COMPELLING CROSSTOWN CLASSIC
For first time since 2008, Cubs-Sox has meaning on both sides of town, even without fans in the stands
Friday night at Wrigley Field was the first time since June 2008 that the Cubs and White Sox each brought a winning record into a regular-season game against the other.
That’s a little more than 12 years where we come from. Too long. Silly long.
Oh, what this crosstown series could be if winner vs. winner were more than an infrequent peculiarity. In 2008, both teams were en route to division titles. But that season was the last time the Sox made the playoffs. It was the last season of relevance for that iteration of the Cubs, too. Since then, the so-called Crosstown Cup hasn’t exactly runneth over.
Still a fun rivalry? Sure. But in need of a charge, a jolt, an overhand right to the jaw, if you will? Absolutely.
The good news: On a scale of 1 to Michael Barrett clocking A.J. Pierzynski, this is the highest the Cubs-Sox rivalry has measured in quite a while. The Cubs seem to be the class of the National League Central. The Sox are the up-and-comers of the American League. If you believe young Sox ace Lucas Giolito, the talent gap between the teams — which severely favored the Cubs the last several seasons — has disappeared.
It would, of course, be better if fans were in the stands to crank up the intensity and drink in the spectacle. Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, who sees the Sox as ‘‘a team that has a lot of expectations, and rightfully so,’’ found himself looking ahead to the weekend — but not to the all-toofamiliar sight of empty seats — during the second game of the doubleheader Wednesday against the Cardinals.
‘‘My heart goes out to the city because they don’t get to come out and enjoy that,’’
They’ll enjoy themselves plenty if both teams can share in a higher calling — being good at the same time — for a while.
It would be nice to believe the Cubs, even though Kris Bryant’s future with the team is unknown, even though Jon Lester is in the twilight of his career, even if the Ricketts family piggy bank is a few nickels light, will continue to hold up their end of the deal. They have too much going for them to begin fading like it’s 2009.
Whether they can keep up with the Sox is another story.
The 2008 Sox were like an aging fighter, still strong and crafty but hardly magnificent. The first six spots in their lineup for the final game of the season against the Cubs featured five players — Orlando Cabrera, Pierzynski, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome and Joe Crede — whose average age was 33. Paul Konerko, 32, was on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Ken Griffey Jr., 38, was still a month away from joining the team.
Look at the Sox now, with Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Giolito and others who are just getting started. No one yet is counting down to the expiration of their contracts. No one is ruminating yet about when the window of opportunity will close for this core of players.
These Sox are charging across the ring at whatever challenges await them and, yes, have a chance to be magnificent. For the sake of this rivalry, one would hope they soon are able to stand toe-to-toe with the Cubs — if they aren’t already — and that a feverish, prolonged and memorable fight will ensue.
Because it has been too long. Silly long. Though, please, let’s keep the overhand rights metaphorical. ✶
The Sox’ Jose Abreu celebrates with Tim Anderson after hitting the first of his two home runs Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.