As the city gears up for the second round of the BP Crosstown Cup, both teams are unfortunately below .500 currently. In the summer of 2011, the Chicago intra-city series will be more about bragging rights than ever for Cubs fans. As their fans know all too well, the Cubbies are buried in fifth place in the NL Central, 12 games out with a record of 32-48.
This holiday weekend gives the Cubs a chance to even the score from round one of the red line series last week, when the White Sox took two out of three at U.S. Cellular Field.
This time, the Cubs have home field advantage, but it may not be enough to make a difference versus a Sox team that has owned the NL in inter-league play.
The added media attention and additional party atmosphere should give the Cubs fan base a nice, albeit temporary, respite from their dreadful season.
“It’s been a difficult year for them, and it’s going to be tough. Because if you’re pretty much out of the race at this point of the year, then you can sorta sense where you are as a ballclub,” said former Cubs legend and MLB Hall of Famer Andre Dawson.
“Moving forward, they really need to analyze where they are, what they want to do, what this team wants to be in the future, and even next year. Find out what the voids are and what direction to go personnel wise. It’s going to take some time, it doesn’t happen overnight,” Dawson continued.
He’s right, although this weekend is about rivalry, the Cubs already have at least one eye focused on next year- and beyond. They’ve endured a rash of injuries in their pitching staff this season, and (much like has been the case in recent years) woeful under-performances by their high priced talent.
Their $10 million first baseman Carlos Pena is leading the team in home runs and RBI, but he’s still batting just .225, and it seems like it took him forever to crack his first homer of the spring.
Alfonso Soriano, the man with the richest, and many would say the worst, contract in Cubs history, has come back down to Earth after a fast start. Kosuke Fukudome has again reverted to his “Mr. April” form.
Basically, the change Dawson spoke about will come this offseason when a lot of money comes off the books. The front office will no longer be holding a big chunk of all that bad paper, and that $134 million payroll will significantly diminish. Many of the high price free agents will not be re-signed and the future of the club seems to lie in the young troika of Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd, and Darwin Barney.
Management previously included Tyler Colvin as part of that young nucleus, but his abysmal flop in 2011 shows that he isn’t even close to being ready for that responsibility.
With this season a lost cause, there’s no time like the present to start preparing for 2012 and beyond. Give the kids a bigger chance to embrace the leadership role, while also considering who might take the place of the soon to be departed veterans.
As for this weekend, if the Cubs sweep the Sox, they can claim the BP Cup for the first time since the trophy was introduced last year. The Cubs trail the Sox 38-43 in the all-time rivalry, but 1-2 in the series this season. Therefore, a sweep at Wrigley Field will not even up the all-time series, but it would give them the trophy for a year.
“I think it’s great for the city, it’s great for the fans. It’s put a little more emphasis on winning the series now,” Dawson said about the addition of the BP Cup.
“It’s the best thing to happen for the city’s interleague play, because you get to see 6 games, and now with the BP Crosstown Cup, it’s more emphasis on trying to win the series,” Dawson said.
“The Hawk” also has an idea about what direction the Cubs organization should go with their off-season moves.
“I would like to see them do a little more with their pitching staff. You can claw and scratch for runs, but I’ve always felt if you have that lights out dominant pitching- like Philadelphia has, four guys that can go out and shut the opposition down, it really makes you a better ball club.”
For part one of the Dawson exclusive go hereFollow paulmbanks