Saturday, January 24, 2015

When beisbol becomes baseball, all our snow melts away and joy returns to Chicago (We certainly hope and pray!)

Saturday is special in my mind for one reason – it means it is merely one month until the beginning of spring training for the Chicago White Sox, and roughly one month for other professional baseball teams.

Just 30 more days and we’ll be at the unofficial point where we can start thinking springtime, and not about the dreariness of winter cold and slush laced with filth from passing pedestrians and motorists.

I’LL ADMIT THAT I’m among the people getting a baseball fix these days from the activity in the various professional leagues of Latin America – which will culminate in a couple of weeks with the Caribbean Series.

I’m anxious to see whether the Jalisco Charros (my maternal grandfather was from the Mexican state of Jalisco) can beat the Culican Tomateros this weekend to win the Mexico Pacific League championship, then go on to challenge the champions of the leagues in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela for the Latin American bragging rights by winning the Caribbean Series!

But as interesting as the sport is in those leagues, it pales to the coming of springtime when the American and National leagues resume their activity with late-February and March training camps, coupled with the beginning of seasons in early April.

I really don’t doubt that there will be many Chicagoans who will be more interested on April 7 (the possible date for a run-off election) in their favorite baseball teams, rather than which clown becomes mayor for the next four years.

ACTUALLY, THE BEGINNING of spring training on Feb. 24 may cause more joy for Chicagoans than the municipal elections scheduled for three days later. Rahm Emanuel himself may be the only one who doesn’t feel that joy!

So what should we really expect for 2015?

I know the one-time “Bible of Baseball” (the Sporting News) has predicted a Chicago Cubs victory in the World Series. Which reminds me of the year that Sports Illustrated made that same prediction a decade ago, only to see the Cubs fail again as usual.

I was more intrigued by the prediction that the White Sox will also qualify for the playoffs – and survive into the second round before getting knocked out of the running!

SO THE SPORTING News is buying into the notion that both Chicago ball clubs are significantly improved and capable of being in the running for a league championship and World Series title.

If it were to happen, it would be only the third time that both teams had successful seasons in the same year. We all remember 2008 when both made it to the playoffs, then got knocked out in the first round.

While White Sox fans are forever bringing up 1906 – the one year of an all-Chicago World Series where the allegedly greatest team ever (they won 116 games that season) lost to the Sox four games to two.

It would be nice if there could be a city series out of Chicago some time in our lifetimes – although I suspect that for Cubs fans such a World Series would be the ultimate nightmare. It would mean their team FINALLY wins a championship (for their league), yet STILL falls short to the one team where defeat would be personal.

HONESTLY, I DON’T think 2015 is that year. I’m not sure any year in the next few seasons is going to be that year.

Because while I think both ball clubs have improved, I think they are merely in the running. Neither Chicago ball club ought to have fans thinking that they are dominant.

The Cubs may have picked up a “big name” pitcher in Jon Lester to go with the minor league prospects who may turn into solid ball players in coming seasons.

But none of those has produced at the major league level as much as someone like Jose Abreu, who is now the undisputed big bat of the White Sox and is on a ball club that picked up its own share of veterans to improve starting and relief pitching.

I THINK IT would be hilarious if Jeff Samardzija, the pitcher from Valparaiso, Ind., and Notre Dame University who was supposed to be the key to future Cubs championships wound up being the piece the ultimately led the White Sox to a title!

Although what I think is most likely to happen in 2015 in Chicago is a pair of third-place ball clubs; which is certainly better than two years ago when both teams flirted with losing 100 games that season.

I don’t care what the gamblers (with their 12-1 odds for the Cubs, compared to 20-1 for the White Sox) think – they’ve probably spent too much time watching the “Back to the Future” sequel (with the Cubs beating Miami in the World Series) while also waiting for the release of the film “Jaws 19.”


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