If you’re going to be all in on this White Sox rebuild, you might as well get ridiculous with it.
I’m speaking here to Sox fans, many of whom have embraced general manager Rick Hahn’s long-range plan in a way that traditionally results in marriage, if not children. But I’m also speaking to Cubs fans, who might be looking for ways to replicate the high that came with winning the World Series last season.
There’s only one event left in Chicago sports that could come close to matching the energy the city had last fall. There’s only one mountain, scaled so long ago that it seems more myth than fact:
A Cubs-Sox World Series.
The last one, the only one, was in 1906. My colleague Rick Telander was in first grade. How about another in the near future? Say, in five years?
No, I haven’t been drinking.
Yes, I am aware that the Sox are likely at least three years from the mere possibility of being a contender.
Yes, I know that stockpiling prospects, as the Sox are doing, doesn’t guarantee a thing. That pile easily could turn into a bonfire of unrealized dreams. I’m the guy who, at every step, questioned how many of Cubs president Theo Epstein’s highly touted prospects would become major-league contributors. So I’m wired to be highly skeptical of a Baseball America coronation.
Yes, it has occurred to me that, despite Epstein’s stated goal of sustained success for the franchise, the Cubs might not be World Series material in five years. Did I just write that? And a lightning bolt didn’t strike me? Weird.
But what if everything went right for a change in Chicago baseball? What if plans were mapped out and plans were realized on both sides of town, resulting in a critical mass of baseball excellence in five years?
No, I don’t have a medical marijuana card.
The Cubs and Sox will meet for four games starting Monday, the first two at Wrigley Field and the next two at Guaranteed Rate Field, a name that still rolls off the tongue like a peach pit.
These games mean nothing in themselves, not the way they did when interleague play was new and tribalism seemed so much more personal. For the Cubs, the games against the Sox are important because their players want to continue to prove to management that they’re worthy of another trade-deadline acquisition and, thus, another October. They’re finally beating the mediocre teams they should have been beating since the beginning of the season. The Sox should be another movable object.
For the Sox, the Cubs are there to get more at-bats for Yoan Moncada, the top prospect in baseball when he was called up to the majors Wednesday. In that sense, the Cubs are no different to the Sox than the Astros are. But at least the Cubs will help fill up the Sox’ park for a couple of games.
The Crosstown Classic lost its buzz a long time ago, but I’m dreaming of a time when it will matter again, when both teams are good, when fans on either side of town are thinking about a Cubs-Sox World Series, about a Crosstown Cataclysm, a Fall Classic connected by a third rail.
What’s left in Chicago sports? The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in the last eight seasons. The Bulls? People are still high from the fumes of Michael Jordan. OK, the Bears winning a Super Bowl for the first time since the 1985 season would be huge. But going by Cubs-Sox World Series history, that feels almost recent.
When the teams played in the 1906 World Series, the Sox stunned the Cubs in six games. The Cubs had gone 116-36 that season. The Sox somehow won the Series despite hitting .230 as a team in the regular season.
The last time the teams were in the playoffs at the same time was 2008. Both teams were ousted in a divisional series.
So a Cubs-Sox World Series in five years? This is going to take vision that most of us don’t possess. So many things have to go right for it to happen. Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and some of the Sox’ other big-time prospects will need to turn into big-time major-league talents, either for the Sox or for a trading partner that gives them proven veterans in return. I know: This is putting the cart about a mile ahead of the horse. But Cubs fans did that five years ago, and the cart and the horse last were seen posing with the World Series trophy.
For our Chicago-centric dream to come true, the Cubs will have to stay good — no easy thing. Who on the current roster still will be around in five years? Kris Bryant and Addison Russell look like sure bets. A 33-year-old Anthony Rizzo? Who knows? Maybe Willson Contreras. Javy Baez? I don’t think so. He’s their best infielder. He looks like the eternal trade chip.
Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ? Maybe, maybe not.
Doubting Epstein’s ability to build multiple champions is silly. He did it in Boston. He has a foundation in place that makes more than one World Series in Chicago possible. But nothing is guaranteed, as the first half of the season taught so precisely.
But what if all the chips land in the right place in five years, for both teams?
‘‘There’s Moncada with a deep drive to right field. Bryce Harper is at the warning track . . . ’’
You’re right. Maybe I do need to be drug-tested.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.