The Chicago White Sox take on the Chicago Cubs this week for their annual head-to-head competition that is more about bragging rights than anything else.
But this year, it seems we’re going to be in a competition more to see which team has the flakiest ballplayer bearing a Chicago uniform.
WILL WHITE SOX pitcher Chris Sale’s recent outburst over a throwback uniform, when combined with his defense of former would-be slugger Adam LaRoche for wanting to have his son hang around the clubhouse all the time, give him top billing?
Or did the Chicago Cubs manage to give themselves the bigger baseball head case with their acquisition of top-notch relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman on Monday from the New York Yankees?
There are those who think Sale is the best American League pitcher these days, while there are those who think Chapman is the key to ensuring that 2016 will go into the books as the first season in 71 years that the Cubs won anything of significance!
While others wonder if the flakier natures of these particular ballplayers is what will keep their teams out of contention.
FIGURE THAT IT was just earlier this season that the Yankees acquired Chapman knowing that he was facing a suspension that would cause him to miss the first month of the ’16 baseball season.
He supposedly was so good that his problems were worth having him around.
Except that the Yankees have been so mediocre this season – playing at about the same level as the White Sox are – that the Yankees were more than willing to give him up in exchange for several ballplayers who could have been the future of the Chicago Cubs franchise.
The Cubs, after all, believe they can win something now, and were willing to take the chance on giving up the 2018 World Series victory in exchange for a chance at winning something this year.
AND CHAPMAN, ALONG with Sale, is proof of that old baseball adage, “You’re Only As Smart As Your Batting Average.”
A ballplayer who can produce on the playing field will be tolerated no matter how ridiculous or absurd his quirks are. A ballplayer who is merely a nice guy will find himself traded away or released in an instant.
It is those 14 (league-leading) wins and respectable 3.18 earned run average that have Sale being tolerated even though he was the guy who threw a hissy fit over being asked to wear a throwback uniform jersey that would have made him look like Ken Kravec.
It is those 20 saves in 21 chances with an outstanding 2.01 earned run average this season that have the Cubs all too eager to have Chapman – he the guy who got a suspension for an incident involving domestic violence against his girlfriend.
WHICH WAS THE reason his former team, the Cincinnati Reds, were willing to give up on him and ship him off to the Yankees – who let him go when he did not immediately become the on-field salvation of the ’16 season. He lasted so little in New York there are very few baseball cards depicting him in Yankee pinstripes.
Which makes me wonder what the mood will be on Thursday at Wrigley Field – which is the day the White Sox and Cubs play the last of their games against each other this season. It also is the day that Sale’s suspension for jersey vandalism is up and he can play ball again.
Could Thursday be the day we get a Sale start for the Sox, and a chance to see a blown save by Chapman for the Cubs?
While the fans in the stands speculate about which guy is flakier and also engage in their usual city series silliness of trying to out-shout each other in their chants over which team sucks the most!