Impact of the Crosstown Series

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After the last few games against their city neighbors, the Cubs and their fans are probably wishing that they could play the White Sox every day. Based on their dominance of the South Siders in a home and home split four game series that was cut down to three due to rain, the North Siders would be 162-0. Thanks in part to the departures of A.J. Pierzynski, Carlos Zambrano, and the motor mouthed Ozzie Guillen, the hype over the Crosstown Series has toned down considerably for the 2013 edition. That fact is evidenced by approximately a 10% decrease in attendance this time around after achieving crowd lows in 2012 and the former BP Cup currently being awarded without a sponsor.

May 30, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney (15) tags out Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza (30) at second base during the seventh inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

But Cubs fans can care less, as their team has earned them city bragging rights for the year a sweep and not just a series win. The North Siders even had a 2-0 lead in the last game of the series in U.S. Cellular thanks to a two run homer by Welington Castillo off scoreless inning streaker Chris Sale and in hindsight only the rain postponement saved the Sox fans from further rivalry embarrassment. Your White Sox friends may try to brush off the set back as just another four games in the schedule, but past history of the series has shown that the Crosstown Series can provide a spark for the winning team.

The Sox came into the series having crept back up to .500. The Cubs of course have now knocked them three under, although the Sox remain within shouting distance of the AL Central lead in what has turned out to be division with apparent parity based on records. Despite just being 4.5 games back, the demoralizing sweep at the hands of their intra city rivals has many Sox fans “partying” like its 1997 and contemplating a White Flag trade.

Mean while the Cubs came into the series in last place, thanks to NL Central big boys Pittsburgh and Cincinnati reminding the North Siders that a talent gap still remains to be closed before the Cubs can honestly look in the mirror and say that they are contenders. After losing the contest four games to two for the past four seasons, this rebuilding group of Cubbies has tripped up the playoff dreaming White Sox. The few times the Cubs have won the series, it has served to boost them to a positive campaign for the remainder of the year. In 1998 the Cubs swept the second installment of the series and went on to win the Wild Card. In 2004 the North Siders were a final week collapse short of a return to the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Cubs then won the first of back to back Central titles after a 2007 series win of five games to one prior to the run by the White Sox in recent seasons.

By no means does this imply that the Cubs will suddenly jump into contending status this season. If the rebuilding process alone is not enough to temper expectations, simply glancing at the Central standings will show just how touch the division is this year. Three of the NL playoff entrants, were the season to end today, would come out of the Central. However, after two months of basically finding ways to lose, it would not be out of the question to see the North Siders take the significant step forward of just finishing the season with a .500 record after losing 100 plus games in 2012. The bullpen has been stabilized somewhat with Kevin Gregg 2.0 and the Cubs offense displayed both timely hitting and power. With the starting pitching having been the constant, the sum of the three parts would result in more wins.

The Cubs will immediately have a chance to prove that they are really progressing by hosting the NL West leading Diamondbacks for a three game set over this weekend.