A Chicago Crosstown Classic First: Cubs vs. White Sox Preview, Tuesday 6/16, 7:05 CT

You couldn't find two teams more evenly matched than these two. In the 12 years of interleague play before this season, they have played 66 games. Each team has won 33 -- including a home-park sweep for each team in 2008. The Cubs have scored 322 runs in the 66 games, the White Sox 323.

Yet, until today, all the regular-season games between the two teams had been played on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. This is the first weekday (technically, weeknight) Cubs/White Sox game ever, and only the second night Cubs/White Sox game at Wrigley Field (the other, on July 4, 2004, was a Sunday night date dictated by ESPN.

And with a 70% chance of rain tonight, maybe it won't happen at all. As if we haven't had enough rain this spring.

There's a tantalizing clue as to what Jim Hendry might be able to do before the trading deadline in Gordon Wittenmyer's article in the Sun-Times today:

Meanwhile, don't underestimate the ability of the always-aggressive and prowling Hendry to pull off a midseason deal to help his sluggish team.

He's not likely to get any increase in payroll with sale negotiations stalled, but he appears to be quietly sitting on about $5 million in payroll flexibility. That's because that allegedly tapped payroll budget includes projected incentive clauses based on what a player did last year. The way most of those players are performing, they're already starting to free chunks of payroll -- in All-Star bonuses alone.

Paradox: the Cubs might be able to improve because they're not doing well and don't have to pay incentive clauses.

In 2007, after Milton Bradley helped lead the A's to the 2006 AL playoffs and also had an outstanding ALCS, Oakland unceremoniously dumped him to the Padres (and he nearly helped lead them to the playoffs until the unfortunate incident with umpire Mike Winters). I asked Tyler Bleszinski, founder of the SBN A's blog Athletics Nation, what he felt were the reasons for the A's moving Bradley in the middle of a multiyear deal. Here's his take:

I think the A's got tired of waiting for him to be on the field. Every single little injury he had he was out. Believe me, the A's knew how valuable he was to their success in that they would've never reached the ALCS in 2006 without MB, but the problem was that he was one fragile individual, not really the kind of player that Billy Beane can afford to have around. It's essentially why the Cubs got Rich Harden because the A's don't have enough money to be paying millions for guys who wind up on the DL a lot. I know that's strange to hear that coming from the team that has Eric Chavez as their highest paid player, but Chavez continued to try and get on the field long after he probably should've stopped and just had surgery.

I think the A's front office is old school in that they really respect that desire to be on the field, almost to a fault. As for how that relates to Bradley, I think he was injured often enough that what he did on the field became irrelevant because he simply wasn't there enough. There was probably other things that led to it as well as there were rumored disruptions in the clubhouse, but I think the A's front office makes decisions based on things like how much a guy is contributing on the field or how often he is off the field more than the behind-the-scenes clubhouse stuff.
Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano
Cubs
vs. John Danks
John Danks
White Sox
4-2 W-L 4-5
3.39 ERA 4.81
56 SO 61
28 BB 26
4 HR 10
vs. Sox -- vs. Cubs

John Danks' only start vs. the Cubs was last June 20, in which he gave the Cubs only five hits and one run before the Sox bullpen blew it and Aramis Ramirez won it with a walkoff HR. A-Ram's not available, of course, and Danks hasn't been very good this year. The only Cub to get more than one hit off him is Kosuke Fukudome, who was 2-for-3 in that game a year ago.

The best thing about Z's season is that he hasn't given up HR as in the past -- only four this year. As I wrote about him after his last couple of starts, when he has his heavy sinker working, he gets hitters to beat the ball into the ground and is usually much more effective that way. Paul Konerko is a Z nemesis -- 7-for-22 (.318) with four homers. As he was on the DL during the Cubs/Sox' two series last year, Z hasn't faced the Sox since June 22, 2007, one of his best performances; he allowed three hits and a walk and struck out 12; the only run allowed came on a Konerko homer.

Today's game is on two Chicago channels -- WGN, the national feed, has Len & Bob. If you insist, you can hear Steve Stone on the Sox broadcast on CSN Chicago. For other games today see the MLB.com Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Overflow comment threads will post today at 8 pm, 9 pm and 9:45 pm CDT.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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