CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (02/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Inside The Park: Why W... (01/26)
Next Column >>
Inside The Park: Ode t... (02/23)
Next Article >>
The BP First Take: Fri... (02/10)

February 9, 2012

Inside The Park

A New Message: The Divergent Directions of the Cubs and White Sox

by Bradford Doolittle

You don’t really meet a serious baseball fan, native to Chicago, who roots for both the White Sox and the Cubs.

This is the only two-team town in which I’ve resided, so I don’t know if there is a similar divergence in New York, Los Angeles, or the Bay Area. I have a Chicago friend who is a transplanted New Yorker—he loves the Mets but absolutely despises the Yankees and everything Derek Jeter stands for. (Winning?) My own mother lives in central Missouri and roots for both the Cardinals and Royals, which might not be quite the same thing but shows a certain generosity of spirit. Undoubtedly there are many in Chicago who root for both teams, who grew up in some neutral suburb or West side neighborhood and just like their baseball however they can get it. Those people, assuming they exist, are a decidedly silent minority.

Apparently, it’s always been that way. The great Chicago writer Nelson Algren used to hang out at the Old Town Ale House, a Northside dive just around the corner from the famed Second City club. Algren is one of my favorite authors, and sometimes I like to sit at the small table underneath a watercolor of his likeness at the Old Town. Supposedly, he liked to sit in that spot and write longhand in the afternoons. I’m not above hoping for a little metaphysical boost, so sometimes I sit there and read one of his books.

I particularly like the third essay in Algren’s brilliant Chicago: City on the Make, called “The Silver-Colored Yesterday.” In it, he describes the halcyon days of his early childhood, when his family lived on the far Southside. He and a friend snuck into Comiskey Park one day:

To come out blinking at last into the roaring stands, with the striped sun on them. And Eddie Cicotte shutting out Carl Mays.

The program from that day became one of his prized possessions. Later that season, his family relocated to N. Troy Street in Albany Park—the Northside:

And Troy Street led, like all Northside streets—and alleys too—directly to the alien bleachers of Wrigley Field.

The young Algren then encounters a small gang of street kids who demand to know his favorite ballplayer before allowing him to pass.

Swede Risberg,” Algren says.

After some consultation, the leader of the small gang says, “It got to be a National Leaguer.”

After being frozen out of the local sandlot games, Algren gives in and picks Brooklyn Robins shortstop Ivan Olson as his guy. (He couldn’t take the favorite of another boy without fighting him for the right.) After he became more established, Algren reverted to old ways and once again claimed Risberg, offering up his program as a kind of proof of loyalty. Not long after, news of the Black Sox scandal swept the city, leaving Algren with plenty of explaining to do.

Algren lived most of the rest of his life on the Northside, but he always remained a White Sox fan.

***

Years

WSox Wins

Cubs Wins

Total Wins

1905-1909

438

518

956

1904-1908

449

507

956

1906-1910

414

530

944

1903-1907

421

490

911

1907-1911

398

506

904

1908-1912

389

490

879

1902-1906

408

451

859

1909-1913

379

479

858

2004-2008

433

416

849

The Cubs-White Sox dichotomy is a seesaw, and once again things may be leaning the Cubs’ way. It’s halftime in Chicago baseball, as Clint Eastwood might say. When I arrived here in September, 2009, the city was fresh off its best collective stretch on the diamonds since the early part of the 20th century, when the Sox and Cubs were powers in their respective leagues. When I landed, the White Sox still had the wind of the 2005 World Series title in their sails, but you could sense the sinking feeling around the Cubs, who had once again built up hopes in 2008 only to disappoint in the postseason. It’s been downhill ever since. By the end of the 2011 season, both teams were dead in the water.

***

Last season was brutal. The Cubs started off with a series of foul-weather games during an interminable April, and despite playing in the wide-open NL Central, they managed to play themselves out of the race by June. Expectations were higher for the White Sox, and the AL Central seemed plenty winnable as well. The Sox hovered just below .500 and on the fringe of the race for most of the season. Everyone seemed to be waiting for Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to start hitting, but it never happened. Then the Tigers got hot and stomped the division with a finishing kick that included six straight wins over Chicago.

