What used to be the pinnacle of the season for the Cubs and White Sox is now more of a media and fan event.
Center fielder Albert Almora Jr. tried to feed into the White Sox-Cubs rivalry buzz before the Cubs’ series finale Wednesday against the Marlins.
‘‘I think [the excitement] builds up as it gets closer and maybe when we get to those games,’’ Almora said. ‘‘But we’re not thinking about those games right now, you know. We’re focusing on the Marlins right now. Who we’ve got next, I don’t even know.’’
Whom do the Cubs play next? The Sox — something Almora clearly didn’t know.
Right-hander Kyle Hendricks said he only knew the Cubs were hosting the Sox this weekend because his next scheduled start is Sunday.
‘‘If I wasn’t pitching, I might not know,’’ Hendricks said.
It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, the Crosstown Showdown meant something to the players on both teams. There used to be a playoff vibe when Cubs fans made the trip to the South Side or when Sox fans stepped foot in Wrigley Field.
Emotions used to run high. Who could forget the full-on brawl on May 20, 2006, after Cubs catcher Michael Barrett punched Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in the jaw after the two collided at home plate?
Part of the reason Sox-Cubs games mattered so much was because the teams didn’t give their fans much to cheer about. The Sox didn’t win a World Series between 1917 and 2005, and the Cubs’ drought stretched from 1908 to 2016.
Chicago fans took solace in the fact that their team might not be as bad as its crosstown rivals.
The Sox and Cubs have been playing annually since interleague play began in 1997, and the Sox hold a 58-54 edge.
Sox general manager Rick Hahn said he thinks these games still can offer a high-intensity atmosphere.
‘‘There is certainly an added energy in both of these ballparks when the two teams square off,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘It’s cliché to say ‘playoff atmosphere’ or the rivalry increases the intensity, but you do feel a little bit of a different vibe where you have a lot of fans from both clubs inside a sold-out ballpark and there’s that pitch-to-pitch excitement.’’
But now that both teams have broken their World Series curses, the rivalry has sort of lost its glitz and glamor. The games are more of a rivalry between the fans than the players, Hendricks said.
‘‘For the players, it’s fun and it brings a lot of energy for us,’’ Hendricks said. ‘‘It’s really cool for the fans. It’s cool to see how many White Sox fans come down here and all the Cubs fans at their park. I think the rivalry is more among the fans.
‘‘For us, we try to take every game — even a Cardinals [game] or any game — we’re just trying to go out there and make pitches, take good at-bats, regardless who is it.’’