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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. White Sox series preview

The first two games of this year’s Crosstown Classic are Tuesday and Wednesday.

Photo by John Adams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hey, both these teams were supposed to contend this year, the White Sox more so than the Cubs, or so it was said when this season began.

It hasn’t worked out that way for the Sox, no siree, not at all, and the Cubs lurk around the edges of contention.

For more on the White Sox, here’s Brett Ballantini, editor-in-chief of our SB Nation White Sox site South Side Sox. You’re gonna love this one, as it is an epic rant.

So let me be honest with you, my dear, dear Cubs friends, the last thing in the world I want to talk about is the 2023 Chicago White Sox. But I promised Al, and he’s been nice enough to feature me on your pages come Crosstown time for the past five years or so, so I guess I had better honor his request.

The Cubs being bad (I mean, three games under, I’d commit capital crimes to get my team that good, but, OK, not .500) and the White Sox being [frantically waving arms as if on a desert island, which, if not a completely apt image for the hostage situation that has been the Rick Hahn Rebuild is the best I can come up with given my -2.3 WAR enthusiasm for this team] THIS, is relatively rare in Crosstown annals.

If all plays out and the White Sox track as a .406 club — that would be a 66-96 finish, providing MLB baseball doesn’t just step in and TKO the White Sox at around the 140-game mark — it would make them the 13th-worst club in Sox history. I lined up the 13 worst Cubs teams next to the White Sox bottom feeders, and very surprisingly, the seasons don’t sync. I mean, almost not AT ALL. The worst stretch in White Sox history, between Black Sox and Go-Go, coincided with some pretty good baseball from the Cubs ... and no, I’m not looking it up, Al is not paying me for research. The Cubs seemed to have gotten the most stuffing kicked out of them right after that, in the 1950s and 1960s, while the White Sox were running up 17 straight winning seasons.

However, conveniently enough, the ONE season the two franchises share among their 13 worst is 2013, a decade ago. The White Sox had a .389 winning percentage, eighth-worst in team history, after coming within a hair of a division title the season earlier (oh, if that one could have been called a week or two early!). The Cubs were .407, tied with 1974 and 2006 as 13th-worst ever for you. Was that your bottoming-out pre-Theo rebuild? In 2012, you were .377, fourth-worst in team history, so I guess so. I don’t remember anything about those teams, I cared only enough to be very happy you were horrible. Al is not paying me to remember Joe Mather or Josh Vitters or Justin Germano or Rafael Dolis or Steve Clevenger or Brooks Raley or Alex Hinshaw or Casey Coleman or Blake DeWitt or Lendy Castillo or holy god, what an awful roster. I mean, no offense to you guys, although I hate the Cubs how could I not remember any one of like a quarter or your roster from 10 years ago?

Actually, there’s a transition in there somewhere, because the 2023 White Sox are a team I am going to want to forget. When I am a 100-year-old White Sox fan in 2069, I am fairly confident I will still be able to tell you about my first South Side Hit Men game and the exploding scoreboard and Winnin’ Ugly and the glory of 2005 and the Blackout Game. I hope I will not even remember there was a season in 2023.

In fact, full disclosure, I hope NEXT YEAR I forget everything about the 2023 White Sox.

See, here’s the thing, the failed rebuild (compared to the Cubs of the mid-teens, compared to Houston or Baltimore or, like, any refurbished building that stood for a day and didn’t collapse in immediate and hilarious and sped-up silent movie era footage) is one thing. It’s as if Rick Hahn apprenticed under gusto GM Ken Williams and then asserted himself as His Own Man by (purposely?) attracting just enough crap to the White Sox a decade ago to philosophically fund a rebuild.

Remember how Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause stumbled into the “organizations win championships” rallying cry that helped run the double-threepeaters out of Chicago and the Bulls into a full-on strip-the-B-off-the-Berto rebuild? The rebuild that, despite being thisclose to luring Tracy McGrady or Tim Duncan or Grant Hill or whatever fever dream Krause had of replacing the stars he just ran out of Chicago with ... other stars … ended with players like Dalibor Bagaric and Kornel David and Rusty LaRue coached by fishing buddy Tim Floyd? The master-plan rebuild that yielded the FOUR WORST TEAMS (literally, the four worst, no exaggeration) IN FRANCHISE HISTORY?

That is why Jerry Reinsdorf resists rebuilding. Well, that, and whatever is passing for “base-ball” on the South Side these days.

The patchwork, go-for-it, yep-we-got-Ken-Griffey-Jr.-10-years-too-late-but-look-look-look-Ken-Griffey-is-on-the-White-Sox! Ken Williams clubs rarely ascended to the top, but they were pretty much always in the mix — one laughable season in 12. Under Hahn, in these past 11 seasons, the script has flipped — just two competitive seasons (playoffs, in fact), now farther in the rearview mirror than they should be, one of them a mini-season not even having the decency to not take place during a pandemic that killed a million Americans.

This is why the White Sox are stuck. Jerry is not going to want another strip-down-to-the-Cease-and-Pantera rebuild. He’s also not going to spend, at least smartly. He’s also not going to fire anyone, because, apparently, Rick Hahn makes the best front office coffee, or knows how to heat his pregame oatmeal up to the perfect temperature, because it’s not anything he’s done to earn him a Lifetime GM Position with a major league base-ball team.

