Cubs-Sox Rivalry Heats Up

In Chicago, there is this thing they call the Cubs-Sox rivalry. It has been around since the beginning of the 20th century when the White Stockings played their first season in the new American League. The Cubs had been playing in the National League since 1876. Thus, the relationship began with the beloved Cubs already having established themselves as a major league team. The White Sox were the fair-haired step-children of The Windy City.

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: A City Divided

While the Cubs have played in cozy Wrigley Field on the North Side for over 100 years, the South Side has been home to the White Sox. Their current ballpark, Guaranteed Rate Field, is nine miles from Wrigley Field. Thus, the two teams are divided by a matter of minutes. However, there is much more to the Cubs-Sox rivalry than their respective locations. In fact, the rich history of both teams actually diminishes the geographical divisions, in favor of more competitive factors.

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: Two Long Droughts

In terms of competitiveness, the Cubs and Sox share a serious lack of World Series championships. Each team can lay claim to three championships. Considering that they have been competing for a combined 265 seasons, six championships is nothing to get excited about. In terms of bragging rights, they do not exist here, at least when it comes to winning the ultimate prize. Kinda sad for a city that has been called The City of Big Shoulders.

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: Broadcasting Wars

The two teams shared a common television network for many years until 1967. Jack Brickhouse announced most of the games on WGN TV in Chicago and was considered the “announcer” for both teams. The teams were on an even footing until the White Sox decided to end their agreement with WGN. They made the ill-fated decision to move, first to a UHF station, with the fuzzy screen and all. Although, if one moved the antenna just right, one just might have been able to actually see the ball. In 1982, they moved to pay channel Sportsvision, the brainchild of Sox co-owner Eddie Einhorn.

Suffice to say that the move to pay-television proved to be a dismal failure, even with legend Harry Caray behind the microphone. During this same time, many of the Cubs’ games were being televised on WGN, now a superstation. The combination of the teams’ moves resulted in the Cubs acquiring many young fans. To this day, Cub fans outnumber Sox fans, in large part due to this shift. (Footnote: Harry Caray left the South Side for Wrigley Field in 1982. Then, just this month, Len Kasper moved from the Cub’s TV booth to the Sox’ radio booth.)

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: On The Field

Over the years, the Cubs and White Sox have played each other often, first as exhibitions, then, as interleague opponents. Yes, they have met in the World Series once, in 1906. The White Sox won the series four games to two, which meant more bragging rights for the South Side. Since the two leagues began playing head-to-head, the Cubs and Sox have played 128 games. Over that time, the Sox hold a slim 65-63 edge in the series. However, in Chicago, two games are enough to give the South Siders bragging rights. Most recently, the two teams split their six-game series in 2020. So, the Cubs-Sox rivalry is about as even as it could be when it comes to the head-to-head aspect.

Overall, though the balance has shifted from South Side to North Side over the last few decades. Both teams were under .500 in the ’80s. The White Sox were solid in the ’90s, while the Cubs struggled. The White Sox were better in the ’00s, but the Cubs were better during the ’10s. However, the Cubs hold bragging rights, as far as playoff appearances. Since 1980, the Cubs have made 11 postseason appearances, while the Sox have appeared six times. Advantage, North Siders.

Each team has won the World Series once in the last 100 years. The White Sox won it all in 2005, while the Cubs ended their 108-year drought in 2016. Additionally, there have been two occasions on which both teams made the playoffs. Both teams qualified in 2008, as well as in 2020. In typical Chicago fashion, though, neither team advanced past the first round in either year.

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: Where Things Stand

There is no doubt that the Cubs have had the advantage in recent years. This is largely due to the outstanding work of Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ former President of Baseball Operations. Owner Tom Ricketts brought Epstein in from the Red Sox in 2011, to build a championship team on the North Side. The Cubs accomplished that mission but failed to follow up with another title. Now Epstein is looking for a new challenge and the Cubs will be going in a different direction.

At this point, the Cubs and Sox would appear to be in similar positions, at least as far as how they each finished the 2020 season. After all, the Sox were 35-25, and the Cubs finished at 34-26. Both teams were one-and-done in the playoffs. So, they are basically in the same place and the Cubs-Sox rivalry is about all square, right?

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: Shifting Sand

A deeper look at the two franchises suggests that the White Sox are better-positioned than the Cubs. The Cubs recently non-tendered Kyle Schwarber, a lefty slugger who never quite lived up to his potential. Trade rumors are swirling around star third baseman Kris Bryant. There is also talk about possibly trading staff ace Yu Darvish. It seems as though new Team President Jed Hoyer has his hands full. The Cubs have many tough decisions to make this offseason.

On the South Side, the White Sox are just entering what they hope to be an extended window of contention. After three long seasons, they broke through in 2020, and are just getting started. During this offseason, they have added outfielder Adam Eaton and right-hander Lance Lynn. Eaton and Lynn should help to solidify the lineup and the rotation in 2021. They also return reigning AL MVP, Jose Abreu, along with rising stars like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, and Tim Anderson. The addition of Lynn gives the Sox three of the top seven vote-getters in the AL Cy Young voting. It looks like it is all systems go for the Sox.

Cubs-Sox Rivalry: The Future

While it is too early to tell for sure, it would appear that the White Sox are close to taking over the reins as Chicago’s team. Time will tell, and there are a lot of moves to be made between now and Opening Day. Still, it looks like the Cubs-Sox rivalry is tilting toward the South Side. Many would say that it’s about time.

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main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Mike Fisk
Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!

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