It’s been awhile since Cubs, White Sox fans have had something to cheer about
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Cubs fans are giddy.
That might be their normal condition, notwithstanding the brief, intermittent bouts of despair that have dotted their lives for generations.
Meanwhile, White Sox fans are laying in the weeds — more grammatically, lying in the weeds — feeling pretty good about their own little team as the current of Cubs blather streams by.
Imagine, Chris Sale is throwing off the mound! And he has been instructed in foot safety while jumping off a pickup truck!
Not only that, the Sox have this Jose Abreu fellow, who many experts predict will hit the most home runs in the American League this season. Abreu tore up Cactus League pitching so mercilessly that you almost want him to slow down and save some for — hmmm, how about the Cubs? Seriously, Abreu has had to hit better than .500 in Glendale, Arizona, to keep his average from going down.
Abreu was the AL Rookie of the Year last season, and he has a compact, vicious swing that only Hall of Famers claim with any regularity. Oh, and the Sox also have a guy named Jeff Samardzija, a former Cubs starting pitcher. It’s almost like having a spy who came across the border during the cold war.
You want young guys to compare with the Cubs’ Greatest Minor League System Ever Created? How about second baseman Micah Johnson, who never has played a major-league game but has been playing like a smooth veteran all spring?
Outfielder Avisail Garcia is long back from that wrecked shoulder he suffered so early last season, and he can hit the leather off a ball. So can new guys Adam LaRoche and reformed ’roider Melky Cabrera.
The Cubs might have $155 million starter Jon Lester, but the Sox have $46 million closer David Robertson. That they’re paying the dubious John Danks $15 million this season shouldn’t matter. Maybe Danks will perform like he did back in 2009 and 2010, when he combined for 28 victories. Maybe, right?
Because once you restructure your team and procure a modicum of talent, it’s all about hope. Indeed, there is so much parity in both leagues these days that only a few dog teams — such as the Twins and Phillies — truly can be said to be hopeless.
That brings us to the point here, at least in Chicago: The Cubs-Sox series might matter again.
The last couple of seasons, with the Cubs tanking and the Sox stinking, the crosstown classic has been more like a casual parking-lot meeting between two cornhole teams.
Not only that, the series always seemed to start early in the season — the first meeting between the teams in 2014 was in early May — and it had the odor of blah to it.
This season, the Cubs host the Sox for three games on the weekend of July 10-12, the last games before the All-Star break.
The Cubs visit the Sox in mid-August, again for a three-game weekend series. With any luck, it will be hot and humid, both teams will be in some kind of race and the rivalry will be fierce and meaningful.
The last thing anybody wants to see is the Cubs and Sox staggering out of the gate, quickly dropping way behind, say, the favored Cardinals and Tigers. When that stuff happens, it just deflates baseball in our town.
But with the parity has come the rising of our teams from the bottom. And it might surprise some folks that at least one expert — good ol’ Buster Olney — has the Sox rated higher than the Cubs.
He has the Cubs at No. 19 and the Sox at No. 15 among the 30 major-league teams.
These rankings have nothing to do with reality, of course. And I think it’s always good to remind people the Marlins have won two World Series and the lowly Royals — often referred to as a farm team for the wealthy Yankees, Dodgers, etc. — were in the World Series last season.
It’s all blue skies for our Chicago teams. They haven’t lost a game this season!
Still, you might be sensing way more Cubs excitement, even as president Theo Epstein tries to tamp down the fever. But don’t forget the Sox, quietly peeking out.
Don’t forget those Cubs-Sox series, either.
Could be hot.