Not So Sweet Home Chicago For Cubs And White Sox
What once was a tale of two cities is now just one long book of struggle.
Last season the Chicago Cubs were out of contention early, while the Chicago White Sox held down first place for a period of time until the wheels fell off and the playoffs were out of reach, notice the result, neither had a playoff appearance, not something fans are content about.
Coming into the 2013 season, both clubs and their fans had high hopes for the next 162. On the North side, the additions of Nate Schierholtz and switch hitting catcher Dioner Navarro created such a buzz among the Cubbie faithful that the saying “This is the year”, seemed like a realistic phrase. When their season started fans got to see them take 2 of 3 from the Pittsburgh Pirates with good pitching and steady hitting in the wins. Then they carried a 2-1 record to Georgia to take on an Atlanta Braves team that everyone had their eyes on. Cold bats and hard to watch pitching haunted the Cubs as they got swept by the Braves. Still after a sweep fans remained positive knowing how good that Atlanta team is.
So here we stand, April 26th 2013 and the Cubs sit 6 games back in the NL Central with a record of 7-14. Don’t be fooled, their losing ways are no reflection on fan support, Wrigley still remains packed, and out of state diehards are still rooting on their beloved Cubbies. Positive attitudes but mixed feelings is the blend here, positive about the remainder of the season, and mixed feelings about arguably the shakiest bullpen pitcher in the MLB, Carlos Marmol. On opening day, the Cubs welcomed Marmol with something they only do to opposing players, boo’s. Players said after the game they weren’t happy with the way he was welcomed when announced, one fan responded, “Well quit blowing games and that won’t happen”. Harsh words but its only logical, who wants to cheer on a closer who blows more games than a bad umpire. The Cubs just can’t seem to find a long term solid closer, it’s that simple.
For more perspective I asked someone who bleeds Cubbie blue, Mike Praznowski what he thought about the closing situation, and where he saw the Cubs at the end of the year:
“I’d like to see Kyuji Fujikawa close when he’s back from the DL. I know he struggled early on but I still have faith in him. At the end of the year I see the Cubs finishing 4th in the NL Central with a record of 70-92.”
A rational statement from a huge fan, which is something that is tough to find in sports nowadays. Hearing Fujikawa and closer in the same sentence is not something fans haven’t heard, the organization experimented with him in the role and he showed promise, but until he returns a 9th inning lead will come with a “Marmol Alert”.
In my opinion, the next few seasons will be stepping stones. Theo Epstein is too smart of a man to let this team continue their losing ways for too much longer.
As for the South side, a big loss of A.J. Pierzynski had the organization wondering how their staff will adjust to the youngster Tyler Flowers behind the plate and if he could produce with the lumber. The Sox opened up their season at home against the Kansas City Royals. A solid start from their ace Chris Sale along with a long ball from guess who, Tyler Flowers carried them to a 1-0 opening day victory and eventually a 2-1 series advantage. They followed with another 2 games to 1 series win over the Seattle Mariners, which gave White Sox fans a taste of what this team could do all season. The long ball was popular throughout these first 6 games, as the Sox cranked out 11 in their first six games.
Again, here we are April 26th 2013 and the Sox are 3 games back in the AL Central with a record of 9-12. In order to see what fans thought I looked to Ryan Ebner, a long time Sox fan with enough thought to write a book. I asked him what he thought about a possible return of the Adam Dunn of last year and where he saw the team at the end of the year:
“The Adam Dunn we saw last year historically is the Dunn the league has seen for much of his career. I believe he will have another monster year and they need him to. His strikeouts will continue to be high but another 35 or more homerun year should happen also. I think if the hitting and bullpen do not fall apart and play well along with a pitching staff having potential to dominate and have a shot at the division. However if the bullpen or hitting gets ice cold like it did last year they will find themselves struggling. When all is said and done I’d say they finish 2nd with 80 wins.”
An honest statement from a fan that sees firsthand what the Sox bring to the table. Going all year with hitting and pitching staying hot is nearly impossible, cold streaks are bound to happen, most teams are able to withstand their slumps but if both aspects get cold at the same time like it did in 2012, then there are major problems.
Putting my thought into this White Sox team, I can’t help but feel bad for the players. An empty stadium is the trend on the South side. Only on special occasions does it seem fans show up, opening day the attendance was 39,012 and in game 2 it was a quiet 14,213 in other words, atrocious. The organization has done all they can to lower ticket prices to attract fans including tickets on Sunday’s starting at $7 while parking is just $10 but still not much noise at the park. Could be along year for the White Sox, but baseball is a strange game and anything can happen.
The fans of the Cubs and Sox no longer share mutual hatred, but mutual sorrow, for their teams have tickets to ride the struggle bus in 2013, at least that’s how it looks now.
For the sake of Chicago fans, may the baseball God’s be with both teams, and may the win column pile up as we reach crunch time in August and September.