Len Kasper: Quieter cross-town tone not a bad thing
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The annual intracity fun continues Monday night as the Cubs and the White Sox renew acquaintances on the South Side.
The season series has a new twist with all the games coming this week, the first two at U.S. Cellular Field and then the final pair at Wrigley Field.
With baseball's new alignment, each team plays more interleague games now, but the rivalry series have been pared down from six to four.
For the record, I am good with that. The No. 1 attraction of interleague play for Cubs fans is this cross-town series, so I am glad that it is being preserved.
But there has long been a scheduling inequity because of these built-in matchups. Each team in your division should generally play the same schedule, and at least we are getting closer to that.
Back on the Cubs-Sox series itself, I noticed last season it seemed different. It wasn't nearly as loud as in years past. There were no sideshows without Ozzie or Lou. It was all about the games themselves, which was nice for a change.
I did not particularly enjoy having to break down the Michael Barrett/A.J. Pierzynski fight, the Derrek Lee/Carlos Zambrano dugout shouting match or the Lou Piniella/Milton Bradley spat.
I wish I could explain why playing the White Sox always seemed to bring out the worst in the Cubs on enemy turf during that bizarre stretch a few years ago.
I mean, I don't think I have to explain why any player might want to punch Pierzynski, yell at Big Z or get frustrated with Bradley, but for all those things to happen on the same field is a little odd.
But A.J. is gone and, in fact, none of the combatants mentioned above is a part of this rivalry anymore. Ozzie and Lou seemed to welcome the intensity and confrontation at times, but now you have two pretty cool customers running each dugout these days.
Yes, Dale Sveum's club got into a melee with the Nationals last year, and of course I've seen the Robin Ventura/Nolan Ryan fight a dozen times. But neither guy is theatrical like Lou and Ozzie, especially when all of Chicago's baseball eyes and ears were on these games.
This year's matchup is dominated by … well, frankly a lot of likable guys on both sides.
Is there a Cubs fan out there who doesn't have total respect for Paul Konerko? Are there White Sox fans who find Anthony Rizzo or Starlin Castro unlikable, aside from the fact that they wear the Cubs' "C" on their cap?
Yes, Jake Peavy and Matt Garza are like mad scientists on the mound, but again, not in a way that rubs opponents the wrong way.
And while this may come as a surprise, all the broadcasters on both sides of town get along extremely well.
Yes, Ed Farmer and I had to be separated during a Cubs-Sox spring-training game after a bad call at third base, but one 24-hour trip to the Maricopa County jail shouldn't ruin a friendship in my opinion.
I'm kidding, I'm kidding. It was actually the Pima County jail.
I like to rib Farmio because we are friends. Same with DJ and Hawk and Stoney. We all have a common bond -- a love of Chicago baseball, and we all look forward to calling these games on this incredible local stage.
I always try to be fair and not take unnecessarily partisan swipes at our friendly rivals on the South Side, so in thinking about my objective prediction on the series I have to conclude it will be a Cubs' 4-0 sweep with the White Sox getting shut out in every game.
Enjoy the series everyone!
•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]
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