By Laurence W. Holmes–
(CBS) With the Cubs on the verge of the playoffs, I thought it might be time to look at them from a different perspective. It’s been fun to watch the evolution of White Sox fans. Over the last few years, they’ve been watching the Cubs experiment from eight miles away with curiosity and envy.
I asked White Sox fans Friday morning via social media their feelings about the Cubs. It’s anecdotal but still interesting.
The rivalry, if you want to call it that, still runs deep for some, but as strange as it may sound, the 2015 Cubs are a team that White Sox fans can like.
Laurence Holmes (@LaurenceWHolmes) September 25, 2015
1. The kids — For years, we’ve heard about the next great prospect for the Cubs. Most White Sox fans have had a good chuckle at their expense. The Cubs roster now is filled with a bunch guys who have lived up to or exceeded expectations. Kris Bryant almost certainly will win the NL Rookie of the Year, and Kyle Schwarber will deservedly get votes. Addison Russell has been a magician at shortstop, and best of all, these kids play with no fear of the big moment (so far, at least).
2. Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta — Rizzo plays with a passion that’s hard to ignore. He’s only 26 but has the leadership skills of a wise, old veteran. He’s seen the organization hit rock bottom and has been a main reason why it’s rising up. Arrieta started to be a dominant pitcher last year. If it weren’t Clayton Kershaw going all Sandy Koufax on us, Arrieta would’ve been the pitcher of the month as far back as June 2014. He’s a testament to hard work, and his run since the All-Star break has been historic. It’s already earned him the start in the wild-card game and might even get him the NL Cy Young.
3. Organizational guts: The Cubs tore the whole thing down to build it back up. That took plenty of faith and a lot of stones (something White Sox fans can respect). I’ve taken calls from Sox fans who would like to see their favorite baseball team take the same approach. The Cubs trusted the strategy. They accepted a few years of bad to put the organization on track instead of haphazardly chasing championships with free agents who are past their prime. With an arsenal of young talent, the Cubs added in veterans like Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero to strike the right chord in the clubhouse and find roster balance. There are actual position players to get excited about beyond 2015. They took a risk, and that risk has paid off.
4. Joe Maddon: Maddon is “Joe Cool.” We all know it. He’s charisma personified. Maddon’s the guy who you wish was your uncle or your neighbor. He’s “Winston Wolf” from Pulp Fiction, a fixer. He has a plan and knows how to execute it. His track record speaks for itself, but what he’s done this year with the Cubs should earn him plenty of votes for Manager of the Year. Maddon’s able to simultaneously be a player’s manager and a disciplinarian. He embodies all of the statistical analysis of new baseball but has an old-school sensibility. Under Maddon, Cubs players know that there are consequences if they don’t play the game the right way. He suffers no fools, and his level of confidence is infectious. He’s proof that managers matter. Let the White Sox fan congregation say, “Amen!”
There are still some hardline White Sox fans who aren’t willing to give props, and that’s fine. What I’ve noticed is for many others, envy has turned into respect. And that respect has turned into admiration. No one’s asking you to put on a Cubs jersey for the next four weeks, but it’s totally OK if you want to look north and tip your White Sox cap.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.