Another Windy City Classic has come and gone. Or should I say, another BP Crosstown Cup, as it has been newly billed this season, has come and gone. That’s right, amigos, British Petroleum has gotten in on the fun of the Chicago baseball series and sponsored this whole meaningless shebang. Petty bragging rights only go so far, and the only way I can see this series acquiring any sense of significance is if they somehow meet in the World Series one day…which is quite a ways away for both sides of town. Unfortunately, the baseball takes a backseat to the gimmicky nature of the debacle that is now Cubs vs. Sox. Don’t get me wrong: the New Era commercials are instant classics, but the series itself has garnered little fanfare this year mainly because one side of town owns the worst record in all of baseball. The Sox fan half of me wishes that reason were true. The Cubs fan half of me knows it isn’t. The baseball fan in me witnessed these notable events during the series:
•The “fans” at Wrigley are way more annoying than the “fans” at Comiskey, but at least they show up.
Both sets of fans have their flaws, trust me. But that just comes with the territory in any city and with any sport. On the whole, our city does an outstanding job representing Chicago and our sports scene well, but baseball divides us. We have two teams when some cities don’t even have one. We should embrace that, but I know I’m in the minority when talking about baseball unity. Attendance has been down at every stadium across the country this year, and that comes as a result of raised ticket prices, parking fees, food and beverages costing an arm and a leg for your everyday, working class fans to afford on a regular. And that’s who you want at the games: real fans. Cubs’ fans are often chastised for showing up and filling Wrigley Field even during times of lengthy losing streaks, supporting the “lovable loser” mentality, and generally just hanging out getting wasted for the fuck of it and not paying attention to the baseball that’s being played in front of them. Sox fans are at the other end of the spectrum that’s just as dangerous. Not supporting the team during times of winning seems like an oxy-moron, like it shouldn’t be an issue, but it happens more times than most would like to acknowledge. And it’s happening at The Cell this season. That being said, this particular Chicago Cubs/Chicago White Sox series from Monday-Wednesday drew the lowest three-game paid attendance total since the teams began interleague play in 1997. That says more about the baseball experience than it does about a silly rivalry.
•The Cubs offense is capable of exploding…against bad pitching.
Zach Stewart is a fill-in starter, and the Cubs offense wasted no time getting started early in this series. They took him deep four times en route to an easy 12-3 series-opening win, much to the delight of short-sighted fans and much to the chagrin of any baseball fan with a brain. Any big league team can score 12 runs against bad pitching.
•Gavin Floyd is the most important piece of the Sox staff.
When he is on, and that’s become a bigger if this season, the Sox’ rotation can be one of the best in baseball. Problem being, he has been wildly inconsistent, sporting a whopping 5.20 ERA despite his sparkling shutout ball he tossed Wednesday night. With Chris Sale emerging as an ace in the making, Peavy performing to his capabilities, Danks coming back and Humber rounding it out, Floyd holds the key to Sox consistency on the mound. They need to be able to count on him in big games, if and when they arrive.
•Starlin Castro is a revelation.
He hit .385 in the series, 1 HR, 1 triple, drove in 2 runs, and showed that childlike joy at SS Cub fans should embrace. He made some stunning plays on the defensive side (that barehanded catch after the glove deflection was ridiculously awesome), and we caught him, wait for it, smiling(?) on the field. After all, dude is only 22 years old, but he’s a perennial all star in the making. Phenomenal talent and rare breed. Right here in our own city. Go figure.
•The White Sox need another bat in the lineup and maybe another arm on the rotation to contend for an AL Central crown.
Kenny’s gotta make a move…or two.
Truth be told, The Sox have been struggling to fill The Cell all year. Never mind that they’ve been in first place in the AL Central for the better part of this young season. Never mind that Adam Dunn leads the Major Leagues in Home Runs (and Strikeouts). Never mind that Jake Peavy has regained his CY Young form circa 2007. Never mind that Paulie is quietly one of the best (and most underrated) 1B in the American League. Never mind Alex Rios’ fountain of youth play, Gordon Beckham’s coming of age (albeit inconsistent), and a rookie Robin Ventura manning the dugout. Forget that John Danks has been on the DL for almost all of this first place play. Forget it all, and realize that the 2012 Chicago White Sox are just finding ways to win ballgames.
On the flip side, how long can this last? Detroit is going to start playing better ball this summer, and it’s only a matter of time before the sands in the division shall shift. Coming in, this wasn’t supposed to be the Sox’ year, but here they are at the top. But two games over .500 won’t get a division crown or even a wild-card birth. GM Kenny Williams has been known to pull the trigger on trades if it means contending now, and it feels as though the Sox are a piece or two away from the roster they need to succeed the rest of the way and into the, gulp, postseason. Playoffs?
But first things first: bring on The Brew Crew this weekend…