If the Brewers want to be the Cubs’ new archrivals, they should probably start winning some games against them. To that end, scoring some runs would be good.
The Cubs beat the Brewers 2-0 on Sunday, giving them three shutouts in a four-game sweep at Wrigley Field. They shut out the Brewers five times in April, the first time in franchise history they’ve shut out an opponent five times in a calendar month.
They have won seven of eight against the Brewers so far this season, outscoring them 29-9.
Maybe we should stop trying to make this into something it’s not.
Manager Joe Maddon has already stated that the intensity level of a Cubs-Brewers series has ratcheted up to that of a Cubs-Cardinals series, but I guess I’m just not feeling it. Possibly because the temperature at first pitch Sunday was 46. Perhaps the cool weather played a role in Cubs starters giving up no earned runs in the four-game sweep. That includes Tyler Chatwood’s excellent seven-inning outing Sunday.
But take a look at Maddon’s ingredients for a good rivalry and see if they’re here for Cubs-Brewers.
“Evenly matched teams,’’ he said before Sunday’s game. “I think that fan bases, in some regards, play into this. They get kind of vocal on both sides. But I think primarily, it’s just good teams over a period of time. You can’t just be good for a year or two and then all of a sudden play against a team that’s there on an annual basis and assume, ‘We’ve had two good years and now we’ve turned this into a rivalry.’
“I think there’s a consistency to play on both sides that really helps create that moment. I think winning culture, consistency over a period of time and then of course if they’re in the same division.’’
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Evenly matched teams? The Cubs are 42-23 against the Brewers since 2015.
Fan bases? By definition, if one team’s fans help fill up the opponent’s ballpark when the two clubs meet, they can’t be archrivals. That has happened when the Cubs traveled the 90 miles north to Miller Park. If it’s a rivalry, the fans will let you know. Brewers fans have spoken: meh.
In February, the Brewers tried to counter the Cubs fan invasion by having an Internet sale that gave only Wisconsin residents access to tickets for Cubs-Brewers games at Miller Park. A Wisconsinite could buy up to eight tickets for any of those 10 games.
Refusing to sell tickets to people from Chicago because your fans don’t buy enough tickets: Further proof that this isn’t a rivalry.
Two good teams over an extended period of time? In the previous three seasons, the Brewers finished second, fourth and fourth, respectively, in the National League Central. In those seasons, the Cubs won a World Series in 2016 and advanced to the NLCS in 2015 and 2017.
Maddon didn’t mention bad blood, but that always helps a rivalry. There has been some of that between the two teams. The Brewers were upset last season when the Cubs postponed a game at Wrigley because of the threat of rain — rain that never came.
“It’s the first time for us that we’ve had players treated for sunburn after a rainout,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said at the time.
This season to date is a small sample size, and the Brewers will win some games against their Illinois neighbors. They upgraded in the offseason, adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. So there are expectations that the teams will be clawing at each other all year.
But until then . . . you call this a rivalry?
“If we’re close in the standings, it’ll be a rivalry,’’ Counsell said after Sunday’s game.
By that measure, it’s currently a rivalry, with the Cubs in second place and the Brewers tied for third. It’s not as if the Cubs have beaten up on everyone this season. If anything, they’ve struggled. The only other team they have a winning record against is Colorado, and that winning record is all of 2-1.
The Cardinals will always be the Cubs’ main rivals. There’s too much history, too much emotion and too much historical success from St. Louis. And the Cards surely still think of the Cubs as the nouveau riche.
If the Brewers want to be who the Cubs are, they’re going to have to take it from them.
Sort of like the way the Bears have taken it from their archrivals, the Packers. Oh, wait.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts and Google Play or via RSS feed.