Cubs' success and Sox's rebuild share some similarities
On a recent day off, I found myself flipping channels between a Chicago Cubs game and a Chicago White Sox game.
And then a funny thing happened with this Cubs writer: Rather than stay with what turned out to be a sleepy 2-1 Cubs loss at St. Louis, I kept the old Zenith set tuned to the White Sox-Cleveland Indians game at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Sox won the game 2-0, but there was something different going on. There seemed to be a buzz at the ballpark. TV announcers Jason Benetti and Steve Stone seemed to be having a great time enjoying each other's company.
The Benetti-Stone pairing was in fine fettle again this past Sunday. Stone said that catcher Welington Castillo usually does well a day after being ejected from a game. Sure enough, Castillo singled off the wall in right-center, prompting Benetti to say: "I don't know what to say about you anymore." Good stuff.
Yeah, Sox baseball seems fun again as the team seems to be seeing early results of its massive rebuilding project.
Having witnessed a similar rebuild on the North Side with the Cubs, it's easy to see some similarities. It's also easy to oversimplify.
So here are a few random thoughts on the subject as the to teams get set for a two-game series beginning Tuesday night at Wrigley Field:
• The Cubs were said to be "a year ahead of schedule" when they won the National League wild card in 2015 and advanced to the NL championship series, in which they were swept by the New York Mets. Fueled by that, the Cubs won the franchise's first World Series title in 108 years the following season. The '15 team's young players seemed to jell under the leadership of first-year manager Joe Maddon, and the team took off. The Cubs fired Rick Renteria to hire Maddon after the 2014 season. Maddon will be looking across at Renteria on the top step of the Sox dugout the next two nights.
I'm not sure the Sox are on the same timetable. They've been a bit of a tease, flirting with .500 and then falling back. A sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley would get them back to .500 again.
• Luck is always a factor in rebuilds. If the Houston Astros had taken Kris Bryant with the first pick of the 2013 draft, for example, the course of Cubs history might have been much different. Instead, the Astros went with pitcher Mark Appel, who is now out of baseball without having pitched in the majors.
The Sox have had some luck, most of it bad luck with injuries, particularly with pitchers Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon. Nothing will delay a rebuild faster than injuries to key young players. That's something the Cubs mostly avoided during their rebuild, which began in the fall of 2011, when Theo Epstein arrived as team president.
• It will be interesting to watch Eloy Jimenez at Wrigley Field and see the reception he gets from Cubs fans.
I stood next to Jimenez near the Cubs dugout in September 2016, when the Cubs named him their minor-league player of the year. He was imposing then, and he looks to be even more so now.
The Cubs traded Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease to the White Sox as part of a deal that brought pitcher Jose Quintana from the South Side to the North Side on July 13, 2017.
Both Jimenez and Cease figure to be big parts of the White Sox rebuild. The Cubs were going for it all again when they traded for Quintana, who has been mostly good with the Cubs.
So if the Cubs can win a World Series with Quintana and the Sox can do so with Jimenez and Cease, there will be a little bit of the Sox in the Cubs' success and a little bit of the Cubs in the Sox's rebuild.
That's a rare something that could make both sides of town happy at the same time.