You Know Better….The Cubs & Sox meet in 2006 World Series?!
Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article about a hypothetical Cubs and Sox showdown in the 2006 World Series that got me thinking. Chicago sports fans dreaming about a cross-town World Series is nothing new, but then again, it has never happened….so is this the year the dream becomes a reality? Your first instinct may have been to laugh at the lunacy of such an idea, or perhaps you felt like crying because you think it would never happen anyway. Well….CCO readers….I am here to proclaim that I believe an all-Chicago World Series is more likely than unlikely this year, and if your first inclination is to disagree, then I have to politely reassure you that you know better! First, we need to examine the chances that the White Sox will hold up their end of the bargain….do they have what it takes this year? When you realize they are defending champs, as difficult as those words are to say when speaking of the wrong-siders, you have to respect that the White Sox accomplished last year what the Cubs Faithful has only been allowed to daydream about. Having said that, it is not often that any club can win the World Series, let alone repeat it. Some of the biggest variables on a World Series team seem to be; low amount of injuries, a breakout year by a player or two, and good playoff pitching. The Sox definitely fit all those categories, as even the injury to Frank Thomas didn’t slow them down much, Jon Garland finally realized his potential, and the whole staff was unbelievable in the playoffs. Perhaps leery of the fact that it is not easy to make the playoffs in consecutive years, let alone the World Series, the Sox added a big bat in Jim Thome to take the place of Frank Thomas and Carl Everett, and also added a solid pitcher in Javier Vasquez. When healthy, Frank Thomas was awesome, but you couldn’t bet on his health, so I see Thome as a definite upgrade, even though he is coming off an injury of his own. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is a clutch pitcher, but is perhaps much older than he claims, and also had some injury problems last year, and Vasquez is much younger and has been durable, so this also has to be an upgrade. The only real questions I believe the Sox have is with their closer Bobby Jenks, and the loss of Aaron Rowand in CF. Was Jenks a fluke, or will he be a serviceable closer in 2006? If not, will Dustin Hermanson be able to fill the closer’s role as well as he did for most of last year, or will his back fail on him? The Sox hope to replace Rowand with a rookie, most likely Brian Anderson I believe….and a rookie is always a question mark (just ask Dusty Baker if you don’t believe me!).
Bottom-line: if pitching, defense, and good team chemistry wins championships, then the Sox seem to be a lock for the playoffs, and a good bet to represent the AL in the World Series yet again.
Ok….now how about our Cubbies getting to the World Series? I have to make the following assumptions to get the Cubs to the playoffs first, and here they are:
1. Juan Pierre stays healthy. This would not be unusual, as he always plays just about every game….so I am referring to Pierre avoiding a fluke-like injury, such as getting beaned in the head or a collision on the basepaths, etc….
2. D. Lee produces at least 85% of what he did last year. I don’t need MVP numbers, but I also don’t want him to regress back to .275, 29, 85. I would like to see .290 avg, 35 hrs, 100 rbis….and a gold glove!
3. The Cardinals do not get off to an awesome start, and they do not win over 95 games this year. I think the last two years the whole season seemed to be about the wild-card, and I think it is important to focus on being #1 and not just setting your sights on being #1A and making it to the playoffs without leading your division. The Cubs need to be focused on winning the division, and nothing else….if you set your standards high, you will perform at a higher level.
4. Kerry Wood and Wade Miller are both pitching regularly in the rotation by the end of May. If the Cubs have a fairly healthy year from their pitching staff, they will have a rotation to rival the White Sox’s: Zambrano, Prior, Maddux, Wood, and Miller!
5. The season won’t be about Dusty. If the season’s news is constantly about Dusty and his contract, or Dusty and his managerial blunders, Dusty not playing the young guys, Dusty Dusty Dusty, etc…. then the Cubs will not be focused on playing team baseball. We need Dusty to swallow his ego, and lead by example in focusing completely on the Cubs as a team, working on team chemistry, and playing smarter, more fundamental baseball. If Dusty preaches “team” and “fundamentals” all year, then I think the players will follow suit (kind of like Ozzie and the Sox last year!)
If I am allowed to have those assumptions, I really do see the Cubs being able to win a tight division race this year. This is how I see the division finishing up:
1st Cubs 94 wins
2nd Cardinals or Astros 91 wins (whichever team doesn’t finish 2nd, I predict will plummet to a 4th or 5th place finish, and then undergo a full rebuilding the next year)
3rd Brewers or Pittsburgh 89 wins (I think one of these teams is overdue for a good year….just the law of averages)
4th Reds 74 wins (who is pitching for them???? Same old story with the Reds, as they have no pitching and a bunch of big bats)
I predict that the race comes down to the last two weeks, and then similar to 2003, our pitchers really take it up a notch, and start putting together a string of awesome performances….giving up 1-2 runs at the most, with a few shutouts as well. Unlike the past two years, our pitchers will finally thrive in the high stakes competition of a playoff hunt, and will not just slowly fade away.
So I really do envision a plausible and, perhaps, likely scenario for an all-Chicago World Series matchup. What would be the ramifications of such an enormous event? Think of how the city of Chicago would be absolutely paralyzed with baseball mania for several weeks! First there would be the 3-4 week period leading up to the end of the season, as both the Cubs and the Sox are leading their divisions, and the suspense and anticipation of a possible matchup starts to truly grow. Then there will be an odd sort of “guilty pleasure” as both teams are in their respect division playoffs, and Cubs fans will be checking out the Sox’ games to see if they are winning, and vice versa. As both teams advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs, the nail-biting will be at a fever pitch for fans of both teams. The Cubs Faithful would not need the Sox to be involved for a Cubs playoff run to be exciting, but it can only help add to it. Meanwhile, the Sox fans, spoiled from the previous year’s victory, will be watching their team with a sense of expectation and destiny. Every baseball fan in Chicago, and probably a large percentage of non-baseball fans, will be glued to the tube to watch both the Cubs and Sox advance to the World Series, and I have a feeling they will all look around at each other with nervous energy, and will be completely unsure of how to handle this type of a situation. Every morning, afternoon, and night there will be Cubs/Sox baseball coverage on the radio, on the tv, on the local programs, and on the national programs, such as ESPN. The networks will be happy to have the most popular club in baseball (the Cubs) in the World Series, and also to have a major market (Chicago) audience tuning in. The whole country would be drawn to the drama of the Cubs finally being back in a World Series….they will marvel at the strange ways in which the world works, as the Red Sox, White Sox, and the Cubs will all have gotten to the World Series in consecutive years, after unbearable droughts. I think there will be a lot of trash-talking between the Cubs Faithful and the wrong-siders, and there may be an unfortunate violent incident here or there….but I think Chicago will show great class throughout the entire process of a cross-town World Series. Chicago isn’t Detroit, or LA. Chicago is filled with honest, hard-working, and passionate fans, and an event like this will be one in which we will all have to soak in every single minute. Tape the games, record the radio play by play, buy souveniers….yep….this will be one to tell the grandkids about, and for our kids to tell their grandkids about!
But how will it end? Who will come out on top? Would it be over in 4 games….7? Which Cubs pitchers will do well? Who will be the World Series MVP? Who will be the 2006 World Series champion….the Chicago Cubs, or the Chicago White Sox?
I leave these last questions up to you, CCO readers. Think it through, imagine the starting rotations, imagine the matchups, the defense, the weather, and who will have home field advantage. I want to hear from CCO readers on how you feel the Cubs/Sox World Series would play out, and who would wind up the champ, so please let me know!