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Drama involving Sale, Chapman overshadows Crosstown Showdown

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 26: Aroldis Chapman of the Chicago Cubs throws the ball around during warmups before the game as Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox and teammates watch at U.S. Cellular Field on July 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 607682327

You go to a ballgame, and a drama that has nothing to do with the actual playing of baseball breaks out.

Hello, Cubs-White Sox!

Maybe it’s something they feed stud pitchers.

Maybe it’s the inherent lunacy that comes with a 105 mph fastball or a left-handed slider that breaks like a bottle rocket.

I don’t know.

If you want to do some mental studies on Sox superstar Chris Sale and new Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman, be my guest.

The Sox’ 3-0 victory Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, giving them

the first two games of their four-game battle against the Cubs, paled in comparison to the drama off the field.

All we can say for sure is the emotion and intrigue surrounding Sale’s bizarre ‘‘Edward Scissorhands’’-style mutilation of the Sox’ throwback jerseys Saturday (which earned him a five-game suspension from the team) and Chapman’s alleged domestic-violence incident in October (which earned him a 30-game suspension from Major League Baseball) have dwarfed the matchup between the crosstown rivals.

Sale, the best pitcher in the American League and maybe in the majors, acted so defiantly, juvenilely and oddly by destroying the (admittedly hideous) jerseys of — word has it — seven teammates, plus his own, that Sox manager Robin Ventura almost assuredly will be let go after the season.

That’s right. Sale’s act of clothing violence — sources say it was done with a training-room tape-cutter — makes it pretty clear Ventura doesn’t have Sale’s respect. And it you don’t have your superstar’s respect, you will take the fall.

And it’s for certain Sale has a simmering beef with Sox executive vice president Ken Williams. That anger dates at least to spring training and Sale’s over-the-top defense of Adam LaRoche’s 14-year-old son Drake’s right to be a human lunch box.

For God’s sake, Sale wanted to start a boycott over the bring-your-kid-to-work incident. Ballplayers don’t even protest nuclear missiles being fired by North Korea or pythons in the Everglades.

Part of this is hilarious.

Sale’s suspension ends just in time — surprise! — to let him pitch in the Sox’ game Thursday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. If Cubs fans don’t have some humorous slice-and-dice posters for that one, shame on them.

Yet Sale’s issue ultimately might be a simpler one to resolve than Chapman’s.

Let’s say the still-unrepentant Sale apologizes sincerely and intelligently for his act, pitches great again and the Sox do better than muddle along. His teammates and management forgive him, and it’s done.

Chapman, on the other hand, is a flame-wielding bazooka-for-hire who brings his domestic-violence issue with him, prosecuted or not. It’s a blot that never will go away, like an inoperable tumor.

His trade from the Yankees brings a little too close to the light the uncomfortable fact that baseball is a capital business in which talent and economics trump conscience and morality every time. The really hard part for fans is that Chapman makes every rooting Cubs nut complicit in the ethics charade.

Good guys, those Cubs! Character guys all around!


This is the Faustian deal that has only one justification: winning the World Series. There is no other way the Cubs can absolve the deal.

Even then, envision Chapman striking out the last batter in the seventh game of the World Series as pandemonium descends on Cubdom. You know whom you’re cheering for, right? You know what you asked for, right?

Enjoy your hero.

At the game Tuesday at the Cell, the sellout crowd was civil and passionate. If there has been better weather for a ballgame, I don’t know when it was.

Earlier, though, Chapman had been asked by the media whether he agreed with Cubs president Theo Epstein when he asked him in a pre-trade phone call if Chapman could be a good teammate and citizen. Chapman replied through dubious interpreter Henry Blanco that he was dozing and couldn’t remember.

Help us, Lord. Only a fool could be less prepared and more tone-deaf.

But Cuban-born Pedro Gomez interviewed Chapman minutes later for ESPN — in Spanish — and said Chapman had felt dazed and confused by the earlier media onslaught.

‘‘My whole interview was in Spanish, and he was much more at ease,’’ Gomez told me. ‘‘He said that the Cubs wanted him to be a ‘good neighbor,’ and he said he would be. ‘Of course, that’s who I am.’ He said, ‘Good neighbor’ — Theo’s term — several times in Spanish.

Buen vecino.’ ’’

Like ‘‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.’’

Good neighbors. Good grief.

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