Chicago, arguably, is the most dismally unsuccessful baseball city known to man.
It has been represented by the Cubs franchise in the National League since the league’s founding in 1876, and by the White Sox in the American League since that organisation took wing in 1901. Between the two clubs, they have won a total of five World Series in 255 collective seasons.
The Cubs are best known for swinging and missing at the big prize a whopping 108 years since they last won in 1908.
At least the White Sox ended their championship drought at a mere 88 years when they scored a rare title in 2005.
But the Sox are really most famous for something else: the so-called Black Sox Scandal of 1919 when eight players on the team were banned from the game for life after they conspired with gamblers to tank the World Series.
But who in the Windy City cares about that long, dubious history of incompetence and shame now? One month into the new season, the Cubs and White Sox are each the class of their respective leagues.
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The Cubs are no surprise. Having won 97 games last year behind a youthful core of rising stars, they entered this year as the consensus favourite to reach and, perhaps, even win the World Series.
The Sox, however, lead the league in how-did-that-happen? They are coming off three wretched seasons in which they averaged 71 wins and 91 losses. They spent this last off-season patching together a makeshift line-up, stopping just short of a complete overhaul.
Most notably, the Sox resisted trade offers and kept the most marketable player on the team, left-handed ace Chris Sale, keeping their one-two pitching punch of Sale and Jose Quintana intact. Closer David Robertson stayed put, as well.
The position players were a different story. Five new regulars, including slugging third baseman Todd Frazier from the Cincinnati Reds, were brought in to shake up the moribund offence.
Run production has improved. The Sox were last (15th) in the AL in runs scored a year ago, but have jumped to eighth in the early going this year.
Holdover first baseman Jose Abreu and Frazier have carried the load, with 19 and 18 runs batted in, respectively, through the team’s 19-10 start
It is stellar pitching, however, that defines the new Sox. The league-leading staff has a 2.93 earned run average. Cast-off Mat Latos, pitching for his sixth team in eight seasons, has made it through five starts with a 4-0 record and a 1.84 ERA.
The bullpen, in particular, has been remarkable, allowing just 18 runs in 81 innings.
The Cubs just look familiar, with an added element of domination. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta has got, yes, better with a 6-0 mark and a 0.84 ERA.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo again is the production leader, with nine home runs, 27 RBI and his own brand of cereal, RizzOs.
The Cubs’ 21-6 start is a franchise record. They have scored the most runs in baseball (164) and given up the fewest (68), a record-setting, run-differential pace.
Fans actually are contemplating an all-Chicago World Series, which seems almost as far-fetched as an all-chocolate slice of the city’s signature, deep-dish pizza.
The only time the Cubs and White Sox ever met in a World Series was in 1906, won by the Sox. Since then, these two historically hollow teams have reached the postseason together only one time, in 2008. Neither survived the first round.
Now, though, the unimaginable has occurred. Chicago is baseball’s No 1 city.
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