Rozner: White Sox, Cubs could benefit from shortened season's sprint

  • With the White Sox expected to make a run for the playoffs, Eloy Jimenez will certainly play a key role.

    With the White Sox expected to make a run for the playoffs, Eloy Jimenez will certainly play a key role. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • David Ross, here connecting for a base hit in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series, will now be leading the Cubs from the bench.

    David Ross, here connecting for a base hit in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series, will now be leading the Cubs from the bench. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/26/2020 10:31 AM

The marathon that is the championship season is the perfect baseball test.

Over 162 games, no team will escape injury and poor performance. No team will avoid losing streaks. No team will go untried.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The championship season exposes all weaknesses and teams without a plan will enter chaos and exit in trouble. Teams without depth will fade away. Teams without character will fall apart.

And it is remarkable that for all the complaints of the season being too long, there are races down to the final weekend every year, and memorable one-game playoffs to decide tournament entry or division champ.

But the 2020 season will be very different. At only 60 games, it's all hands on deck every day. It is expanded rosters and narrowed focus. It's pressure every day.

Welcome to the Sprint Cup.

Among the many consequences is that few teams will be counted out to start, and teams you would not have picked to win a division or make the playoffs have every right to think they could make a Usain Bolt run at this.

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Yes, that includes the White Sox and Cubs.

For the young South Siders, this was to be a season in which they tried to reach the .500 mark after winning 72 games a year ago, perhaps hanging around the wild-card race into the hottest summer months and offering a glimpse at what 2021 could look like.

Now? Anything's possible. If the bullpen proves deep, the offense is poised to make noise. There are always adjustments for young players and they'll need to make them quickly as the opposition comes at them with a new plan.

But what appeared to be a growing season could turn out to be much more as fewer games means less of a separation between the best and the good.

Think the '90s Atlanta Braves, who started out so many seasons struggling through April and May before remembering they were the Braves and catching fire to win division title after division title.

Think of the Washington Nationals a year ago, when they were 6-under after 60, before getting healthy, going on a run and winning it all.

For the teams that are not supposed to compete, this will be a fascinating watch if they can get off to a good start.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As for the North Siders, well, most were writing them off for 2020, having done nothing in the offseason to improve off a third-place finish behind St. Louis and Milwaukee.

There's a certain freedom to starting this late, seeing a very short season rather than the six-month grind that wears on players physically and mentally. The Cubs could take advantage of the time off and remember that they're better than the way they played in 2019.

They have enough really good players to compete in a short season if they can get enough starting pitching to keep them in games, though with expanded rosters it remains to be seen how David Ross will manage his rotation.

This is not a bad team. It's just a team that brought too many questions into spring training to think it would go far even if it reached the 2020 postseason.

Now, all bets are off.

A short camp will be followed by a short season, one that promises to be highly entertaining and offers opportunities to teams that -- if they were being honest -- would have told you in January that they really had no chance this season.

That all changes now as teams will play each game as if it's crucial, where a single blown save in the first month is one that will be twice as costly as it has been in the past.

Buckle up. This threatens to be a wild ride.

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