Monday, June 15, 2009

Cubs vs. Sox - The real challenge

Tuesday marks the first game of the three games of the Crosstown Classic between the Cubs and White Sox at Wrigley Field.

Now there is the matter of which is the better team. We can't rely too much on the current records. The Cubs are 30-30 after avoiding a sweep in this past weekend's home series against the Twins, while the Sox have fallen on hard times taking two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee . While the season's not quite over, both teams have a lot of catching up if they're going to still be playing in October.

That leaves the intangibles, or the other things that we have to look at to determine which is the better team.

With a nod to Uni Watch, we look first at the aesthetics of the teams.

Both sport the pinstripes at home, the Cubs since 1957, the Sox since the last few games of 1990 in their current form. The Cubs have largely kept the same main logo since the 1950s, while the Sox have undergone several changes in that same time period, though they have largely kept their current logo and colors since just before moving into the new Comiskey Park in 1991.

Both look sharp at the current time.

PICK: Draw

This is where it has the potential to get ugly in the fight between Cubs and Sox fans.

One of the main strikes against the Sox is they have a corporate-sponsored name for their ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field. Granted, the name was taken in part to help fund $68 million in improvements to the ballpark.

However, they wouldn't have had to fund those improvements if they had built the place the right way the first time. When it opened in 1991, the then-new Comiskey Park was a concrete, soulless place with an upper deck that stretched 29 rows up and was so steep that it winded my very healthy Marine father as he climbed to the 25th row. Yes, it brought the pinwheel, exploding scoreboard from the old park, but it lacked any character or comfort until the renovations, which chopped nine rows from the upper deck and put in black arches over the top to make it more cozy.

Wrigley Field, on the other hand, is considered a cathedral of everything that is good in baseball. Yes, it has had some structure problems that have caught up with a park open since 1914, and men's urinals are troughs. But it still retains the old charm with more day games than most teams, the manual scoreboard and the marquee in a place that with few exceptions (like lights installed in 1988, the last team to do so), is much like it was in the 1940s.

Plus, I've never heard the Cell mentioned as a destination like Wrigley Field, which is kept in a neighborhood rather than fenced off from the outside world like Sox Park is.

PICK: Cubs

Here the teams are similar in that they both have fiery men as their leaders.

Cubs managers Lou Pinella is one of the bigger managerial names in baseball, having managed and won in just about every place he has gone. He spent time with the Yankees, Reds (winning the World Series in 1990), Mariners (first division title in team history in 1995), Devil Rays (nobody could help them at the time) and now the Cubs, whom he has led to division crowns in 2007 and 2008. He also has retained the same passion, taking on umpires and players in the same fashion as ever.

Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen is one of the more popular players to ever play for the Southsiders, and he was an interesting pick when he took over after the 2003 season. He has kept himself in the limelight, constantly baiting opposing players and his own players to keep them on their toes. In his first managerial job, he has kept up a winner, leading the Sox to a World Series title in 2005, his second year on the job.

Experience vs. a world title? Tough call.

PICK: Draw

Both teams have been around for what seems to be forever, the Cubs born in 1876 with the start of the National League, and the Sox in 1901 with the American League. Both have had fairly sad histories, going decades between championships and only winning five titles between them in their histories.

The Sox, while colorful, have been fairly quiet in their history in the World Series, making it to only five title matches in their history (1906, 1917, 1919, 1959 and 2005). The Cubs have been to 10 in their time (1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945), with both teams being dominant early in the 1900s.

That's where the similarities end. The Sox likely would have four titles to their credit if not for the Black Sox scandal of 1919, but they have been to two World Series since World War II and won one in the last 30 years (2005). The Cubs, on the other hand, have not been to a World Series since 1945 (the year World War II ended) and not won one since 1908 (when Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States).

PICK: White Sox

Who wins this year? That is why they play the game on the field. However, if the Cubs' bats can finally wake up and the bullpen can finally get somebody, we'll have to give this round to the Northsiders.

Copyright 2009 - Wait Til Next Century

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