General

Temperature of Cubs-Sox rivalry: Tepid

This week’s column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Temperature of Cubs-Sox rivalry: Tepid

The WISCH LIST

July 9, 2011

With the Midsummer Classic on tap for Tuesday, let’s take a our own All-Star break and dish a bit on the White Sox and Cubs …

A peace of Chicago

It’s been called the BP Crosstown Cup, the Crosstown Classic, the Crosstown Series, the Crosstown Cup and – hang on a second, let me catch my breath – the Crosstown Showdown.

At least it has been … if you trust Wikipedia.

But either way, I think we can agree that the rivalry between the Cubs and White Sox has always been called one thing.

Cross.

Every summer, grumpy baseball fans like to gripe about interleague play. They whine about how no one wants to watch series like Florida vs. Seattle, while ignoring the fact that no one really much wants to see Florida vs. Pittsburgh or Seattle vs. Kansas City, either.

And those happen every season.

Despite its inherent snoozers, I like interleague play. And I love Cubs-White Sox. My only beef with the annual city series is that in recent years the volatility in the stands has almost reached Barrett-Pierzynski levels.

The animosity between a sizable number of Sox and Cubs fans has made attending the games an increasingly uncomfortable experience – until this year.

Last weekend, I had tickets for two White Sox-Cubs tilts at Wrigley Field, and was struck by how docile the fans were, even out in the bleachers. I’d like to think that it’s because Chicagoans have reached a new level of maturity, but I saw the same kind of serenity during the two Yankees-Cubs games I attended last month.

And it’s more likely that the reason for the relative peace is because both teams’ fans just aren’t as engaged in their disappointing ballclubs this season.

Call it a truce of indifference.

Meet your Iowa Cubs … coaches

The Cubs have been a major league club for 135 years, but more often than not this season they’ve looked like they’re playing minor league ball.

Perhaps, though, that shouldn’t be a surprise considering that they’re being led by a bunch of rookies.

And by that, I mean the coaching staff.

Ponder this: For 2011, the Cubs have a manager (Mike Quade), a first base coach (Bob Dernier) and a third base coach (Ivan DeJesus) who are all in those roles at the big league level for the first time. They also have a pitching coach who’s handled a major league pitching staff just once – way back in 1995 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Fact is, this College of Coaches doesn’t even have an associate’s degree.

So, the next time the Cubs blow a sign, make a base-running mistake or fail to hold a runner at first, feel free to blame the players.

But question the coaching staff that GM Jim Hendry has put together, too.

A Dunn deal in Atlanta

If you think $56 million man Adam Dunn has been a free-agent bust for the White Sox, then get a load of Atlanta’s Dan Uggla.

Emphasis on the Ugg.

On Wednesday, SI.com baseball writer Jon Heyman slapped Uggla with his midseason “Least Valuable Player” award. At the time, the second baseman – who signed for more money ($61 million over five years) than Dunn last winter – was batting .178 with a .250 on-base percentage, both more than 100 points worse than his 2010 stats for Florida.

Heyman pointed out that, unlike Dunn, who switched leagues, became a DH and had an appendectomy, Uggla has no ready-made excuses for his struggles. All that said – and perhaps in response to Heyman’s slight – Uggla homered in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday.

So maybe he’s not Dunn just yet.