Rozner: Cubs versus Sox. Fun? Yes. Meaningful? No
Jon Lester vs. Chris Sale. Ace vs. ace. Cubs vs. White Sox.
It was common to forecast this contest before the season, a marquee matchup between great pitchers on two teams fighting for a playoff spot in a rejuvenated Chicago market with fans on both sides of town basking in a glorious baseball summer.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to meaningful baseball when the South Siders failed to hold up their end of the bargain.
Here we are in July and this grand challenge was little more than a regular-season game between a Cubs team in a wild-card spot and a Sox team fighting to get back to .500, trying to decide which players to trade and when to trade them.
So much for a crucial July series.
Every game matters for the Cubs, but the Sox might be doing nothing more than delaying the inevitable, putting GM Rick Hahn in the unenviable position of having to sell off a few valuable parts just as the team is playing its best baseball of the year.
Since ending an eight-game losing streak, the Sox have gone 13-6 with spectacular pitching and better defense, and though the offense remains asleep, some of the mind-numbing plays on the bases and in the field have been disappeared.
But are we to believe the last three weeks or the first three months?
Even if the Sox really have turned it around and think they can catch the wild card leaders, from the time of their losing streak when they bottomed out at 28-38, the Sox would have had to play 20 games over .500 the rest of the way to finish with 86 victories.
A couple good weeks doesn't provide the kind of evidence a GM would need to believe his team is suddenly that good.
So while the Cubs search for help to aid the cause for the rest of 2015, the Sox grapple with decisions that will affect much more than this season.
They have to be thinking about 2016 and 2017 and the fastest path to prosperity.
As is always the case with a losing team, the players with value are not those you want to deal, while those you would like to move probably have contracts few teams would be interested in as they try to bolster their chances of making a postseason run.
Nevertheless, it was entertaining Saturday at Wrigley Field as Sale was brilliant again and Lester very good after the first 3 hitters, and though Sale has been good enough in the first half to start the All-Star Game for the American League, Lester has turned his season around and is looking like a solid play for Theo Epstein.
In his last 3 starts, Lester has a 1.71 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP and a .171 opponent batting average, while Sale is merely Sale, the best pitcher in baseball.
This White Sox revival has certainly made them watchable for the first time this season and the players are actually having some fun.
There were smiles and laughs all around when Sale, surprisingly, made decent contact and drove one to deep right field in the seventh for an out, but the fact that he had a 5-0 lead and could relax a bit was unusual for the 2015 Sox.
The Sox have played good enough to make you wonder where they could be if they were getting anything out of second, third, short or catcher, and if they can use this month to get better for 2016 maybe they can get out of the box faster and not get buried before the break again.
So the Sox won the game 5-1 and continue to move back toward break even, while the Mets beat Arizona in New York and cut the Cubs' wild card lead to a game.
Interesting? Sure. But it's hard not to think about meaningful it could have been.
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