With the twin failures came change. Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts exerted his authority on the baseball side of his family’s new team, for the first time really, and fired longtime general manager Jim Hendry. After a season of whispers, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen stepped down in late September, one foot already aboard his longed-for new boat in Miami. When the dust cleared, the White Sox had won 79 games and finished 16 back; the Cubs won 71 times, 25 off Milwaukee’s pace.

The two months after the season featured a flurry of activity. Ricketts pulled off his dream hire by luring Theo Epstein from Boston to become the Cubs’ President of Baseball Operations. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams followed that bombshell with a considerably less-glitzy maneuver. He hired Robin Ventura to replace Guillen as field manager despite the fact that Ventura has never managed—anywhere. Every few days, there was a new presser or a conference call announcing a move. Epstein remade the Cubs’ organization in the front office and began the process of gutting one of the game’s most bloated and underachieving big-league rosters. Williams made news as well by trading closer Sergio Santos and right fielder Carlos Quentin. Veterans Mark Buehrle and Juan Pierre left as free agents. The result was as close to a youth movement as Williams is likely to get.

So where does all this upheaval leave each team in the eyes of its respective fan base? I don’t listen to sports radio, so sometimes it’s hard to get a feel for such intangible matters. In hopes of satisfying my curiosity, I attended each team’s fan convention in January, the annual events known affectionately as CubbieCon and SoxFest. To paraphrase Algren, it didn’t take me long to learn which way the wind was blowing.

One thing about fan conventions is that they are generally attended by people who embrace their team with unqualified affection. You don’t shell out hundreds of dollars and schlep your way to downtown Chicago in the dead of winter out of ambivalence. These people love their guys, past and present, and no matter what is happening, most of them believe that a World Series title lies at the end of next year’s rainbow. So I wasn’t expecting to run into a whole lot of dissenters.

Each team begins its big weekend with a Friday night kickoff rally during which the convention participants are introduced. Ricketts did the honors for the Cubs, and when Epstein was introduced, you’d have thought that Harry Carey himself had descended from heaven. The roar was deafening and sustained. Epstein then upstaged himself a short while later by announcing that the Cubs had re-signed ultra-popular pitcher Kerry Wood, who emerged from the side in his familiar No. 34 jersey. More Beatles-type mania ensued. It set the note for an entire weekend of unbridled optimism.

A couple of weeks later, Kenny Williams was introduced to Sox fans. He was booed, right there in an hotel old ballroom. There was some polite applause as well, but the booing was unmistakable. “Goes with the territory,” Williams said afterward, which is true, but it’s something he hadn’t had to deal with for a long time. He was also booed, more uniformly, the previous week at a Bulls game, when he was shown on the scoreboard sitting courtside.

The Cubs are coming off consecutive fifth-place finishes, and for all the front office maneuvering, they haven’t really added any on-field talent that would appeal to a casual fan. (There were plenty of Prince Fielder questions through the weekend.) The White Sox haven’t been adding either, but at least they were close to break-even last year and are less than a decade removed from a world championship. The White Sox will likely project to be better than the Cubs in 2012 when the early forecasts come out, which ought to count for something.

So what was going on?

***

It’s on Saturday that the most popular events are held at CubbieCon. This year, the day started with a Theo Epstein chat in the enormous Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Chicago. The gilded space was crammed with blue-and-whiteclad fans. Counting the dozens of people standing around the back of the room, I estimated there were 1,400 people on hand. (By contrast, the main seminar space at SoxFest had a listed capacity of 500.) On stage, they laid out a little living room, with two cozy chairs—one for Epstein, and one for Len Kasper, the Cubs broadcaster who emceed.

The first Saturday morning event is really the marquee session of the entire weekend. Last year, the Ricketts family held its forum in that slot, and there was more than a metaphorical meaning in the switch. With the direction of the Cubs uncertain a year ago, Ricketts was very much the man in the spotlight. By hiring Epstein, he shifted that paradigm. Epstein is, for the time being, the most famous baseball personality in Chicago, the new face of the Cubs and caretaker of the hopes of a loyal fan base. Ricketts is no doubt happy to recede into the shadows.

