By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) In some years, there may be more uncertainty to what the respective Chicago baseball teams are when they meet for their annually overblown series, but not this time around.
No admonishments or clarifications are necessary when both the White Sox and Cubs are now equally transparent about their current objectives, different though they may be. Each team is doing what it can to win a World Series, sticking to a deliberately conceived operation. It’s just a timing issue, now.
Theo Epstein and the Cubs are all in for this year and the next few, with young players in their spots all over the field and prospects acquired and developed to be moved for help as needed to that end. The Cubs have roared back into first place in the NL Central and are now waking to the news that both Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg and Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw are dealing with respective elbow and back injuries that could change the NL stretch run, if not the playoffs themselves, potentially.
For Rick Hahn and the White Sox, it’s the acceleration of the teardown that’s seeing assets flipped for more promising kids, leading to a nine-game losing streak that has them in play for the top overall pick in next year’s amateur draft. That’s how it’s done, as they try to be more likely to win a title four years from now.
It’s a treat, really, to have such clarity about what’s really happening in the larger picture, because it’s so often obscured by the circus that the series has become. There were times when the Cubs were piecing together expensive and unsustainable win-or-bust teams that ultimately busted in high-pressure meltdowns, facing some similarly desperate go-for-it White Sox outfits during times when we were never sure who was executing what plan. The novelty of it all has worn off considerably, eroded by the sheer number of games, championship parades on both sides of town and an average baseball fan that has become smarter and more aware, less easily swayed by the cheap appeal of the circus. The idea of catchers punching catchers at home plate seems quaint and dumb as ever, already a relic in our civic sports consciousness, and it’s good to evolve beyond such things.
But yes, that is my voice you hear on the 670 The Score promos for this series, a re-run from last year, using stentorian tones to tell you how huge this all is. Forgive me for doing my best to please my superiors by reading the scripts given to me with the direction in the margins to “sound big and dramatic!” about the importance of these four games.