Solid offseason moves for both clubs will keep status quo in Chicago
By Terence Moore
The White Sox are trying to do the impossible. Despite living in a city where the mindset of most baseball fans is dominated by ivy instead of whatever covers the walls at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox are trying to become as popular around Chicago as the Cubs.
Good luck with that.
Way back during my first life as a baseball fan (the second involved my obsession with the Big Red Machine), I grew up cheering for the Cubs during the 1960s in South Bend, Ind. We were within a two-hour drive of Chicago, so we adopted all of the pro teams in that city. The Bears, no problem. Everybody in Northern Indiana hugged them without exception. The same went for the Bulls, even before some guy named Michael.
Then came that choice between the White Sox and the Cubs. You couldn't love both, and folks in South Bend didn't.
Like those around Chicago, South Bend baseball fans helped the Cubs outdraw the White Sox during the overwhelming majority of the first 50 years of both teams' Major League existence in the 20th Century. While the Cubs topped more than 1 million fans during a season (which was the benchmark back then) for several streaks in the late 1920s and the late '40s, the White Sox didn't hit that figure until 1951.
Suddenly, from the rest of the 1950s through the early '60s, the White Sox became what the Cubs were. I recall watching relatives and neighbors pack their cars with food and libation for that journey from South Bend to Chicago's South Side to see Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox and Minnie Minoso. After that splendid run of support for the White Sox around South Bend (and the Windy City, for that matter), everybody discovered Wrigley Field.
The Cubs soared at the gate and in the standings during the mid-1960s with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins in their prime. Other North Siders included perennial All-Stars Don Kessinger, Randy Hundley and Glenn Beckert, and their manager was Leo Durocher, who also is enshrined in Cooperstown.
In contrast, except for a Dick Allen here and a Wilbur Wood there, the White Sox didn't have anybody worth mentioning. Not only that, they played in Comiskey Park, which was built around the same time as Wrigley Field in the midst of World War I. But while Wrigley became old and charming, Comiskey became old enough to tear down. In other words, since Wrigley's resurgence and the coming of the Durocher Cubs, the White Sox have been that other baseball team in Chicago.
The only way that changes ... well, I don't see that changing.
Then again, didn't the Royals, of all people, just capture the American League pennant out of nowhere? Yep, and the Red Sox found ways to take the World Series three times within the past 11 seasons after turning the Bambino and his 86-year-old curse into yesterday's news. Come to think of it, while the Cubs haven't reached the World Series since 1945 or won it since 1908, the White Sox were the kings of baseball just nine years ago.
Oh, well. In Chicago, the Cubs still rank somewhere between jazz and pizza as local treasures. The White Sox? Not so much, but they are trying to change their lower status around town in a hurry. They spent Monday signing outfielder Melky Cabrera and his impressive bat after they enhanced their offense and their defense last month by acquiring free agent Adam LaRoche to play first base. There also were those huge pitching moves, when they snatched free-agent super closer David Robertson from his old Yankees team while also solidifying their bullpen with the signing of Zach Duke.
Still, none of the transactions by the White Sox thus far surpasses their acquisition of Jeff Samardzija. Just like that, they have one of the game's most impressive pairings of No. 1 and No. 2 starters with Chris Sale. It also won't hurt the White Sox locally that Samardzija is a Chicago native and began his Major League career with the Cubs.
Good for the White Sox, and they likely aren't finished. Their team officials suggested after the end of the regular season that they will remain aggressive throughout the winter.
It's just that the Cubs aren't staying idle. They grabbed Joe Maddon, one of the game's best managers and motivators. They later acquired All-Star catcher Miguel Montero. When they weren't strengthening their pitching rotation by bringing solid starter Jason Hammel back to their roster, they were beating a slew of baseball's heavy spenders to All-Star ace Jon Lester, who officially signed a six-year deal with the Cubs worth $155 million.
Now consider this: The White Sox could lose by winning. They could show emphatically that their collection of moves during the offseason was better than those of the Cubs by grabbing next year's World Series championship, but that would still add to the Cubs' mystique as lovable losers. I mean, during the last 50 years for both teams, the most discussed game isn't any of the ones that pushed the White Sox to their 2005 World Series championship. It is The Steve Bartman Game, when the Cubs lost Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS to the Marlins after Bartman's controversial encounter with a foul ball at Wrigley.
Poor White Sox. Here's all you need to know: The late Harry Caray evolved into such a broadcasting icon with the Cubs that they built a statue in his memory outside of Wrigley. Before joining the North Siders, guess where Caray spent a decade as a Major League announcer?
Yep. The White Sox.
Not that many folks remember.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.