Cubs, White Sox provide Chicago a summer bummer
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com June 30, 2013 11:24PM
Chicago Cubs pitcher Blake Parker sits in the dugout after a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Friday, June 28, 2013, in Seattle. Parker was charged with the loss as the Mariners beat the Cubs, 5-4. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:35AM
Hockey is just over, and — amazingly — we are already at the halfway point of the baseball season.
You could say the Cubs and White Sox flew deftly under Chicago’s radar while the Blackhawks were playing toward the Stanley Cup championship.
But no more.
There’s nothing else in town until the Bears hit camp at the end of July. The Cubs and Sox — and, OK, the WNBA’s Sky — are it. (No offense, Elena Delle Donne, but your league has work to do.)
So what do we have?
We have the Sox staggering about without any real direction. Players are hurt or underperforming, and rising-star pitcher Chris Sale can’t seem to catch a break.
The skinny left-hander lost 4-0 to the Indians on Sunday on a lovely, sunny day at U.S. Cellular Field. That gave the Indians their first four-game sweep in Chicago in 65 years. Sale dropped to 5-7 — 0-for-June — though his ERA is a terrific 2.79.
The Sox themselves?
They’re 15 games under .500, in last place in the American League Central, with the second-worst record (32-47) in the AL. There is a cry developing on the South Side: ‘‘Thank God for Houston!’’
How did they lose this last game? Well, as the saying goes, you can’t win unless you score.
But you also need a lack of cleverness and concentration and luck to lose Sox-style.
They had a runner picked off first base. They had a strikeout to end an inning with a runner at third. They hit into four double plays. They did nothing for Sale, who threw 123 pitches and may see his stick-man arm fall off someday.
You’d like to think there’s hope in the back room, but I’m not sure what that might be. It looks like the Sox will be selling off parts and proclaiming ‘‘Wait ’til next year’’ any day. The All-Star Game is in two weeks, and the Sox might have a fleet of dump trucks backing up at the Cell the next day, sending out product. Though it’s uncertain how many Sox players anybody, anywhere, might want.
As for second-year manager Robin Ventura, his refreshing early calmness after the Ozzie Guillen lunacy now seems a little too low-key for this dispirited team. There’s a thin line, after all, between easygoing and asleep.
The Cubs are in a similar malaise.
Though their hang-on 7-6 victory against the lowly Mariners at Safeco Field on Sunday was nice, and it was the Cubs’ sixth win in their last 10 games, it didn’t move them anywhere in the National League Central.
Their record is 35-45, and they are 10 games behind the Reds, 13½ games behind the second-place Cardinals and 15½ games behind the leading Pirates.
Yes, the Pirates are in first place. Small town. Small payroll. Small hopes.
But that’s what it has come to on the North Side. While Theo Epstein and pals want to emulate the success of the AL’s Boston Red Sox, three NL cities of modest populations — Cincinnati, St. Louis and Pittsburgh — in the Cubs’ own division — are beating them to the punch.
It’s stunning that Cubs management has decided to go to the bottom so the top will be the only direction out, but what a thing to lay on the never-quit fans of this town. Indeed, a stadium such as Safeco, home to the AL’s Mariners, in a town about as far from Chicago as you can get in the United States, had tons of Cubs fans cheering the Sunday victory.
They deserve better, it seems. Not in 10 years, five years, two years. Now.
Why is it the Cardinals never pause to become pitiful enough to ‘‘rebuild’’?
It seems every ounce of Cubs energy goes into the Wrigley Field rebuilding mess. Sometimes — as the Tom Ricketts-Tom Tunney-rooftop owners battle rages onward, a bit the way three ever-warring nation-states in 1984 did — you wonder if the Ricketts family had any idea what it was buying when it got this franchise.
Manager Dale Sveum? Another nice guy being carved up.
There is not a single Cub among the leaders in any meaningful category in the NL rankings, other than reliever James Russell and starter Jeff Samardzija. In the AL, only Sale is up there in anything — ERA and complete games (two). Well, OK, Matt Lindstrom has thrown in 38 games, which is a dubious stat.
Without stars, or chances for the postseason, baseball in Chicago is mainly for idle observation and fantasy-league GMs.
‘‘For those of you just joining us,’’ Sox TV announcer Ken ‘‘Hawkeroo’’ Harrelson said in the eighth inning at the Cell, ‘‘it’s a gorgeous day. Beautiful city. Chicago, Illinois.’’
With bad baseball.