Chicago White Sox: BP Crosstown Cup Preview with Ron Kittle

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As the city gears up for the second round of the BP Crosstown Cup, both teams are unfortunately enter the series below .500. In the summer of 2011, the Chicago intra-city series will be more about bragging rights than ever, unless the White Sox can get over the hump and win the AL Central.

They’re in striking distance for first place, unlike the Cubs, who have absolutely no shot at the postseason.

Since the horrific 11-22 start, the White Sox have been playing about .600 baseball. Keep up that winning percentage, and they’re projected for 86-88 wins, certainly enough to win a weak division like the AL Central. But here’s a reason not to be optimistic- they seem to be tripping over the same hurdle over and over again these past couple months. Every time they get to two games under .500, they lose. They keep winning enough to get back there, only to stumble again.

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One thing’s for certain, the division is there for the taking and this team has both the talent and payroll to get it done. The Sox have solved their bullpen issues. Their starting pitching has been solid. They’ve had some fielding issues, but nothing too severe and which couldn’t be glossed over if they improved situational hitting/more everyday starters were hitting their weight, and earning their keep.

The Sox will continue to be mired in mediocrity as long as their recent big-money, big ticket free agent signings Alex Rios and Adam Dunn continue hitting like this; i.e. not much at all.

Rios is looking like a 5-tool player wasting his natural gifts right now. His on-base percentage is laughably bad, and with July upon us, there’s no way you can refer to his 2011 struggles as “a slow start.” For him to be this far off from his career averages is extremely puzzling.

Dunn’s situation is more alarming. He’s so far below his career batting average, you’d think the number is a misprint. He’s still drawing walks like he always does, but he’s not hitting homers like he usually does. And he’s striking out more than ever. It’s frightening, but he’s on pace to have almost TEN TIMES AS MANY strikeouts as home runs this season. It’s hard to blame this on the switch from the NL to the AL, from being in the field to full time Designated Hitter. I honestly don’t know what the problem is.

Aside from the shortcomings of Rios and Dunn (and you have to throw Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre in there), the rest of the Sox have been producing in 2011. And this team always gets up for the series with the Cubs.

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“I work for the White Sox, so there’s loyalty there,” says current Sox ambassador and former Sox All-Star Ron Kittle.

“But I’m loyal to having a good game, people playing the game like it was when I was a kid, all through my career. Play as hard as you can, give it your all and that makes you float up to the top when you give your effort something extra special,” he said.

Kittle repeats the Sox marketing message which has always echoed the organization’s values. You know the slogans/phrases:

Grinderball.

Win or die trying.

The Grinder rules.

All in.

The Sox seem to take their play up a notch for inter-league, absolutely owning it in 2010, and despite some less than inspiring performances versus Colorado and Washington, you know they’ll bring it for the BP Crosstown Cup.

“It’s always the same, even in an exhibition game, you go out there to play your best and you hope for a win. You’re supporting the city of Chicago, a great baseball town. It’s great camaraderie, but with BP throwing the cup into the action, it makes it a little more fun,” Kittle said of the rivalry, and how the addition of the BP Cup gave it some extra special meaning.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports You can follow him on Twitter

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