So it ends the way it began and the way it was, as the starter has a shaky outing, the middle relief gets mauled by another also-ran of a team, an opposing nobody pitcher performs like a star and the Good Guys come out on the wrong end of a 13-3 beating.

After a year in which Jim Thome’s .275 average led the team, a year in which the bullpen lost 18 games after the sixth inning, a year in which Andy Gonzalez had 9 errors in 25 games, a year in which Jose Contreras posted the worst ERA of any regular starter in the American League, we are allowed to finally breathe again and say that at least they didn’t lose today, if only because only the good teams are allowed to keep playing.

Were there highlights? Of course there were. 500, 41 and 0, to name a few. But it’s hard to celebrate those things when the end result is a fourth place finish for a club that has been playing .445 ball (105-131) since the 2006 All-Star Break.

It’s easy to blame the bullpen. The bigger problem is how that bullpen got there in the first place. At least the offensive woes could be chalked up to injuries, some unfortunate (Joe Crede’s back) and some just untimely (Jim Thome’s everything). But when the Sox went into the season relying on a relief corps assembled from the scrap heap pickings of the Cubs, Royals and Rangers, was it wise to think it would end any other way? Did anyone expect guys who couldn’t hack it with the three worst bullpens in baseball to arrive on the South Side and deliver the goods? Maybe that’s the kind of mystical witchcraft Kenny Williams was talking about when he mentioned things like “stuff” and “guts” and “grit” and “live arms” and someone being a “plus pitcher” to the press when hyping up David Aardsma and Andrew Sisco. Maybe Don Cooper was supposed to pull another Esteban Loaiza out of his hat.

Or maybe not. Maybe they knew all along what we should’ve seen coming: this team was doomed from the start. Someday we might look back at this as an important season. We might have seen the seeds of future pivotal trades being planted. We might be witnessing the beginning of some fine playing careers.

The more likely scenario is that three years from now, when the Sox are serious contenders again, we’ll have the bad taste out of our mouth and won’t cringe every time a reliever comes out to walk in a few more runs. There won’t be a sinkhole at the back end of the rotation. Jose Contreras won’t be around to bookend the season with mediocre outings. The sky will be a beautiful shade of blue over Sox Park, the hot dogs will taste as good as they ever did and everything will be back to normal. Until then, a long winter awaits.

And with that, the 2007 White Sox baseball season – finally, thankfully, mercifully – dies an unceremonious death. Good riddance.