Our site historian is Mark Liptak, and he sent this to me yesterday, sourced from somewhere, he didn’t tell me, but it’s basic research so we’ll cop it uncredited for the purpose trying to speed this agonizing preview to a finish: Rick Hahn has won nothing in his 11 seasons as White Sox GM. Only Mike Rizzo and Brian Cashman have tenures as long with their teams. Rizzo’s is nothing to crow about, but there was at least the glory of running the table in 2019. Cashman, it’s the Yankees, so sure, 12 ALDS wins, 6 ALCS wins, four World Series titles.

Hahn: ZILCH. Literally, nothing to show for more than a decade in the job. And yet paychecks keep getting cashed.

I know Al is paying me to give you a series preview, two games that will invariably change all of our lives, games We Will Never Forget in the annals not only of Crosstown, but Competitive Baseball. But I’m not going to be able to do that.

Why? Well, it’s one thing to root for a bad team. Among those 13 worst White Sox clubs ever are the even-worse 2013 and 2018 clubs. I can’t speak for the ugly transition year of 2013, but 2018 was full rebuild mode, funbad, the works. You can lean into a season like that and have some laughs, even if those laughs come so hard and breathlessly they end in tears.

(Did you miss the fact that now three of the 13 worst White Sox seasons, over their 123-year history, have been under Rick Hahn? Did you? Well, I didn’t. And all of my fellow White Sox fans don’t. We’re furious at the employed incompetency of our GM.)

But Hahn has built not only a bad team, but an unlikable one. A detestable one.

• Yes, it starts with [redacted], a starter Hahn JUMPED THE MARKET to sign to a generous deal and a human so hideous we don’t cover or name him on our site.

• But there is no upper-level farm system of note, at least none that doesn’t churn out replacement-level hitters who can’t field.

• Hahn’s first (only?) true no-strings managerial hire, Pedro Grifol, has proven toothless and inept.

• The revamped training program hasn’t worked, as injuries continue to pile up, while Hahn acts as if he has limited use of the injured list — to wit, Andrew Vaughn is hobbling around the clubhouse IN A SOFT CAST right now but has not been IL’d, roughly a year since Franchise Player Luis Robert Jr. was reduced to playing in games WITH ONE ARM (I am not joking, look up some September footage, Al isn’t paying me for video clips).

• Hahn dickered over nickels with pending free agent and franchise starter (and, note the departure from theme, really great guy) Lucas Giolito, thus he was never going to re-sign with the White Sox (shades of Sale).

• Hahn handed the biggest free agent deal in team history — still not nine figures, mind you — to pleasant human and average major league starter Andrew Benintendi.

• He flushed tens of millions into a Superpen that a) isn’t actually all that good and b) is the one area of player development that has actually clicked for the White Sox (say hi to Codi Heuer for me).

• For what is now YEARS, the White Sox have played the majority of games not fielding a major-league quality second baseman or right fielder. White Sox wounds don’t move around the body, they fester and never heal.

• When the dust settles on the trade deadline and/or offseason option shedding, the White Sox will have one competent starter capable of a workload — rags to riches to yeah, a bit raggy again Dylan Cease — in the 2024 rotation.

Allow me to remind you, as the words typed singe my fingertips, this is the middle of the so-called contention window for the White Sox.

I HATE this team. We, as collective fans, HATE this team. I cannot preview it. Please forgive me. For the next Crosstown series, I will, mercifully, be out of country and another South Side Sox writer will ease you through.

See you next year, if I make it.

Fun fact

The games today and tomorrow will be the 139th and 140th in the regular season between the Cubs and White Sox. The Cubs have been outscored by just two runs, 631-629, in the previous games, but the Sox have won eight more games, 73-65. Where the games have been played has made no difference. The Cubs are 33-36 on the South Side, 32-37 on the North Side. The Cubs have not won the season series since 2018, when they prevailed in four of six. The teams split four games in 2019 and six in 2020, then the Cubs went 1-5 in 2021 and 1-3 last year.The Cubs have won the season series six times; the Sox, 12; and 8 were split. Since the annual series began in 1997, the Cubs have led in total wins only once: in 1998, when they swept three games to take a 4-2 lead. The last time the teams were tied in wins was in 2008, at 33-33. The Sox won four of six each of the next four years, to go in front, 49-41. The closest the Cubs have come to pulling even since then was after 2018, when they trailed only 60-58. (Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)

Probable pitching matchups

Tuesday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (3-4, 3.38 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 4.20 FIP) vs. Michael Kopech, RHP (4-8, 4.29 ERA, 1.386 WHIP, 5.29 FIP)

Wednesday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (10-7, 3.09 ERA, 1.144 WHIP, 3.51 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn, RHP (6-9, 6.18 ERA, 1.443 WHIP, 5.28 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Tuesday: 7:10 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)

Wednesday: 7:10 p.m., Marquee Sports Network, NBC Sports Chicago (Sox announcers)


The Cubs need to take both of these games to keep pace in the N.L. Central and wild card races. They’re hot, having won five of their last seven and three in a row. The Sox are reeling, they’ve lost 11 of their last 15 and are 5-12 in July.

The pitching matchups here are favorable to the Cubs, and so they will do what they need to do and win both of these games.

Up next

The Cubs travel to St. Louis for another four-game series against the Cardinals which begins Thursday evening.


How many games will the Cubs win against the White Sox?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    (116 votes)
  • 27%
    (49 votes)
  • 8%
    (15 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now