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Baseball Mon Jun 07 2010
This weekend, the Cubs and White Sox will begin their annual showdown. Despite the fact that either team has yet to display anything resembling professional baseball in 2010, fans in this city will still treat this with the importance of the World Series times the Super Bowl times the second coming of Babe Ruth. No matter how bad the Cubs and Sox are performing, you can always count on interleague play being over-inflated with importance due to both sides of town having equally crippling Second City Complexes. Will the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this week? It doesn't matter June 11th through 13th (and again June 25th through 27th), as baseball fans from both sides of the city come together to drink, yell and fight in the contest over whether the American League or the National League Central Division has the slightly better under-performing major market team.
This year also marks the inaugural Crosstown Cup series. In addition to giving their fans a weekend distraction from how poorly they're doing in the standings, the Sox and Cubs will now be battling for a cheap piece of PR from the company that just took a two month crap all over the Gulf of Mexico and the proprietors of suburbia's favorite feedbag, British Petroleum. The series is still sadly being sponsored by the oil conglomerate, though it is now "scaled back," which hopefully means less AM/PM commercials. Having the crosstown classic sponsored by a company responsible for such an immense disaster showcases just how sad the rivalry in this town really is. If either Cubs or Sox had anything to be proud of this season, fighting over a trophy might actually mean something. Both teams are sub .500 and in third place, and both are lucky to be there. Both the Cubs and the Sox played the worst teams in their divisions this last weekend and both dropped two out of three games. Top off this mediocrity with a trophy presented by the company responsible for murdering countless wildlife and deluging nearly 20,000 gallons of crude oil a day for the last 50 days, and you have what stands to be the most depressing contest in the history of baseball.
Let's take a look at how each team has been doing so far.
Aside from the sudden and unexpected surge by the Cincinnati Reds, the Cubs season is going about as well as anyone could have guessed. The complete lack of a bullpen and an unfortunate lack of hitting from the aging Derek Lee and the sloppier than ever Aramis Ramirez have left the North Siders struggling to keep their heads above water. Every time they have hit the .500 mark this year they immediately hit another skid.
The big, fun surprise for Cubs nation of course, is the team's complete lack of potency against the perpetual minor league showcase that is the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs are two for nine against the Bucs so far this year, and are in real danger of falling behind them in the standings throughout the rest of the season unless they can turn things around.
Biggest Disappointment: Hands down, it is Aramis Ramirez. He has struggled all season at the plate and currently carries an incredibly wretched batting average of .169 -- dead last in the MLB. With a staggering number of men left in scoring position, it wouldn't be unfair to blame a lot of the season on him alone.
Low Point of the Season: Given that they opened the season with a meltdown from their ace/setup man/walking nervous breakdown Carlos Zambrano, who gave up eight earned runs in his first two innings of the season, you could say even the following 56 games, though all mired in mediocrity, were a step in the right direction.
Notable Bright Spot: Carlos Silva. Anyone who can claim to have predicted this man would be the saving grace of the Cub's season is either a liar or a prophet of biblical talent. Originally acquired as a means of dumping Milton Bradley on the Seattle Mariners, Carlos Silva seemed like an unlikely candidate to even make the team. Already with eight wins (three more than his last two years combined), he is the Cubs new ace, finding new life in the NL.
The White Sox
2010 May just go down as the season of Murphy's Law for this team. Just about everything that could have gone wrong has so far. The biggest and most glaring problems thus far of course are the baffling lack of quality starts from starters Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle. Predicted to be the two wings upon which this Sox team would fly, Buehrle and Peavy each have five and four starts respectively in which they gave up five or more runs -- not quite the dominating duo Sox fans were counting on. They are not alone of course, as the rest of the rotation has had seven more of such games. Couple this fact with the team batting average that is currently third worst in the MLB and you have a team that is lucky it hasn't lost even more games than it already has. The Sox have only won a paltry four series so far this season (can't count the one game set to Detroit, sorry).
Like their NL cousins, the Sox have had some surprisingly unfruitful series against one of the worst teams in their division. The Cleveland Indians have taken nine of 12 from the Southsiders this season. That means the Sox have provided The Tribe with over a third of their total wins this year.
Biggest Disappointment: Jake Peavy. While the rotation as a whole has been letting everyone but their opponents down all season, Jake Peavy was one of the main reasons fans were looking forward to 2010 with optimism despite the fact that the club was obviously going to be lacking bats. Now, with the third highest ERA in the majors (5.90), he has even less wins than the Cubs' Sean Marshall, a reliever. As previously mentioned, Peavy has pitched four starts in which he has given up five or more earned runs. Half of his wins come from the Kansas City Royals. Thank god for them.
Low Point of the Season: Take your pick. Was it getting swept by the Indians back in April? How about the back-to-back shellackings they took from the Tampa Bay Rays the following week? Maybe it was dropping a series to the lowly Royals due to soggy bats and sloppy defense? My vote goes to this past Friday, when the Sox were destroyed by the Indians in 10-1 loss at home in a week when they were supposed to be turning things around. 10-1. The Indians. At home.
Notable Bright Spot: Alex Rios. While by no means as big a surprise as Silva was for the Cubs, Alex Rios has been a pleasant boon to the White Sox. He is currently the only guy on the team whose average is detectable on a list of league leaders at a very respectable .318. The team's average is .241. Equally notable is the apparently ageless Freddie Garcia, who in the surest sign that the powers of the universe enjoy toying with Sox fans emotions, has the most wins (five) and the second lowest ERA on the team.
Alex Rios and Carlos Silva. These are the highlights baseball fans in this city can look forward to this weekend as the Sox and Cubs share their annual round of microcosmic baseball escapades. Fans will still cheer. Both stadiums will sell out for all six games. Brawls will still break out in the grandstands. But clearly, neither of these teams deserve a trophy. Given that the prize will be handed over from a despicable company, I sincerely hope whichever team does walk away the victor is wise enough to throw the thing in the trash. A trophy doesn't belong anywhere near the Cubs, the Sox or BP.