The Chicago Sun-Times’ Jay Mariotti gets all choked up over the recent play and public statements of the White Sox.

If I owned the White Sox — and at this point, maybe I should — I’d remove those radio spots that promise tickets “in October” to fans who buy 2006 packages. Not only is the announcer’s voice annoying, the ads forget that this is Chicago, where every “magic number” should be accompanied by a “tragic number.” Seems any combination of 38 Sox losses and Cleveland victories would give the Indians the American League Central title, which means one thing:

I wouldn’t be tempting fate with quick-fix sales gimmicks. Generations of baseball gods have tortured this city for much less in September. Seen those Sox billboards on the expressways? Allow me to submit Grinder Rule No. 85 to the creative proceedings: Never, ever assume you’re going to the playoffs until mathematically confirmed.

So the new in-house slogan becomes “We Are What We Are.” And what are they? A downwardly spiraling imposter that has little chance to win a postseason series, unless ominous patterns unexpectedly turn bright in coming weeks. They’ve bravely clung to a mantra of defense and pitching, but when the defense turns brutal and the starting pitching is wildly inconsistent — with bizarre conspiracy theories emerging from the lunatic fringe — U.S. Cellular Field suddenly looks like a house of cards.

At the risk of being called an ax murderer by Hawk Harrelson, I’ll go so far to acknowledge the Indians are a better club than the Sox. They’ve spent the last month jackhammering eight games off a 15-game Sox lead, and with six games left between the teams, it’s safe to say the next four weeks will be squirmy. That was how Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad recently described Reinsdorf, and nothing in recent days has changed that condition.

It’s only a natural part of Chicago life to wonder if this is a choke in progress. You’d feel better about the Sox’ playoff chances if their starting pitchers were in rhythm, but, truth is, Jon Garland has been erratic in the second half, Orlando Hernandez is looking like the guy the Yankees couldn’t wait to dump and Mark Buehrle — hey, cue the Kinks CD, please. “Paranoia may destroy ya!” Ray Davies belted out, and at the worst possible time, here comes Buehrle with yet another Oliver Stone lapse that begs a question: Is he emotionally prepared for September, much less October? In Boston, they have real concerns about Curt Schilling’s velocity and command. In New York, they have real concerns about Randy Johnson’s age and confidence. In Oakland, they have real concerns about Rich Harden’s health.

On the South Side, they have silly concerns that Buehrle sees UFOs and aliens.