For there to be a “classic,” like the impending “Crosstown Cup” or “Crosstown Classic,” as it’s generally known, there needs to be something — how do we put this delicately? — classic about the participants.
We’ll grant the Cubs teeny-to-tiny classic-ness.
At least they’re well over .500, have lots of young players, big crowds at the park and fans whose belief bubbles, as ever, like steam from a fault line that reaches the center of the earth and is known as “Old Cubs Faithful.”
The White Sox?
What happened to them?
They can’t score. Their pitching is average. They’re five games under .500. They’re in last place in the American League Central, and there’s no snap, crackle and pop to them. Or, at least, there hasn’t been.
This is true even though bright things were promised after general manager Rick Hahn made what seemed like good offseason deals for hitters Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera and pitchers Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Zach Duke.
Plus, right fielder Avisail Garcia was coming back fully recovered from injury, and first baseman Jose Abreu would no doubt improve upon his 2014 AL Rookie of the Year stats of 36 home runs, 35 doubles and 107 RBI. However, halfway through his second major-league season, Abreu is on pace for about 28 homers, 30 doubles and 90 RBI.
U.S. Cellular Field is large and accommodating — if bland — with good food and easy parking. That’s your baseball funhouse, South Siders.
Yet fewer than 25,000 fans showed up Monday night to watch lefty fireballer Chris Sale, who was going for a major-league-record ninth consecutive game with 10 strikeouts or more.
Sale is the Sox’ only genuine superstar, the southpaw Ichabod Crane of K’s, a master blaster whose record is 7-4 but should be something like 12-2, if he ever got major run support. But putting offense, pitching and defense together has been the Sox’ problem. Why that is, we don’t know.
As Hahn said Wednesday: “People say they’ve never seen anything like this before in terms of this many arguably high-caliber offensive talents with significant track records all falling off the table at the same time.”
Like scurrying gerbils, they fall off that table, hopefully not splattering on the concrete below. Yet somehow hope survives.
“There’s no reason we can’t play good enough baseball to get back into this thing,” center fielder and .250 hitter Adam Eaton said.
And, yes, the Sox have won seven of their last nine games, and Samardzija has pitched well recently and Abreu is on an 11-game hitting streak. And the Sox were only six games back of the second wild-card spot after winning Thursday . . .
Yet the buzz is not about them. They have one All-Star — Sale — and they have been blown past by the Royals and Twins.
The Twins began the season 1-6, tying the worst seven-game start in their history. But look at them now — 46-40, in second place behind the Royals.
So something could kick in for the Sox. And maybe it could even start with this three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Manager Robin Ventura is as patient as an oft-plagued corn farmer. And Hahn has been just as patient with Ventura.
The Sox could start dumping players or adding players, depending partly on the outcome of this series. Wrigley will be packed with leather-lunged fans, and beating the Cubs could add some coal to the Sox’ barely burning furnace. And losing could put out the flame entirely.
The Cubs magically have been able to convince their fans that the five-year stink product of recent vintage was necessary to become good again.
Of course, they’ll buy dry ice in a blizzard and pet locusts in a plague. But for now they have All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and the promise of possibly making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
An indication of how supportive Cubs fans are comes from their acceptance of third baseman Bryant being kept in the minors at the start of this season to save management money — get this — six years from now.
What if the Cubs miss the wild card by a game or two this year? Bryant certainly was worth a win or two while twiddling his thumbs in Des Moines.
That OK with Cubs fans?
It’s always the Sox who have to worry.