After Kasper offered up a little bit of Theo biography, the fans were allowed to ask questions. This is always interesting, because fans will blurt out pointed questions that most reporters would never dare ask, at least not in front of others. Last year, a fan more or less exploded the good vibes of Ricketts’ forum by asking incredulously why Hendry had not yet been fired. There were no firebombs lobbed Theo’s way, as you’d expect, but someone was curious about why the Cubs had traded reliever Sean Marshall, whom Epstein had praised upon arriving in Chicago as “maybe the best left-handed reliever in baseball.” The Cubs sent him to Cincinnati for young starter Travis Wood and a couple of prospects.

Epstein said, “Sean was entering the last year of his contract, and there wouldn’t have been compensation if he left after next year. This way we get five years of Wood plus six years of two prospects instead of one year for Marshall.”

It was Epstein working the big crowd with the aplomb of Barack Obama at his best, using simple math to create an unassailable argument. He then punctuated his statement by saying, “And we would still be able to re-sign Sean after the season.”

The well-crafted (and well-rehearsed) answers continued for a full hour. When asked about the stats versus scouts debate, Epstein said, “I don’t believe in old school versus new school. I prefer thorough and inclusive.”

He then added his famous lens analogy, which I’ve now heard three times since he arrived in Chicago: “You look at scouting information as one lens and stats as another. It’s only when you look through both lenses that the picture becomes clear.”

There was fair bit of pandering, which is hard to avoid when speaking to such a partisan crowd. When asked about Wrigley Field renovations, he spoke of “honoring the tradition of the ballpark.” When asked about new manager Dale Sveum, he said, “I guarantee you that every player is going to run as hard as they can, 90 feet, to first base.” Eruptions of cheers ensued.

The most poignant part of the session came near the end, when a fan asked about the September collapse in Boston and the subsequent reports of players drinking beer in the clubhouse during games. A lot of night life surrounds Wrigley Field, and it’s an old theory that all the day games at the venerable park work against the Cubs because their players are out carousing in the Wrigleyville bars the night before. It would have been easy for Epstein to give a bland, politically-correct response. Instead, he made it clear that there was no issue that the new regime was going to leave unconsidered.

“That been a factor in ruining some careers,” Epstein said. “Young players especially are more susceptible, especially with all the day games. We plan to be proactive about setting a high standard.”

He then went on to tick off some of the aspects of that plan—life trainers, seminars for the top prospects—all meant to teach young players how to say no. When he was done, Cubs fans were definitely saying yes.

Epstein left the stage without speaking to reporters, went to the airport, and spent the rest of the weekend in Boston.

***

There wasn’t anything comparable to the Theo Hour at SoxFest. Most of Williams’ comments came during a media social on Friday, when he was informally quizzed by a small rotating group of sound-byte seekers. In between questions about his son Kyle’s problems in the NFC Championship game, some actual baseball issues managed to come out. Williams praised his club but, frankly, what he was selling was kind of hard to buy.

“Some of the people that everyone was really excited about last year are still here,” Williams said. “We’ve got a good starting staff, a good bullpen. We’ve got a couple of question marks offensively, but if those are answered, we can be a really good team.”

One of those questions marks is obviously Dunn.

“I have expectations that Adam Dunn is going to be who he was for an eight-to-10 year period,” Williams said. “I do not expect the same Adam Dunn to show up.”

That would help, and Williams added that he hadn’t talked to Dunn all winter. His last advice to him was to get away from baseball completely. As for his offseason plan, that’s when Williams’ message grew murky.

“We’ve added some youth to the equation,” Williams said. “As far as our veterans, they believe in the people next to them. They’ve seen what they can do. So it’s just a matter of getting out on the field and proving it. When you have unknown players on your side, you can’t expect people to be excited.

“It won’t be a domino-type of rebuilding. It’ll be replacing a veteran player here and there with a young player, someone we can afford. I explored all the avenues as far as veteran players. I explored turning it all over and getting young and exciting. It didn’t manifest, so it’s what you see now. We did a little bit of that to protect our future, but we did some things to protect our present. Hopefully it’s enough to remain competitive.”

How’s that sound as the basis for a marketing campaign?

***

Even though Theo had left the building, his message continued to resonate in the other sessions at CubbieCon. There were several instances when others offered almost exactly the same quotes that I’ve heard Epstein use.

