In professional sports it's safe to say that having the home-field advantage is a luxury that nearly all players prefer. The ability to wake up in your own bed and drive your own car to the stadium where the fans will be decidedly in your favor is a situation that anyone would opt for.
However, for the 2011 Chicago White Sox, that home-field advantage hasn't been very beneficial in terms of wins and losses. After tonight's home victory against the Texas Rangers, the White Sox still sit at an utterly disappointing 6-12 at home, and this isn't the first time the Sox slow start at U.S. Cellular Field has put them in a bit of a hole.
Last year, it wasn't secret that the Sox got off to a slow start, as evidenced by their 24-33 record on June 8th. However, what most didn't realize is that it was another sluggish start on their home turf that heavily contributed to the White Sox 9.5 game deficit on that same date.
In the past three seasons, the White Sox home record prior to June 8th has been just 33-46, and it beckons the question; what causes these slow starts for the White Sox?
There wouldn't be much need to be searching for excuses if the White Sox were a genuinely poor home team, but they're not. After June 8th of 2009 and 2010 the Sox posted a combined home record of 61-40. So what gives?
I suppose part of the blame could be laid at the broad shoulders of Mother Nature. Chicago isn't exactly what you'd call balmy for the majority of the first couple months of every baseball season, but due to the construction of "The Cell" (a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark) they're lineups are often built with bulk. Power hitters often struggle in the cold, but I have a hard time buying the bad weather excuses. After all, both teams do have to play in the same conditions.
It may indeed be the weather that causes these slow starts, but it's not for the reason you think. The weather affects a possibly even more important aspect of having a home-field advantage, and that's the fans.
Temperatures in the 40's and 50's will often drive even the best of baseball fans indoors, and White Sox fans haven't always fit the bill as the "best of." South Siders have gained a reputation from their neighbors to the north as a group of "fair weather" fans; however, those of us wearing the black and white goggles prefer to call ourselves "frugal." We simply don't waste our money on a bad product, especially not in poor weather.
I'm sure there are a dozen other factors to consider when you're asking yourself why the White Sox have been so bad at home at the beginning of the last couple season, but I think it's safe to say that the weather may indeed be partially to blame. However, it's not for the reason most think.
Of course, it's also entirely possible that the White Sox are simply this bad, but time will let the world in on that secret soon enough and we're in the business of speculation.
If history has taught us anything, it's that we can probably expect a few more weeks of struggles within the friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field before thing begin to turn around at home. However, whether the Sox can actually turn their entire season around is still completely up in the air.