This wasn't the prettiest weekend on record for the Chicago White Sox. Three straight times, the Sox were blown out of the water by their cross-town "rivals," bringing out a level of frustration in fans not seen since, well, last year.
Just ask the man with the toughest job in baseball: Chris Rongey. (Hawk likes to say that the hitting coach is the toughest uniformed position in baseball, but even Greg Walker doesn't have to deal with deranged callers taking out all their life's frustrations after a Sox meltdown.)
Rongey probably had to throw back more than a few Miller Lites at various South Side locals to get through the weekend's postgame shows; no one deserved Monday's day off more than him!
Yes, the Sox played quite badly and were beat down quite thoroughly by the Cubs. But the biggest point is: Don't be angry that the Cubs swept the Sox.
First of all, these aren't your faking-their-way-through-it Cubbies playing over their heads for the most glorified 88-win seasons you'll ever see. I'll be the first to admit I roll my eyes when average Cubs teams are elevated to local and national prominence unjustly, but this is not one of those teams.
That's not 40-year-old Gary Gaetti at third base, it's Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs are the best team in baseball at the moment, they would have probably swept any team that came into Wrigley Field this weekend.
Second, this didn't figure to be a good series for the Sox anyway. They're on the road, where they had just lost 6 in a row, facing a team that had won 11 straight at home, and they're without their two biggest power threats, Paul Konerko (DL) and Jim Thome (bench).
Lastly, cross-town "bragging rights" are inconsequential anyway. The days of the Sox and Cubs playing each other for the city's pride ended the moment Juan Uribe threw out Orlando Palmeiro to end the '05 World Series.
Since the Sox won the championship and the Cubs have become serious contenders, these interleague regular season games have become nothing more than... interleague regular season games. Which is exactly what they should be anyway.
Any fan who pins his pride or self-esteem on victories over the Cubs, as opposed to the season on a whole, is misguided (and probably on Rongey's "do not call" list). The goal for both of these franchises is to win the World Series. Next to that, nothing else really stacks up as important.
I can't say I'm happy the Sox just lost three games, but this is a pretty true assessment of where the team is right now. When they're hot, and facing mediocrity, they dominate. The Pirates series proved that. When they have to "cinch it up and hunker down" against a formidable opponent, they buckle.
In other words, the Sox are a good team, good enough to take care of business against bad teams and hang in there for a while against better ones until they fail to execute the small things. Homers are nice, but the team is dreadful with a runner on second or third and less than two outs.
The Sox win when they are supposed to win and lose when they are supposed to lose. There's not much overcoming disadvantages or winning without their best stuff; when the Sox are in a slump, they lose. If that's the worst thing you can say about a team, it's really not that bad.
There were some reasons for concern coming out of Wrigley Field: Jose Contreras' May dominance (3 wins, 2.09 ERA) has faded into a June swoon (3 losses, 7.43 ERA); Joe Crede had one of the worst series I've ever seen at the plate (1-for-11), meekly popping up or grounding into a double play nearly every time up; and reliever Octavio Dotel had someâ€¦ issues (2 IP, 3 ER, 2 HR).
Still in all, this series is not that important. Ignore the newspapers, this wasn't nearly as significant as inter-division match ups against teams with whom you're fighting for a playoff berth. Last week's sweep at the hands of the Tigers was more important and much more disappointing, despite that fact that this weekend's series in Wrigley received more hype than an American Idol finale.
The Sox will win or lose their division based on their performance against the Twins and Tigers, not the Cubs.
You want something to be angry about? How about the fact that the Sox had to play the Cubs while the Twins and Tigers got the decidedly-worse Diamondbacks (12-22 since May 17) and Padres (last place 32-45 in the weakest division in baseball). And next weekend while Sox have to sweat it out with the Cubs again, the Twins and Tigers will match up with the Brewers and Rockies respectively.
Six and a half games out a week ago, the Twins are now a mere 1.5 back entering play tonight. And the Tigers, now only 5 back, have begun to hit their stride.
That imbalanced schedule will do more to hurt the White Sox in a suddenly-close AL Central than any Cubs fan's pride ever could.