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updated: 3/30/2013 9:36 PM

Cubs, Sox on opposite ends again in 2013

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  • Robin Ventura, left, and the White Sox have a chance to compete this year in the AL Central if Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko can put together big seasons. As for Dale Sveum's Cubs? If all goes right, the North Siders should have a shot at the postseason by 2015.

    Robin Ventura, left, and the White Sox have a chance to compete this year in the AL Central if Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko can put together big seasons. As for Dale Sveum's Cubs? If all goes right, the North Siders should have a shot at the postseason by 2015.
    Associated Press


Stop me if you've heard this before.

But the 2013 season for the White Sox will be all about competing with a team in their division that seems absolutely loaded and prepped to run away and hide.

And the 2013 season for the Cubs will be all about developing players at the minor-league level, increased production by the few young players at the major-league level -- who should still be here three years from now -- and the trading of marketable assets for parts, money or picks which can help all of the above.

Cubs fans understand the program.

You see a first baseman in Anthony Rizzo, and a couple more in the system. You see a shortstop in Starlin Castro, who may yet wind up at second base or left field -- or even on another team. You see Jeff Samardzija growing into a legit starting pitcher, and Darwin Barney trying to convince Cubs brass he's more than simply a defensive gem.

You see the bright future in right field in Jorge Soler, center field in Albert Almora and a monster prospect in Javier Baez, a player the Cubs insist will stay at shortstop for now, increasing his value and giving the Cubs numerous options, until they sort out the choices.

Baez is probably two years away, and there's no reason to make a decision until it's necessary.

There remain serious questions about the future at third base, catcher and pitching, but as the Cubs look to deal Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano -- and any other veterans who might bring something in return -- this year or next, they hope to resolve some of those issues, while continuing to build through the draft.

This year is a wash, as is almost certainly next season, with the hope that 2015 brings the start of a run that sees the Cubs competing for a playoff spot consistently over the next decade.

The process is painful for everyone involved -- especially the fans -- but the uncontrolled spending of the past has brought the Cubs here, perhaps fortuitously, if you choose to find the positive in the misery.

The Cubs have been forced, finally, to build from the bottom up, with the anticipation of leading the Cubs to the top, after so many decades closer to the bottom.

There's no guarantee it will work, but the standings tell us the ways of the past haven't secured the Cubs anything more than heartbreak, so this is certainly worth a try.

The White Sox can never attempt anything so grand, because in order to draw they must try to compete, so their future is always now.

Without a fan base the Cubs are lucky to have, the Sox must try to win every season without the same resources as the Tigers, who can spend whatever they want and buy whatever they need.

Detroit will devote at least $35 million more in payroll than the Sox this season, and will continue to search and purchase as needed. For the moment, they go with closer by committee, but should they find a dependable, consistent closer on the market in the next few months -- Cubs fans are crossing their fingers it's Marmol -- they will deal prospects and happily write bigger checks.

So the Sox would seem to be operating at a large deficit to begin the season, but last year proved that they can stick with the Tigers provided health and continued performance of their veterans.

There's no telling when -- or if -- John Danks will return, but the Sox should still have a solid pitching staff from 1-12.

The concern is with their lineup, which must get big years from Alex Rios, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn in order for any of this to work.

For Konerko, it's all about staying healthy at age 37. For Dunn, it seems reasonable to think he can repeat 2012. But Rios -- who was terrific last season -- hasn't put together back-to-back, 80-plus RBI seasons since 2006-07, and has never had 20-plus home runs in consecutive years.

With so many questions about the likes of Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham, Rios will again have to be the Sox' best player for them to stay in the race with Detroit, and hold off Kansas City and Cleveland, which made improvements in the off-season.

So, yeah, 2013 sounds a lot like 2012 on both sides of town.

The Cubs have the No. 2 pick this June and are making progress in building a solid foundation for the future, but that doesn't make it easy to watch the present.

The White Sox are always in the present, but that doesn't make it easier to compete with a powerhouse in Detroit, which took a pennant-winning team and got better over the winter.

The good news on the South Side is the Sox seem to have their best years when hardly anyone believes in them, and that will be the case this season.

Still, over a 162-game season, crazy things occur. There are injuries, shocking performances and untold surprises, and the only rings they hand out on Opening Day are the ones given to the team that won it last year.

Anything can happen over a very long six months. That is, someone once said, why they play the games.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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