This year’s versions of the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox are riding high right now, as both are in first place of their respective divisions. The Cubs were largely expected to continue their winning ways from last season, while the White Sox are the surprise team of the American League this season. It’s still early yet, but we could be witnessing the makings of a World Series between the two cross-town rivals.
A Chicago-centric World Series actually happened once before, in 1906, when the White Sox defeated the Cubs in only the third-ever World Series. Neither franchise has been highly successful in World Series contests since then. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 and their last appearance in the Fall Classic was in 1945 when they were beaten by the Detroit Tigers. The White Sox did manage to beat the Houston Astros as recent as 2005, but their previous championship occurred in 1917 against the New York Giants. The Cubs are the ill-fated owners of the longest championship drought (107 years) of any professional franchise in all of the major sports.
In the history of the World Series, there have been 110 championship series between the American League and National League pennant winners. In sixteen of those World Series, two teams from the same city opposed each other, the last in 2000 when the New York Yankees defeated the New York Mets.
Except for the World Series in 1944 when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the now defunct St. Louis Browns, the Yankees have been a participant in the other fourteen World Series involving same-city opponents. The storied Yankee Dynasty teams squared off with the Brooklyn Dodgers seven times during the 1940s and 1950s and the New York Giants six times during the 1920s, 1930s and in 1951.
However, these counts don’t include the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants, who faced each other in the 1989 World Series. Some might consider the Bay Area teams to be in the same city. Other cities to have been home to two major league teams at a point in history include Boston (Red Sox and Braves), Philadelphia (Phillies and A’s), and Los Angeles (Dodgers and Angels), but none of them have hosted World Series between their two teams.
This year’s Cubs currently possess the best record in both leagues. Their torrid start of the season is their best since 1907, as Manager Joe Maddon has the club hitting on all cylinders. Everyone expected their offense to be highly productive this year; it’s their pitching that has really exceeded pre-season expectations.
The starting rotation is headlined by Jake Arrieta, the best pitcher in the league, who has already hurled a no-hitter. He has won seven of his eight starts and currently sports a 1.29 ERA. John Lester and Jason Hammel aren’t too far behind, sporting four wins/1.96 ERA and five wins/1.77 ERA, respectively. John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks round out the rotation which has stayed healthy so far.
Hector Rondon and Adam Warren, a solid offseason pickup from the Yankees, lead the bullpen staff. Overall, the Cubs’ pitching leads the National League in ERA, least runs allowed, and WHIP.
The Cubs’ offense is scoring almost six runs a game. Even though they lost Kyle Schwarber to the disabled list for the remainder of the season after only two games, their batting lineup has still been potent with Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell leading the way.
The White Sox have been almost equally impressive in the American League. They find themselves among the top three teams in the league with the best record, after fourth-place finishes in their division the last two seasons.
Todd Frazier, who came from the Reds in the offseason, has been everything the White Sox had hope for from a slugging standpoint. He leads the team with 12 home runs and 32 RBI. Jose Abreu and Brett Lawrie have provided good offensive support around Frazier.
From a pitching standpoint, lefthander Chris Sale has been as good as the Cubs’ Arrieta this year. He currently has eight wins in as many decisions and boasts a 1.67 ERA and 0.758 WHIP. He’s been complemented by fellow starters Jose Quintana and Mat Latos, who have five victories apiece.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura is on the hot seat to produce a winner this season, since his teams have had only one winning season since his tenure started in 2012. Over the past few years, his lackluster performance at the helm has challenged the recent trend of new breed of major league managers that didn’t have any prior managerial experience. A division-winning team, and certainly a World Series appearance, would secure his job for a while.
Both the White Sox and Cubs face stiff competition to remain atop their respective divisions for the rest of the season.
In the AL Central, the White Sox have two-time defending American League champion Kansas City Royals to contend with. With a record hovering around .500, the Royals have had an uncharacteristically slow start of the season but can’t be counted out yet. The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers figure to remain close as well.
Even though the Cubs currently have a nine-game lead, the NL Central is likely to shape up as a repeat of last year with the Cubs, St Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates vying for the division title and playoff spots.
It would be big news if either team would secure a World Series berth, especially the Cubs with their pathetic post-season history. But it would be even bigger news if both of the Chicago clubs managed to face off against each other in the Fall Classic. North Siders vs. South Siders. Wouldn’t that be something?