General manger Jed Hoyer, an impressive guy in his own right, talked about how Cubs fans have embraced the team’s plan. When asked about potential free agent signings, Hoyer said, “The great thing about a market like this is that we’re going to be in on everybody.” Epstein said that almost word-for-word during his introductory press conference. Hoyer was asked about the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement on the team’s plan to build from the draft. He said that it’s now a “scouting contest.” Epstein said the same thing that morning; new VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod repeated the mantra that afternoon.

Apparently, memes are part of what Hoyer called the new “Cubs way.”

There will be plenty of bumps in the road. Epstein and Hoyer still are faced with blending the personalities of their recent hires with those holdovers from Hendry’s tenure, such as assistant general manager Randy Bush. Hoyer called Bush “our secret weapon,” and Bush said that he’s amazed at how much the new guys have accomplished so quickly, so he’s clearly on board. On the scouting and development side, it’ll be more of a process.

Ricketts signed amateur scouting director Tim Wilken and AP of player personnel Oneri Fleita to contract extensions before Epstein was hired, which was a bit of an odd move in that you’d expect Epstein, or whoever got the job, to bring in his own people. Wilken and Fleita are both highly respected members of the baseball scouting community; Wilken borders on the legendary in some circles. Nevertheless, they both are firmly rooted in what most of us would call the “old school.”

Now both work under McLeod, whose ties with Epstein and Hoyer go back to Boston. New professional scouting director Joe Bohringer went to MIT. McLeod and Bohringer would both qualify as “new school,” though they’d surely say they are merely thorough and inclusive.

I sensed some discomfort during the afternoon forum on scouting and development at which all four men were present. Fleita said at one point, “Scouts are the lifeblood of the game.” Which may be true, but when stated like that it sounds like something the cartoonish scouts from the “Moneyball” movie might say. McLeod said of the stats versus scouts issue, “Everything we do is based on information.” Bohringer noted that the Travis Wood acquisition was based on information from 21 different people. For his part, the wry Wilken prefaced his comments by saying, “The most important thing right now is that we all get on the same page.”

When you consider the consistency of Epstein’s message from top to bottom, you have little doubt that Wilken’s wish is going to come to fruition very soon. There is going to be a Cubs Way.

***

The White Sox held a development forum of their own, which included assistant general manager Rick Hahn, along with development personnel Buddy Bell, Nick Capra, and Doug Laumann. Their chore was to get fans excited about a system that is widely considered to be the worst in baseball. ESPN’s Keith Law had the White Sox 30th in his rankings, adding that they weren’t particularly close to 29th. Kevin Goldstein hasn’t released his organizational rankings just yet, but he said he also would certainly slot the Sox last.

The questions from fans were similar to the ones I’d heard at CubbieCon. Hahn was asked about the influence of Moneyball and said that he likes the misperception that the White Sox don’t use statistics. “Ninety percent of teams are using the same info. We’ve done well in things like pitcher health and the bullpen.”

But last is last, and after a string of questions about specific White Sox minor leaguers, a fan finally asked about the prospect rankings.

“We don’t put too much stock in those rankings,” Hahn said. “The proof (of our methods) is on the major-league roster and in the trades we make.”

***

What it comes down to is that Cubs fans feel like they know where their club is headed, and they are pretty excited about it. White Sox fans aren’t so sure, and with Guillen gone, Dunn and Rios still around, and the minor-league system in shambles, there is a growing sense of dread on the Southside.

One of the last sessions at SoxFest was the hitting seminar. It was led by Hawk Harrelson and two players. As for the latter, someone thought it would be a good idea to include Dunn. In a hitting seminar. This is where the rosy-eyed conventioneers came out of the woodwork. You have to give Dunn plenty of points for bravery, but in reality, he wasn’t exposing himself to any ire. A half-dozen fans stepped up the microphone to express their support for the slugger, who said of his season, “I don’t even know who that guy was.”

Dunn was asked about the possibilities for this year’s team, and he said, “The way I look at it, we get me and Alex (Rios) back, as if we were free agents.” Dunn certainly could regress to career norms, but it’s no guarantee—no healthy player with such a long track record has really dropped off to that extent, at that age. He may simply be finished. But he’s right—he and Rios bouncing back are about the best hopes White Sox fans have for a good season. Worse, with the system depleted, it’s hard to look beyond that and be excited about the future.

