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The Crosstown Classic, Cup, Showdown or whatever you want to call it garnered plenty of attention last week as the Cubs and Sox split the four games, each team winning a pair in their home park. Despite the fact that the games count in the standings thanks to interleague play, the stakes were arguably higher when the teams met many years ago.
From 1903 until 1942, the Cubs and Sox participated in what was known as the City Series, usually a best-of-seven confrontation played parallel to the World Series. If either Chicago team won its league pennant to advance to the World Series, the local showdown wasn't played, like in 1917 and 1919 when the Sox won pennants. And in 1906 when both clubs were league champions, they met in the World Series with the Sox emerging victorious four games to two.
After 1906, the Cubs appeared in eight more World Series' before 1942, negating a City Series at the end of those seasons. But in all there were 26 post-season gatherings - a few times weather or lack of agreement between the teams cancelled the affair - featuring the two Chicago teams that were otherwise boondoggles at the gate; the City Series far outdrew what the clubs experienced in the regular season.
Those extra gate receipts often heavily contributed to the bottom line for both teams. For instance, in 1911, the Sox averaged less than 8,000 fans per game during the regular season, but the City Series drew an average of 24,837 as the Sox won four straight. The 1930 Series, won by the Cubs four games to two, averaged 27,153 after the White Sox drew just slightly more than 5,000 during the American League season.
The players were more than happy to play the extra games not only for bragging rights, but to share in proceeds. In his book Turning the Black Sox White: The Misunderstood Legacy of Charles A. Comiskey, Tim Hornbaker, noted that in the 1913 City Series, "The players each received $807 for the series and Ring Lardner wrote an amusing article in the Tribune recommending to Comiskey that he offer a financial incentive to the team every season in an effort to get them to perform better."
Now, more than 100 years later, we know that Lardner's supposition doesn't necessarily guarantee better results. It's costing Chairman Reinsdorf $110 million this season for a club that followed the split with the Cubs by losing two of three to last-place Minnesota in a meaningless weekend series, the type of which will be the rule from now until early October.
After beating the Cubs in two exciting, well-played games Monday and Tuesday on the South Side to once again create a glimmer of hope for this band of athletes, the Sox managed just single runs in each of the next two games at Clark and Addison.
In losing 8-1 on Wednesday, substitute pitcher Anthony Ranaudo, called into action because of Carlos Rodon's sore wrist and Chris Sale's successful effort making certain that he and his mates would not wear the 1976 throwback uniforms, hit an opposite field home run, the only hit he's ever had in 10 big league at-bats. In six minor league seasons, he's never so much as made a plate appearance. Let's hope that Ranaudo stopped after the game to buy a lottery ticket.
In addition, Ranaudo, a 27-year-old righthander originally drafted and signed by the Red Sox in 2010 and later traded to Texas, had a no-hitter cooking on Wednesday with one out in the sixth when Kris Bryant homered to tie the game at 1. In the seventh, after two outs and a walk to Jason Heyward, Javy Baez took a 3-2 offering from Ranaudo that almost reached Waveland Avenue for a 3-1 Cub lead. So ended the night for the 6-foot-7 fill-in, who was sent back to Charlotte after the game.
Aside from making an impressive appearance for the Sox last week, Ranaudo has played an unintended pivotal role in the team's season. He had failed miserably in the two games he started for Texas earlier in the year, lasting a total of 3 2/3 innings, including an inning-and-a-third against the White Sox on May 10th. The Sox entered that game with a record of 23-10, and thanks to Ranaudo's lack of command - he walked five and they all scored - the Sox led 11-6 going into the eighth inning before a bullpen meltdown resulted in a 13-11 Rangers' comeback win.
That implosion was the beginning of the infamous 10-26 ledger which basically has doomed the Sox' season.
But getting back to Ranaudo. He walked eight hitters in those two games with Texas, but he gave up only two hits.
Apparently the Sox saw something they liked about Ranaudo - maybe his six-year minor league record of 48-28 and an ERA of 3.60 after toiling in Charlotte this season - because two days later on May 12th, Rick Hahn swapped an unknown minor leaguer to get Ranaudo.
Something - like maybe his confidence - got fixed in Charlotte, because in 78-plus innings at Triple A, Ranaudo walked only eight while striking out 53. He issued four bases on balls last Wednesday against the Cubs, but the two home runs were the only hits the Cubs could manage.
Granted that Ranaudo always has been a starting pitcher, but why send him back to Charlotte when the Sox bullpen has been so ineffective recently?
The combination of relievers Matt Albers, Dan Jennings, Carson Fulmer, Jacob Turner, and Tommy Kahnle combined for 7 1/3 innings last week, allowing 11 hits, eight bases on balls, and three home runs, while posting a combined whopping 12.28 ERA.
Friday night's 2-1 loss to the Twins in 12 innings was yet another low point for the Sox. Jennings began the bottom of the 12th by hitting Eddie Rosario, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Jennings then walked Byron Buxton, a .199 hitter.
Robin Ventura summoned Kahnle, who the night before against the Cubs had walked the only batter he faced. It took Kahnle just nine pitches to walk the next two hitters, giving the Twins the victory. Ya think they sent the wrong guy back to Charlotte?
Now that Zach Duke has been traded to the Cardinals for outfielder Charlie Tilson, a product of New Trier High School, which also happens to be Hahn's alma mater, the Sox's already beleaguered bullpen is in even worse shape.
Meanwhile, the time might be right for Tilson, a 23-year-old speedster and a .293 lifetime minor league hitter, to make his major league debut in centerfield for the Sox. J.B. Shuck, who initially filled in admirably for the injured Austin Jackson, was benched Sunday after going 3-for-39 in his last 11 games.
With a 51-54 record and no chance of a post-season berth, why not give a kid like Tilson a shot?
Of course, with the trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. this afternoon, there's always a possibility that Hahn will make additional moves, although the astronomical asking price for Sale or Jose Quintana appears to ensure that the talented duo will remain right where they are.
After going 8-for-14 over the weekend in Minnesota, Melky Cabrera is hitting .312, making him a tantalizing target for a contending team. Moving Cabrera will weaken a lineup devoid of any consistency with the exception of Adam Eaton, but so what? The season is lost anyway.
Too bad there's no City Series in October where Sox would have a chance to salvage lost respectability. On second thought, the sooner this campaign ends, the better.
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