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A few thoughts about MLB’s same-city rivalries

Too many games? Too few? You make the call.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Last week, I wrote about the fights I saw at the Cubs/White Sox game Wednesday, July 26 on the South Side. One conclusion I drew from that:

Lastly, from time to time the subject of MLB realignment brings up the possibility that the Cubs and White Sox could be placed in the same division, and thus perhaps play a dozen or more times a year. I cannot emphasize enough how bad an idea that is. If four matchups a year causes this kind of fighting, imagine what multiplying that by three or more times would be. Just don’t do it, MLB.

I’m going to double down on this. MLB is likely to realign when expansion comes, though Commissioner Rob Manfred has said that won’t happen until the stadium situations in Oakland and Tampa Bay are resolved. With the A’s possibly moving to Las Vegas, that leaves only the Rays, whose lease at Tropicana Field ends after 2027. Expansion, then, could still be a few years away.

And I am still of the mind that four Cubs/White Sox games a year is plenty — more than enough, actually.

So I decided to check in with folks who run the SB Nation sites for the White Sox, and for the other two-team markets, New York and Los Angeles. For this exercise, I skipped the Bay Area as a two-team market, given that the A’s might be leaving. (For the Angels, I again went to the site Crashing The Pearly Gates, since SB Nation’s Angels site appears to be abandoned.)

I asked the site managers two things:

First, whether they know of or have seen fights at games involving teams from the same city, and

Second, whether they think putting the two New York teams and two Los Angeles teams in the same division is a good idea.

Strap in, this is gonna be long. First, here’s our friend Brett Ballantini, editor-in-chief of the SB Nation White Sox site South Side Sox.

It’s hot in Chicago, but hell is freezing over, I’m on Bleed Cubbie Blue pages twice in a little over a week.

Al’s post on the violence at the second game at Sox Park, and his beaten friend, is just terrible. And while there was a little bit of “Sox are low class” in the comments, I appreciate that most, including Al, were pretty level-headed. There is never any excuse for violence at a game, and frankly, even the type of verbal abuse at least one reader described (ugly talk at/in earshot of his kids) is terrible. Why do we (that’s a collective “we,” pards, not a confession) do this?

Me and Al disagree, I am all for a division with the Cubs. And while reports like Al wrote up are bad, I’m sorry, that should not be a determining factor. Sorry if, in exchange for the sellouts and heavy concessions (not just beer) at the parks, both teams with have to dent that massive pile of coins and pony up for heavy security. There’s a way around this. Give in to the animals? No way.

I have been to plenty of Crosstown games, and thankfully none like what has been described. There was the Carlos Lee walk-off grand slam, and that time Michael Barrett cheap-shotted A.J. Pierzynski. For the Lee game, my dad and I decided we would join the hoi polloi and get a season ticket in the 300 (luxury box) level at Sox Park, so we were sequestered from riffraff South or North. I was down in the bowl for the A.J. game, and though I lost my voice faster than I ever had in my life during that half-inning, I recall no skirmishes — off the field, at least.

One game that weekend in 2006, I took my mother, like a good mom, no fan of the Cubs. We were subjected to some of the nastiest talk (not aimed at us, we were in our home park after all) from a line of young men a few rows behind us. It was vulgar, and met everything about the stereotype of Wrigley being full of frat boys scouting T&A instead of the action on the field. After several innings of this, my mother and I got them removed, to which we got a standing ovation in the section. I daresay there were Cubs fans appreciating the ejection/relocation, even.

Now, of course, I don’t see all of you that way, no more than I think that all of you think Al just edited my youse’s into you’s in this very sentence.

That said, let me explain briefly part of that chip on our shoulders that so amuses and fascinates you. I am a fan since 1977, and for my entire life I have had the Cubs shoved down my throat. The wound was self-inflicted to a degree, at least starting at the flash point of Caray from South to North/Superstation/SportsVison. But the biggie was the Tribune, because, sorry if you don’t want to hear this, the entire tenor of coverage changed pretty quickly after the largest (and eventually, only true) media conglomerate bought one team and “covered” the other. There’s not room to get into it and “prove my case” (that will come next week, as my freelance writing job from hell, constant appearances on a Cubs website, continues, right Al?), but for the sake of getting along, just believe me. And though Tribune ownership has been severed for a decade or so now, influence of a generation-plus of this coverage imbalance still surfaces. When there is talk of ugly fan behavior in Chicago, you hear about the Ligues (as you should). Do you hear about the “27-year-old bond trader” (because, of course he was) who charged the mound and tackled Randy Myers in 1997? You do not. Do you hear about a fracas initiated by Cubs fans trespassing into the Dodgers bullpen in 2000? No, you don’t. Does Paul Sullivan (shilling, still) sprint down into the crowd to take snaps of Cubs-Sox brawls at Wrigley Field, as he does at Sox Park? No.

There is no shame in acknowledging that Cubs fandom is not some higher calling or caste — or that the “overwhelming popularity” of the Cubs in this city was aided by a very heavy thumb on the scale.

Let’s just acknowledge that we are far more similar than any of us on either side would care to admit. And that includes the idiots, who wear pinstripes both blue and black. Let’s own up to the idiocy on both sides — and shame it.