The feeling is the polar opposite on the Northside, where it’s almost like the present team doesn’t matter. Theo is in town! Flags will fly! Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts said that Epstein’s regime is “a breath of fresh air. (Now) it’s more a question of when, not if.”

That’s the way the winds are blowing. Were he around today, little Nelson Algren would be facing an awfully hard time from the neighborhood kids in the years ahead.

Bradford Doolittle is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bradford's other articles. You can contact Bradford by clicking here

24 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

BillJohnson

How little things change. I grew up in a small town about half way between Chicago and St. Louis, slightly closer to the former, that had its own newspaper, equipped with a very good sports columnist, the late, lamented Jim Barnhart. He pointed out that there were two kinds of baseball fans in town: Cardinals fans and Cubs fans. There was reportedly some other team in Chicago, but nobody seemed to know much about it. This despite Comiskey being considerably the closest park of the three to reach from there.

He then went on to describe the typical demeanor of the Cubs fan, which he described as a face saying "Next Year In Jerusalem" (this was rather a long time ago...). I suspect strongly that Laura Ricketts was a product of that mentality, based on that final quote.

Feb 09, 2012 06:12 AM
rating: 0
 
HonusCobb

Isn't it strange that there aren't any White Sox fans in central Illinois? I grew up between Peoria and Bloomington. Only Cubs and Cardinals fans. I grew up a Cardinals fan but abandoned them in late high school after I read Moneyball. Something about promoting SABRmetrics and rooting for Tony la Russa didn't sit right for me.

A couple years later I read Veeck as in Wreck and became a Sox fan. I can relate to the working man's team better anyways. And I much prefer the atmosphere at U.S. Cellular than the "bring the whole family" atmosphere at Busch stadium.

Feb 09, 2012 09:04 AM
rating: 1
 
jahoffmn

For some reason, the White Sox have never done any marketing or advertising outside of Chicago (or even outside of the southside at times). For some reason, it always seems as if the Sox just depend on filial fandom. Rather than draw new fans, they just keep trying to attract the same million or so Sox fans that have lived between Roosevelt Ave and the south suburbs for the last 80 years. Not even winning the WS in '05 could spur on a broader attempt at extending their market.

They really do have an untapped market in central Illinois. Getting to US Cell on a weeknight is actually a pretty easy trip when coming from the south. Even people from as far as Bloomington or Champaign could make it to a 7:10 first pitch if they left straight from work at 430 or 5. The Sox really don't have the fanbase to hit the attendance numbers that Kenny Williams expects/dreams of, so you'd think that they'd try to branch out a bit. Unfortunately, they never do.

Feb 09, 2012 11:26 AM
rating: 0
 
lazyrasmus

I'm from Springfield, and the only White Sox fan I know is a guy who moved here from Lemont.

Between Bloomington and Springfield exists a Purple Belt, in which fandom is evenly divided between the red team and blue team.

As you get north and south of these cities, respectively, the fandom quickly becomes less purple.

Feb 09, 2012 12:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Certainly less purple south of that belt, maybe less so on the north; there were still abundant Cards fans for another fifty miles or so north of Bloomington, the last I checked (the "small town" I mentioned was Normal, which is not so small any more).

Part of the reason -- and I think there's a connection to the Cubs/CWS dichotomy in perception and fan support here -- may be that historically, downstate Illinois has never had much love for the Windy City, in regards transcending mere sports rivalries. You can see it in state politics; in town-and-gown issues that appear at the large universities (the major state universities in Illinois are downstate); in lots of things. The Cubs, because of their aura as "America's lovable losers," have fans even among a demographic that still doesn't like Chicago. The White Sox, lacking that patina, don't. This may spill over into the decision (or lack of decision) that the Sox have made not to market to downstate crowds; if it wouldn't work because of the resentment on the part of down-staters for things Chicagoan, why spend the money on it? Pure speculation here, but it does fit a number of facts.

Feb 09, 2012 16:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Kyle Mayhugh

I grew up in that same area, and I never in my life met a White Sox fan until I went to college at Eastern Illinois. And then, it was all the kids from Chicago.

