The first Cross-Town series is already upon us, and well, I just don’t care that much. First of all, it’s just too early for all this, and second, living in the Chicago area, it’s one of the most overhyped sporting events we have around here. A big part of the problem is the total media oversaturation. It’s not just the coverage, it’s that the coverage is lazy. Every newspaper, TV and radio station has a field day, essentially rehashing the same old stories they ran last year. The papers always do the same things: pick an All City Team and of course, regale us with tales from the classic matchups way back in 2002 and if we’re lucky, list out the players who have the best statistics in the series for each side. The radio coverage is even less creative. Essentially, all hosts spend the week on autopilot, taking phone calls that go like invariably like this: “I’ve been a Cubs/White Sox fan for over 20/40/200 years and I just want to say that all those Cubs/White Sox fans out there are nothing but white trash/yuppie scum/overweight meth addicts/mincing faries/idiots who only go to the park so they can get drunk/start fights/wave while talking on their cell phone/run on the field and attack various umpires and opponents. Finally, you can count on every TV station in the city to dig up every two-bit hack that ever played for both teams, to ask them about the differences between Cubs and Sox fans. It has been like that all week, and will be again in the week leading up to the 2nd series. So you will have to forgive me if I’m a little less than enthused about the whole rivalry thing.
However, I did want to take a quick look at this series, because it does have some important implications for both teams. For the Sox it’s pretty simple, they need to keep piling up wins. Despite jumping out to the best record in the majors, they aren’t running away from the Twins who are only 5 games back in the division. With a lot of games left to play between the two rivals, the White Sox need to pour it on now, as they have not fared well against Minnesota during the late season series. Also, while I think that the Sox are counting on Frank Thomas to bolster the lineup and guys like Konerko and Dye to improve their performances, their pitching is likely to slump at some point, and it’d be nice to have a cushion when that happens.
The Cubs are another story. They are trying to build some momentum after winning 5 of their last 7, but to be honest, they haven’t beaten anyone who’s very good, and they haven’t exactly looked like world beaters in those games either. So this is the weekend when we find out what this team is made of. Will they prove to be a legitimate playoff contender, just a brilliant Jim Hendry trade away from the World Series? Or will Derrek and the Dominos be knocked over by the seemingly invincible White Sox? One thing is for sure, with the pitching matchups favoring the Cubs the pressure is on Dusty Baker. If the Cubs are embarrassed at home by their in-city rivals, Baker’s job is going to be in serious jeopardy. I believe that the key for the Cubs will have to be the suddenly resurgent bullpen. They’ve been good as of late, but is this real, or is it just a death rattle before the next implosion? If the answer is the latter, then this could be Dusty Baker’s last Cross-town Series.