afternoon or evening at the ballpark is emphasized. Also, the final point is having fun at the game, not winning.
Fortunately, Ventura's work ethic lies in the midst of this. Ventura works hard to be the best he can be at anything he does. While he's inexperienced in coaching, he'll work hard to make the White Sox good and make the most of his players' talent. Boyer talks about this in the statement and presents it as part of Ventura's appreciation of the game.
Hard work, for which baseball has not advanced metric, is difficult to see, but hopefully White Sox fans can see that in players this season.
Conclusion: Boyer Makes What He Can with What Little Williams Gave Him
Williams didn't put together an impressive roster. With a need to cut payroll, Williams didn't make any big acquisitions for the White Sox. He didn't re-sign anyone, even longtime ace Mark Buehrle. Further, he traded Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor and Sergio Santos. Gavin Floyd still might be traded.
Boyer can't rehash the old "The Kids Can Play" slogan from 2000 since the White Sox aren't one of the youngest teams in the league.
Boyer had to do what he could to attract fans to the stadium of a team that doesn't have a large fan base. Knowing the roster wasn't terrific, Boyer couldn't pump fans up with false hopes. Instead, he went with a slogan that is as calm as the White Sox manager and placid as the game itself.