Cup Classic Conflagration Thing gets underway tonight, as the Chicago White Sox come to Wrigley Field. Although it is not a rivalry in the standings, it is absolutely a rivalry in the city – head to the games this week, or at The Rate in early July, and it becomes clear quite quickly.
With the Cubs and White Sox in very distinct phases of the competitive cycle – both very fun phases, as a matter of fact – I was kinda hoping I could draw upon some parallels from the Cubs’ rebuild. You know, find a Cubs-White Sox series from 2013/14 or so, when the Cubs were just starting to matriculate their youngsters and were about to explode, and maybe set it up as a parallel to today with the roles reversed.
The problem? The White Sox were still really bad back then. In 2013, the White Sox won 63 games. In 2014, they won 73.
It was actually back in 2012, the very outset of The Plan on the North Side, that the White Sox last had a winning record. I suppose in that way it kinda makes sense that it took a couple years from there for the White Sox to give up the ghost and start a rebuild – the same was true of the Cubs before the Epstein/Hoyer crew came to town.
And I think the White Sox really have done an admirable job with their rebuild. They were singularly-focused (like the Cubs). They drafted reasonably well (like the Cubs). They got excellent returns on their sell trades (um, from the Cubs).
That’s probably about where the parallels end, though.
The White Sox have a strong, young, positional core, but not quite that Cubs group of COOKIES. Instead, the White Sox spread the talent around – risking pitching injuries along the way – and now have a group of very interesting young pitchers that could easily coalesce into a fantastic group. Just look at how Lucas Giolito freaking exploded this year! They also have the financial flexibility to supplement aggressively as soon as this offseason, but not quite what the Cubs had, and not quite enough to land that corner-turning free agent (Manny Machado) at this moment in the rebuild.
Still, it’s an exciting time for the White Sox, and I genuinely hope their fans really enjoy this upswing. They’ve waited a long time.
As for the Cubs, they’re deep into the extend-that-run phase, as well as a phase the White Sox may never enjoy: grow that revenue to absurd proportions to try to sustain a winning environment well past a typical window. A new TV network, gambling revenue, and continued successful development around the ballpark – that’s the Cubs’ current plan, and it is going well.
So, then, there aren’t really parallels as these two city rivals square off tonight at Wrigley Field. Just a couple really interesting teams and stories, set to punch each other in the mouth for bragging rights … and maybe an emotional springboard (South) or a boost to the current competitive push (North).