Feb 09, 2012 18:08 PM
rating: 0
 
HonusCobb

I think you're right on. There's definitely an anti-Chicago feel where I'm from. If it weren't for Chicago, I think that Illinois would cease to be a swing state and be voted in Republican like it's neighbor Indiana.

But the jobs in the rural town that I come from consists of mostly manual labor. And given the south side's reputation (or at least the reputation that I picked up from Bill Veeck) you'd think the working man in rural Illinois could relate. Rather than rooting for the Cubs who bring in the rich folk from the suburbs.

Glad to hear you're from Normal though. GO Redbirds!

Feb 09, 2012 18:46 PM
rating: 0
 
wjmyers

I grew up in the Quad-Cities in the 60's. The fans were divided among Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox, and Yankees. Sox fans hated the Yankees, but not the Cubs. Cub fans hated the Cardinals, but not the Sox. My son grew up in the Chicago area as a Sox fan, and he absolutely despises the Cubs. Once you declare your loyalties in Chicagoland, the fans of the other team get in your face so much that you wind up hating their team. That seems to be what happened to my son.

Feb 09, 2012 06:27 AM
rating: 0
 
AJ

I was born in Chicago and spent my formative years one the South & West sides of the city (though finished high school in the northern burbs and college in Indiana). I've been a Sox fan since I became a fan a baseball. I have never liked the Cubs. I'm not sure if there was anything specific about them that I disliked, though I was never a fan of the stadium. Today though i can say I cannot stand the love that gets poured on the team (even the 100+ year drought gets some sugar coating put on it), especially in the media. The Cubs have always been Chicago's first [baseball] team with the Sox as an afterthought, regardless of where either team is located in the rankings. I didn't notice it (care) much when I was a kid, but now as a media consumer, it's annoying. #RantOver.

Feb 09, 2012 06:42 AM
rating: 2
 
jtwalsh

I am a transplanted Southsider now living on Long Island. I am a White Sox fan, but Chicago is a Cubs town. It was more evenly matched prior to the White Sox taking the team off of free TV in the 1980s. Cable TV did not come to the City of Chicago until 1988. About half of my freinds became and still are Cubs fans (1984, 1989). In New York there is little animosity between Yankee and Mets fans (only when they are facing each other). Plenty of New Yorkers will follow the team that is winning and think little of shifting their allaince. Switching teams in Chicago is like a divorce, it happens and it is usually ugly, and usually permanent. As far as booing Kenny Williams, "Flags Fly Forever". I was a severe critic of Kenny Williams before 2005. I was wrong, the White Sox won the World Series. Kenny earned a pass. As far as the hysteria on the other side of town, just remember that Andy McPhail was greated as the Wiz Kid savior too.

Feb 09, 2012 07:16 AM
rating: 0
 
vansloot

I grew up in MN, so I'm a Twins fans at heart, but I lived in Chicago for 13 years (I'm back in MN now). When I first moved there, the friends I made were Cubs fans, we were close to Wrigley, so I just became a de facto Cubs fan (it didn't hurt that they weren't in the same league as my Twins like the Sox). My experience was this: the Cubs are definitely bigger in the media in Chicago. The Cubs are assumed to be a "Chicago team" where the sense is that the White Sox are a "Southside Chicago team". Wrigley is basically the world's largest beer garden, with some of the least baseball-interested fans (yes, there are real baseball fans among Cubs fans, this is just my impression not necessarily the truth). White Sox fans seem to despise Cubs fans and, by extension, the Cubs. Cubs fans, if they even think about it, don't really *like* the Sox, but I saw a lot of Cubs fans don White Sox hats in 2005.

I would feel sorry for Sox fans if my Twins weren't in the same division as them.

Feb 09, 2012 07:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

I'm a Cubs fan, even got a "Die Hard Cubs Fan" plaque thing from 1983. I grew up hating the White Sox until about 6th grade or so when I was running a non-profit cable tv show and got to interview Larry Himes when he was GM of the White Sox.. so after that, I could at least tolerate the White Sox.

What I can't tolerate these days are most of the other Cubs fans. They've been so spoiled going to the playoffs so frequently in the last decade that most of them just yell and scream at people, or get delusional to think that replacing Quade with Sandberg would fix all the Cubs problems or that Darwin Barney's an All Star.