There are a lot of things I hate about the Cubs. (I realize that your phrasing for that emotion when it points back at the Sox is “don’t care for,” or “bothers” or, maybe, “miffed,” so just zip it and pass me some of that Grey Poupon over by dere k?) I have gotten to know Al over the years, and to my utter shock he is, perhaps, as I’m typing I’m desperately trying to think of someone else because dadgummit I cannot admit this but he is probably my very best pal of all the mostly very nice folks I’ve met on SBN over these half-dozen years. Al is also pretty chill about the Sox; I tweak him or crap on your ownership, he just raises his tea glass, pinky extended, and says, “yeah, that’s great Brett, when you gonna get me a preview?” I don’t believe his chill has been lifelong or permanent, though; how can it? We are South Side or North Side, part of drawing the boundary is disdain for the clowns “over there.”

Anyway, one of your readers pointed out in the preview that we ran a really hostile series preview (alongside Al’s hopeful season-to-date wrap), suggesting an obsession necessitating therapy. C’mon. We trash EVERYONE. Sure, the knives get sharpened for the north siders — as they should, you’re so close we can smell you. But read my brilliant guy, Brian O’Neill, take down any one of a number of so-called great cities in this country in our Know Your Enemy series, and we can definitely bond together under the four stars of our flag and cackle at the halfassery every other city brings to the table, right?

Let’s police ourselves, shame the jagbags, and enjoy the hell out of all the games we have together, especially once you get your shot at us for that upset in ’06, if any of us live long enough to see it.

So Brett thinks more Cubs/Sox games would be okay. On this we disagree.

Next, here’s Andrew Mearns, managing editor of our SB Nation Yankees site Pinstripe Alley. First, about fights in the stands:

I don’t have a lot to add since in my experience, there haven’t been that many fan fights in the stands for Yankees/Mets. Feels pretty rare. The best way to explain the rivalry is that Mets fans hate the Yankees and Yankees fans see the Mets as the equivalent of gum on the shoe — more just kind of annoying than anything else. George Steinbrenner hated losing to the Mets even in exhibition games because he did not like them getting more attention in the press (the players even talked about the 2000 World Series being more pressure from him than any other dynasty years), but that was Big Stein’s own obsession more than anything else.

And about the possibility of more Yankees/Mets games:

Not really more because I’m already annoyed with the hubbub around Yankees/Red Sox games and I don’t need more Yankees/Mets games in my life, lol. It was nice when they cut it down from six per year to four per year a few seasons ago, we don’t need to go in the other direction.

From the opposite side of New York, our SB Nation Mets site Amazin’ Avenue managing editor Chris McShane:

I’d say that there are some fights between Mets and Yankees fans at times, but I don’t recall attending a Subway Series game and seeing something on the level of what you experienced. But Mets and Yankees fans definitely don’t like each other when the teams are going head-to-head. I wish I could speak more with more authority on the topic, but anecdotally, yeah, you’ll see an occasional fight. I just don’t think there’s been anything too awful/brutal.

He’s also against more Mets/Yankees games:

Absolutely not! As someone who has disliked a lot of the Manfred changes, that one might be the absolute worst of the bunch. Despite the universal DH, I’d hate to see MLB turned into an East/West sport like hockey and basketball. And I sure as hell wouldn’t want to have to deal with 10+ games against the Yankees every year. The Subway Series is already diminished in my mind because it happens too often. Going into the same division would be old before it even started.

Now, heading to the opposite coast, here’s Jessica DeLine, manager of the Angels site Crashing The Pearly Gates:

Angels fans hate the Dodgers but most Dodgers fans just consider the Angels an inconvenience. I don’t think it’s a true two-way rivalry. The Dodgers/Padres and Dodgers/Giants rivalries get pretty heated and there are definitely fights over that — I have seen some at Petco when the Dodgers are in town! That being said, there have been a few fights at Angels Stadium. Here is a writeup about one that happened in 2021. I guess the short of it from my experience, Angels fans hate the Dodgers fans and Dodgers fans just make fun of Angels fans — not sure they hate them?

She’d be okay with more Dodgers/Angels games and more California games in general:

I would love to see all 5 Cali teams in the same division. That’d be fun! Maybe not for the A’s though...

Lastly, here’s Eric Stephen, managing editor of our SB Nation Dodgers site True Blue LA:

There are definitely fights during Dodgers and Angels games from time to time. It’s probably more often than games vs. most opponents (Giants being the more heated rivalry) but I can’t say for certain. It’s just not anything that’s on my radar.

He’s not a fan of the Dodgers and Angels being in the same division, either:

I would hate that, but I think most of it would be just because it would be a major change.

Beyond my being against more Cubs/White Sox games due to fighting in the stands, I just don’t think we need more than we have now. One thing that likely works against such a thing is that having more games between the two teams within the city of Chicago (or for the other teams, New York or Los Angeles) would create a competitive advantage for the teams involved, not having to travel for two or three more series a year, while their opponents still have to get on a plane for road games. That might make other owners vote against such a change. There are good ways to realign some of the divisions without completely blowing up 120+ years of National and American League history. To me, and I think to many others, that history matters.

Now I’m putting the question to you. Would you want more Cubs/White Sox games? Fewer? Is it okay the way it is now? Have at it.

And don’t forget, the Cubs and White Sox meet again, at Wrigley Field, August 15 and 16.


Regarding the two-team cities and games between their teams (Cubs/White Sox, Mets/Yankees, Angels/Dodgers)...

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    I like the schedule the way it is now, four games a year between the intra-city teams. Don’t put the teams in the same division
    (212 votes)
  • 4%
    I’d be okay having the teams in the same division and having more intra-city rivalry games
    (17 votes)
  • 35%
    I’d rather have fewer intra-city games, perhaps just one series at each park every other year
    (132 votes)
  • 3%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (15 votes)
376 votes total Vote Now