CLEVELAND -- The reason for the White Sox demise over the past two weeks was put into very simple terms by general manager Ken Williams during Wednesday's season-ending interview with the media.
"We didn't win enough games, so we're going home," said Williams, sitting in the visitors' dugout at Progressive Field. "Bottom line."
But even with the team fading badly at the finish line, Williams' praise for the consistent approach from manager Robin Ventura's staff and the players has been unwavering. That day-by-day focus made the season more than palatable, despite the rough ending.
"From Day 1, Robin and I have talked about what our mission was, what kind of team, what kind of effort, what kind of fundamental baseball club we wanted," Williams said. "That message was communicated by Robin and his coaching staff through Spring Training.
"I can't say enough about these guys for their effort and commitment to it because it's one thing to talk about it, 'Let's do this, let's do that, pay greater attention to fundamentals of the game, infield practice and extra hitting and all these things.' But once you leave Spring Training, a lot of times, some of those things fall to the wayside.
"Not with this group," Williams said. "So I can sit here and only be so disappointed in us for not closing this thing out because if there is such a thing as losing the right way, this group did."
Losing the right way was not part of the White Sox two-pronged focus of contending while developing young talent, which they did achieve in 2012. So why did they come up short, despite holding a three-game lead over the Tigers as late as Sept. 18?
Williams would like to point to the team's reliance on youth or the season-ending injury to John Danks and the other maladies sidelining important cogs for extended periods as excuses. But the fact of the matter is the White Sox slipped on their road trip to Kansas City and Anaheim and never could right themselves.
"All we had to do was take care of business and we wouldn't be sitting here in this position," Williams said. "We would be getting prepared for the playoffs and prepared for what I think would have been a successful playoff. It's ironic that I think we match up against the playoff teams that are out there a little bit better than we have the past few teams we've played.
"It is what it is and you got to play your whole schedule. No excuses. And none needed because they literally gave everything they could. We got a lot of growth in our young players. They stepped up admirably -- better than that -- because no one gave them much credit coming out of Spring Training or faith except us internally.
"Often times, that's not enough to propel a young player to success and they took the bull by the horns and really competed," Williams said. "Not just competed but competed as a competitor all year and they can only grow from that. Some of our veterans stepped up and did what they've done most of their careers."
Youkilis deals with Chicago culture shock
CLEVELAND -- After playing parts of nine seasons for the Red Sox, Kevin Youkilis was used to suiting up in front of home sellouts at Fenway Park. So, upon coming to the White Sox via a trade, he had to adjust to a U.S. Cellular Field attendance that left them short of two million fans for the year even in support of a team in first place for 117 days.
"[In] Boston, you are used to a sold-out crowd every night. That's just a way of life," Youkilis said. "It's very surprising to see with us winning that we were still second fiddle to the Cubs. I thought we had a lot of fun and brought a lot of enjoyment to the fans. There was a great fan base that was there. It seemed like the same people that showed up every night to cheer us on, the diehards.
"That was the one surprising thing for me, of down the stretch still being that second team in Chicago. I think these guys here are a great bunch of players and go about their job professionally and do the right thing. They've got a good team."
Youkilis quickly added that with the economy being as it is, he understands people can't come out to the games as much. He also explained that players want more fans at games but they have to focus on their on-field business and not the stands.
"With this season and the promise for next season, we will see better crowds," Youkilis said.
One of the White Sox goals for the offseason is to examine their role as an organization in the attendance conundrum.
"An energized fan base and electric atmosphere can propel a team to the next level. So that's important," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "We've already started that process in looking at ourselves. What are we doing? What can we do to push ourselves a little bit harder and a little bit better for the fans and give the fans a better experience and a greater reason to come to the ballpark.
"If I had to characterize this offseason, it's not just the product we have to focus putting on the field. But I'm not going to point the finger at anyone who hasn't been to the ballpark because I know they were watching or rooting at home because I've heard."
Third to first
After playing 50 straight games before receiving a break to end the season on Tuesday and Wednesday, Alex Rios laughed when asked how it felt to have a little down time.
"I don't know what to do around here," Rios said. "It feels weird because you're so used to getting ready for the game and do the stuff that you have to do to prepare."
Rios joined Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy as the comeback kids on this year's squad. And with career highs set through his .304 average, 25 homers and 91 RBIs, the veteran has found something in his game that he believes will carry over from year to year.
"I never stuck to something for a long time [last season] and this year I trusted what we worked on during the season and it was a big difference," Rios said. "This year I focused on simple stuff. I didn't overthink things and it worked."
Class A Winston-Salem is a candidate for the 2012 MILB Team of the year. Fans can vote for the Dash by visiting MiLB.com. The Dash finished 87-51, which was the best record among all 120 teams in full-season Minor League baseball. They lost to Lynchburg in the Carolina League Mills Cup Championship Series.
The White Sox scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their last 16 games.