Feb 09, 2012 07:34 AM
rating: 0
 
BillJohnson

Richard, you didn't need to say they were delusional; they're Cubs fans. That suffices.

Suggestion for Bradford: How about a future column that talks about what it takes to get a fan to switch loyalties? I'm a similarly diehard Cardinals fan (and would enjoy knocking one or two back with you, Richard -- there's plenty of room for friendly rivalry in those warring fan bases that really is friendly), and literally cannot imagine a course of events that would cause that to change. My wife, by contrast, grew up a Dodgers fan because of the proximity of a Dodgers farm team, but changed to being an Arizona fan when their major-league team popped into existence within reasonable driving range. (I do not understand my wife.) How many people do undergo such "conversion", and how? How important are "converts" to ticket sales by most teams? And what do converts have to do with the Chicago situation? I bet the answer to that last one, anyway, is non-zero.

Feb 09, 2012 09:05 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Rivalries are funny. For example, I can respect Cardinals fans and even White Sox fans but I don't hate them. However, I also lived in Oregon for awhile and the Civil War games between OSU and UO were crazy. People would hang dead ducks or beavers from lampposts and people outright hated each other.

Feb 09, 2012 09:29 AM
rating: 1
 
NJTomatoes

I certainly don't have the complete answer, but believe the depth of the loyalty to begin with is the cornerstone. That, in turn, is rooted in the fan's age when the loyalty was established and the experience that shaped it in the first place.
I became a Yankee fan at age 15 when living in NJ and previously believing baseball was boring -- a value shaped by my older brother's opinions, who I naturally wanted to emulate. In the summer of 68 I was "trapped" at my family's vacation spot.....a farm in eastern Pennsylvania. With "nothing to do" but watch TV. I was limited to watching the Yanks on WPIX in grainy black & white. I became entranced with the game's nuances and complexities. Watching the woeful Horace Clark, joe peritoneal, faded Micky Mantle, and fabulous Mel Stottlemyer sweep four from the eventual champion Tigers --- a series I believe included Rocky Colavito coming in from the bullpen in what was a Tiger rout, and getting the win after a Yankee comeback. The yanks came in fifth following a tenth place finish the previous year. It was the kind of emotional embedding that can only be experienced, not created.
BTW, not a Mets hater, just mildly interested in their success. 1969 was delicious, however..

Feb 09, 2012 11:21 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bradford Doolittle
BP staff
(154)

It'd be an interesting topic, if I could find enough converts. The only time I've ever "switched" loyalties was when I left home for the University of Missouri. I grew up an avid Iowa Hawkeyes fan, but with a few months of arriving in Columbia, I was a Tiger through and through. Now I don't pay any attention to the Hawkeyes at all.

Feb 09, 2012 23:27 PM
 
jahoffmn

Great article. I'm one of those rare fans of both the Sox and Cubs. This paragraph:

"What it comes down to is that Cubs fans feel like they know where their club is headed, and they are pretty excited about it. White Sox fans aren’t so sure, and with Guillen gone, Dunn and Rios still around, and the minor-league system in shambles, there is a growing sense of dread on the Southside."

perfectly captures my feelings about both teams. Unfortunately, it's likely that both will stink this year, but at least the Cubs are showing some upside. On the other hand, the Sox look like they're going to supplant the Royals as perennial cellar-dwellers if they don't run into a string of luck, comebacks and breakouts.

Concerning being a fan of both teams, I'm always stunned by how upset this can make some people or how often I'm accused of being a fair-weather fan or not a real baseball fan. The rivalry between fans has always struck me as silly, and I usually try to skirt the issue.

Feb 09, 2012 11:09 AM
rating: 1
 
onegameref

I live in the LA area and get to enjoy both teams. I have better hopes for the Cubs this year but it seems that whenever I think the Sox will fail they seem to surprise. I believe it was time for Ozzie, Buerhle and Pierre to be gone and it will be nice to not deal with the Big Z adventure this season. The Cubs may surprise a few teams too if it all falls into place. Ah, spring is in the air.

Feb 09, 2012 13:07 PM
rating: 0
 
bardamu

Not a Cub or White Sox fan, but very much a Nelson Algren fan, and it was refreshing to see a reference to some of his mentions of baseball. While not a baseball writer, he knew/felt the importance of baseball in Chicago, and his writings on it are great snapshots of history. Thanks Bradford.

