It’s always a big deal in my house when it comes time for the Cubs vs. White Sox series. In case you haven’t read my columns, I’m a die-hard Cubs fan, just like my mom. My dad and sister, however, are White Sox fans. We’ll ignore my brother — the Cardinals fan-in-residence.
Our house is no doubt divided. The city of Chicago’s also divided when the Northsiders and Southsiders square off. But, all I heard on sports talk radio last week was if the Cubs/White Sox rivalry is still around.
Allow me to answer that with one word: Yes.
The “Crosstown Classic” is still circled on both teams’ schedules. Although it might be downplayed a bit more this year because of how bad the White Sox are — sorry, Sox fans, but I call them like I see them — and how good the Cubs are. The Sox currently have a 62-95 record and the Cubs sit pretty at 91-66.
But is that a reason for a rivalry to die? Absolutely not.
On WMVP-AM ESPN 1000 in Chicago, David Kaplan — who hosts “Kap and Co.” — brought the idea up on the air before the series kicked off Sept. 21.
“Yes, it’s a rivalry,” Kaplan said. “It doesn’t matter if the Cubs are good right now and the Sox aren’t, or vice versa. In 2005 when the Sox won the World Series and the Cubs stunk, it was a rivalry. This year, it’s a rivalry. You grow up in this town, it’s a rivalry.”
He made a good point about that 2005 season. That year, the White Sox went 99-63 en route to their first World Series since 1917 while the Cubs went 79-83 to finish fourth out of six teams in the National League Central — missing the playoffs for the second straight year.
The series peaked the next year. May 20, 2006, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski collided with Cubs catcher Michael Barrett on a play at home plate at Guaranteed Rate Field, which was then known as U.S. Cellular Field. After the play, Pierzynski slammed his hand on the plate and Barrett stopped him from walking away and punched him in the face.
It was an iconic moment, one which proved the rivalry wasn’t dying. The Cubs went 66-96 that year — the worst record in the league — while the White Sox went 90-72.
Both teams have undergone major managerial changes from those days of Ozzie Guillen on the Southside and Dusty Baker on the Northside, but the rivalry’s still there.
Not everyone agrees though. David Haugh, whom I met during the NCAA Tournament last year, is the co-host of “Mully and Haugh” on WSCR-AM 670 “The Score” in Chicago. On his show Sept. 21, Haugh said the history doesn’t matter at this point — a rivalry is based on how both teams are performing.
“Any so-called rivalry is based on tradition but not reality, because in reality, the gap between the two teams has never been wider. It’s seldom been wider,” Haugh said. “When you look where the Cubs are and where the White Sox want to be, that prevents it from being a real competitive rivalry, and you need competition to make any rivalry complete.”
Sorry, David. I have to disagree with you on this one. The history is what makes it a rivalry.
A similar rivalry is the “Subway Series” between the New York Mets and New York Yankees. This year, the Yankees currently have a 97-60 record while the Mets carry a 73-84 record. That series was aired on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball June 10 — one of the biggest stages for a Major League Baseball game.
That rivalry is still doing well despite the Mets’ mediocrity and Yankees’ success. The Cubs and White Sox are in a similar boat.
I’ll have the “Crosstown Classic” circled on my calendar the next few years. It’ll get even more fun in a couple years, though, when the White Sox’s rebuild gets on the upswing; but that’s another story for another time.