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Crosstown Classic is the only series Cubs, fans have to look forward to

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen left shakes hands with third baseman Omar Vizquel after defeating ArizonDiamondbacks 8-2 during an

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, left, shakes hands with third baseman Omar Vizquel after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-2 during an interleague baseball game on Sunday, June 19, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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Updated: September 28, 2011 12:19AM



Who said Major League Baseball’s schedule-makers were cruel to the White Sox this season?

After all, how often does a team come off a difficult road trip to Minnesota and Arizona, only to return home and find that it gets a bye week before heading to Colorado next Tuesday?

Three games with the Cubs, then three with Washington. What, Allan Huber Selig couldn’t use his mighty hammer of commissionership and squeeze a game in with Houston along the way?

Meanwhile, 13 stops north on the Red Line, life in Cubbie Land is a little different.

Make that a lot.

Left for dead at the start of June, the North Siders took three of four from Milwaukee, made the Yankees actually sweat over the weekend, then seemed geared up for the annual crosstown rivalry with the Sox that begins tonight at the Cell.

Of course, it has been a big week for Cubs manager Mike Quade and the boys because this is their fall, this is their playoffs.

Why put a competitive team together that can play exciting games into October when they can wheel this carcass of a club out there for some excitement in June, get it out of the way now, then get back to the business of preparing for the dark days coming to the North Side.

“Don’t blink because there’s another big series around the corner,’’ Quade said Sunday.

Well, Mike, how can I blink knowing that a blue train wreck is off the tracks and heading southbound? I can’t help but watch it at this point.

Not since the crosstown rivalry began in 1997 have the teams been heading in such opposite directions. Not so much in the standings, but in the immediate philosophies of the organizations.

The Sox are trying to justify their win-now mentality and spending while trying to overcome the underachieving that has gone on the first two-plus months of the season.

The luster of the annual showdown with the Cubs is all but meaningless this year, considering how much is at stake in writing out a franchise-high $127 million in checks for the 2011 season. The window is open now and for the next few years the way this Sox team is constructed.

The Cubs’ construction site is a little different. It’s more about wearing hard helmets and not looking up out of fear of falling objects, and not just from the weathered roof at Wrigley Field.

The Ricketts family has yet to come out and use that bad word “rebuilding,’’ but every indication is that the franchise is going to be gutted.

The Cubs are looking to rebuild from within by strengthening the farm system and improving the flow of talent coming from Latin America. That’s no overnight fixer-upper.

So, of course, the crosstown series has taken on more significance for the Cubs and their fans. What else do they have to look forward to?

Sox fans are praying for their team to start playing to its talent level and make an October run. The Cubs are just another team standing in the way of that progress — kind of like road kill you can’t swerve away from in time, so why not just run over it again.

Cubs fans are praying that 102 years and counting doesn’t hit the 110-year mark.

They’re fighting the idea that this is no longer their town, dealing with the reality that they’re the second-class citizens following a second-rate team.

You have to give them credit, though, for finally having stopped following the flock to “The Dump’’ on Addison and Clark, as evidenced by the way Brewers and Yankees fans took over the ballpark this week. But the new pecking order in the city is still tough for them to swallow.

Considering the direction of the franchise, get used to it.

“The White Sox thing, I always get a kick out of it, and I always will, whether I’m doing this or at home watching it,’’ Quade said. “It’s one of the things that makes sports great, wherever your rivalries are, and we have quite a few right here in the Midwest. . . . Those are great pick-me-ups in the middle of the season to get you going.’’

For the 2011 Cubs, “pick-me-ups’’ are all they have left.



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