Feb 09, 2012 15:18 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bradford Doolittle
BP staff
(154)

This is why writing for BPro is so great -- I can count on references like that connecting for at least a few people.

Feb 09, 2012 23:29 PM
 
psavio

Growing up in the North Suburbs in the 70s, I don't think any of us even knew there was a rivalry. After all, they never competed against one another, they both represented Chicago, and so most of us were fans of both teams. In my household, my mom was a Sox fan (loved Chico Carrasquel) and my dad was a Cubs fan, so we spent a lot of our youth going to home games for both teams. For a baseball-crazed family, what could be better than to cheer for two hometown teams? It never occurred to my family or any of my friends that we could root for one and not the other.

Back in those days, before tv programming exploded with cable and satellite dishes, you looked forward to the simple pleasures of watching the Cubs on Channel 9 during the day and the Sox on 44 at night. Each had their own brand (the Cubs were cuddly, while the Sox were edgy) and they complemented each other well.

When WGN became a superstation, that's when the popularity gulf between the franchises widened and the animosity between the fans started to intensify. It only got worse as the two teams started playing each other for real 6 times a year through interleague play.

While I'm more of a Cubs fan, I'll continue to root for the Sox. I thoroughly enjoyed their run in 2005 and it was good to feel some actual pride in Chicago baseball for one summer (and autumn). And despite the fact I don't think either team will have much success this upcoming season, it doesn't mean I won't be watching...and hoping.

Feb 09, 2012 20:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bradford Doolittle
BP staff
(154)

Thanks psavio -- lots of interesting back story there. I'll run that by some of my native Chicago friends.

Feb 09, 2012 23:28 PM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I know the rivalry was there by the early 80s.. maybe when the Cubs (1984) and White Sox (1983) both got a playoff appearance in.

Feb 10, 2012 09:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Bradford Doolittle
BP staff
(154)

One clarification folks -- a colleague told me that Wilken didn't get an extension but was simply given assurances that his job was safe even after a new baseball opps guy was hired. Thought I'd pass that along, just for the sake of accuracy.

Also, one reader suggested that the "proper" name for CubbieCon is CubsCon. Actually, the team just calls it Cubs Convention. I didn't mean to suggest those were formal designations, though the Sox do in fact call their convention SoxFest.

Feb 09, 2012 23:34 PM
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Y... (02/09)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Inside The Park: Why W... (01/26)
Next Column >>
Inside The Park: Ode t... (02/23)
Next Article >>
The BP First Take: Fri... (02/10)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner: Week Eight
BP Wrigleyville
Fantasy Rounders: Diversification
Fantasy Rounders: The Young and the Splitles...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, May ...
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Quarter-Season Odds Report
Going Yard: The Near Perfection of Pederson

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Your Heart: What Could ...
Premium Article On the Beat: The Best of the Rest of the Fre...
Fantasy Article Resident Fantasy Genius: Enter Swingman

MORE BY BRADFORD DOOLITTLE
2012-04-05 - Inside The Park Blog: New Beginnings
2012-03-09 - Inside The Park: American League Horror Stor...
2012-02-23 - Inside The Park: Ode to a Terrible Stat
2012-02-09 - Inside The Park: A New Message: The Divergen...
2012-01-26 - Premium Article Inside The Park: Why We Want Players to Reme...
2012-01-12 - Inside The Park: Remembering Minnie
2011-12-08 - The BP Wayback Machine: Cardinals' Special E...
More...

MORE INSIDE THE PARK
2012-04-12 - Premium Article Inside The Park: The Origins of an Innings L...
2012-03-09 - Inside The Park: American League Horror Stor...
2012-02-23 - Inside The Park: Ode to a Terrible Stat
2012-02-09 - Inside The Park: A New Message: The Divergen...
2012-01-26 - Premium Article Inside The Park: Why We Want Players to Reme...
2012-01-12 - Inside The Park: Remembering Minnie
2010-12-08 - Inside The Park: Cardinals' Special Era Reac...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2012-08-17 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 2...
2012-02-28 - Premium Article Prospectus Preview: AL Central 2012 Preseaso...
2012-02-10 - The BP Wayback Machine: Neighborly Baseball