Rozner: Cubs-White Sox rivalry? Not really
We can try all we want to sell this as a rivalry, but it is most decidedly not.
Maybe it is for you, as Cubs and White Sox fans, but not for the players, managers or management of these clubs.
Entertaining, sure. Why not? Great atmosphere amid a quiet summer.
Still, both teams need to be competitive to discover enmity, a status the Sox are approaching but have not yet reached, and they need to compete with one another regularly, as the Cubs do now with Milwaukee and St. Louis but never will with the Sox unless the two clubs are placed in the same division, a proposal that could see the light of day down the road.
In the meantime, the two teams face each other four times this year, including Tuesday night's 3-1 Sox victory at Wrigley Field before 41,192, as the Sox attempt to complete a journey that took the Cubs a full five years.
"It starts with short-term goals met. They're really important," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, when asked about South Side progress. "In order to reach the long-term, you have to get the short-term goals met. Maybe a split with the Yankees is one of those. Playing against us, same thing.
"That's one of the things I kept in mind in Tampa when we were ascending. Also here the first year. Nobody expected that kind of run in 2015. That was the Giants, that August series (sweep) in 2015 that really catapulted us."
Maddon engineered something remarkable in 2015, never allowing his young team to know how good they were, taking very small, slow steps until it was time to let them lengthen their stride and run full speed.
And, according to Maddon, the on-field success is only one part of the equation.
"That, and the culture you create," Maddon said. "What does that mean? That's something you have to feel. If you've never done it before, maybe you don't understand it.
"But it matters. The conversation in the locker room. The sense of humor. How you interact as a group. The accountability as well as the proverbial having everyone else's back. All those things matter.
"As you're going from the beginning, from scratch to a playoff team and a World Series type team, all those things have to be in order. They have to be looked at daily.
"There's nothing to overlook because you don't know what percentage of what you're doing is the most important part of this winning trek.
"I've always given a lot of credence to what may look like insignificant details. I don't know. Is it insignificant? You have no idea until you conclude (the journey) how important that moment was.
"All those things matter as you're building a culture."
When a team is developing players at the major-league level, inevitable in today's game but something the Sox have tried to do sparingly, it's a tricky formula, asking for a better product to keep the fan base interested, yet understanding that wins and losses are largely irrelevant in the bigger picture.
"I think the players really enjoyed the attendance we had over this last week," said White Sox manager Rick Renteria. "I think they understand it's pretty important, the effort between the lines, and they're excited people are watching.
"They just have to continue to do that so we contribute to the (fans') ability -- or desire -- to want to come out and watch them play, and I think they're getting comfortable with it.
"They continue to grow and continue to learn and continue to get better, and hopefully it doesn't stop and we continue to do that for the rest of the season."
Again, it's player growth that's most significant to management, but victories further the opportunity to fill seats, which is not most important at this juncture but never unimportant.
"Their group on the field has great potential. There's no question about it," Maddon said. "They have some speed, and power, too. They're very good. It's great to see.
"I'm happy for their ascension. I think it's good for the city."
Without the A.J. Pierzynski, Michael Barrett, Rich Hill or Ozzie Guillen nonsense of the past to focus on in this short, two-gamer, there was much attention paid Tuesday to Eloy Jimenez, the once huge Cubs prospect who is now the Sox's superstar of the future.
He spoke for most of the players involved when he admitted before the game that playing at Wrigley for the first time did not carry much import in the grand scheme of what figures to be a grand career.
"I just want to focus on the game," said the 22-year-old Jimenez, who blasted a game-winning, 2-run homer in the top of the ninth. "For now, it's just another series."
Out of the mouths of babes.