Friday, February 19, 2016

Baseball is back. How good will it really be for Chicago clubs in 2016?

We have about six weeks to go before baseball is truly back with regular season ballgames that actually count for something.

But with professional ball clubs reporting this week to their warm-weather spring training camps, we can start thinking of those summertime moments when we can dream our local teams actually have a chance to win a championship for the glory of Chicago.

WHAT WITH THE Chicago White Sox having pitchers and catchers reporting to their training camp in suburban Phoenix on Friday, followed by the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, we can stop obsessing our sports interest over how god-awful the Chicago Bears were, or how disappointing the Chicago Bulls have become.

Personally, I’m not sure what to expect from Chicago baseball this season. I don’t think the White Sox are as bad as they played last year, and definitely think the Cubs peaked with their 2015 third place finish that actually managed to qualify for a playoff spot – what with the screwy new rules that try to put as many ball clubs as possible into the post-season.

Although I’m sure of one thing – 2016 won’t be the first year in 110 that the World Series is an all-Chicago affair. In fact, I won’t be surprised if both ball clubs come close to – but fall short of – qualifying for a playoff spot.

So excuse me for thinking that USA Today is overly optimistic, what with their predictions of what the upcoming season is going to be like. They’re definitely falling for the nonsense talk of the Chicago Cubs as an established elite – rather than just a team that might come close to being competitive this season.

A TOTAL OF 101 wins and the best record in baseball would definitely be un-Wrigley-like. And the idea of the White Sox winning their division with 90 wins?

It seems so unlikely, and so unlike anything a Chicago baseball fan would ever wish for. Because the reality of the character of Chicago baseball is that many of us probably wouldn’t want an all-Chicago World Series.

We get too much joy from seeing the opposition fall short as much as the success of our own ball club. Personally, I’d want to see an all-Chicago World Series in my lifetime, primarily as a means of shutting up Cubs fans once their team loses.

Of course, there’s also the Baseball Prospectus prediction, which is based off mathematical formulas that their proponents support so much that they refuse to contemplate any argument over.

WE MUST BELIEVE that the Cubs will have the second-best National League record with 92 wins (only the Los Angeles Dodgers with 94 wins will be better), while the White Sox will have a winning record with 82 wins (and 80 losses).

But they want to believe the Cleveland Indians are on a resurgence to win that particular division of the American League. Something that I’m sure will bother White Sox fans more than the thought of the Cubs being considered more worthwhile.

It may be the big difference in character between the fans of Chicago’s two ball clubs. Particularly after the early-season fanaticism over the White Sox fizzled out into apathy, the denizens of the quarter-century old U.S. Cellular Field aren’t going to believe anything until they see it.

While Cubs fans think they won the whole thing last year (even though they fell short of a National League championship, let alone a World Series appearance) and expect all of baseball to worship at their feet.

OF COURSE, THERE is that eternal Chicago/St. Louis rivalry, expressed by the USA Today predictions having the Cardinals winning 97 games, compared to Baseball Prospectus making them no better than the White Sox at 82 wins.

I’m sure some people will be looking forward to those Cubs/Cardinals games, and I’m sure St. Louis baseball fans will want to show how much better their preferred ball club is than the Cubbies.

Which is something that White Sox fans can’t get into. Because we always figured that St. Louis showed its second-class status as a baseball town when it let the Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.

Any city that chose a National League team over an American League one can’t have too much in the way of common sense!


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