By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) This came from Cubs TV play-by-play voice Len Kasper earlier today:https://twitter.com/LenKasper/status/463674495895494656
I wish I could. Truly, I do. But Major League Baseball has found a way to zap my enthusiasm for the Crosstown Classic series, and I’m not the only one.
Kasper’s sentiment is well-taken, though, which is that it’s really easy to crap in everyone’s punch bowl, even if that punch bowl was crawling with ants anyway. So I come here not to complain and run. The series needs fixing. We Chicago baseball fans deserve better because this series is about the fans. Regardless of the lip service the players and coaches pay, these are just another set of games to most of them.
But how to fix this thing?
Be good at baseball
Seems easy enough to say, right? But right now there is zero buzz on the North Side for baseball. It’s like fans are watching a grade school talent show, going through the motions, politely clapping and straining smiles and hoping it’s all over soon, just waiting for the kids to grow up and have actual talent.
Jose Abreu is that talk of the town right now, as he should be. But even his player-of-the-month April hasn’t lifted the White Sox to a .500 record as of Tuesday. Chris Sale — otherwise appointment viewing — being on the disabled list doesn’t help getting fans to line up either.
Thankfully, both teams have respected front offices with seemingly competent plans going forward with tired jokes about “next year” aside. It’s not a stretch to assume that two years from now the Sox and Cubs are playoff contenders. Such would bring a bit more weight to this series.
Stop with the lipstick on a pig
This isn’t high school. The series doesn’t need a stupid trophy. At best it’s demeaning to watch millionaires hold up a mocked piece of kitsch for taking three of four games in the regular season. The whole display was bungled from jump street by having BP sponsor it initially. Let the cup go away.
And stop calling it a “Classic.” This isn’t marketing a fast-food pot pie. It’s a series younger than Abigail Breslin between four and six games at a currently non-fixed point in the season. That’s classic like swine flu.
Have it on the weekend
You trot this thing out on a Monday night and expect great fanfare? If we are supposed to put more stock into this series than most others, don’t have it during the work week. Katy Feeney, MLB’s senior vice president of scheduling and club relations, was on with Mully and Hanley on Tuesday morning and cited scheduling issues with the teams only playing four times this year instead of six (and why just four if it’s such a big deal?) and that the Cubs and White Sox didn’t make any special request for scheduling. The tone of the whole interview was basically, “Not our problem. Deal with it.”
Have it in the actual summer
Nobody expects temperatures in the 30s in May, but it isn’t as though Chicago is known for predictable weather (see: 80 degrees forecasted for Wednesday). Fans should not be expected to freeze during this series. That’s for games against Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
Chicago summers bring people out of the house. Cold-ass weeknights early in the season with kids having school the next day do not.
And the Blackhawks and Bulls are perennial playoff teams now. Baseball in May has to compete with that and will usually lose. Opening Day games this year didn’t draw viewers as much as a Blackhawks regular-season game, and hockey is supposed to be the fourth sport locally and nationally. I found myself watching non-Bulls playoff basketball more than Monday’s baseball game actually because the former was more, well, interesting and exciting.
Do something different
How about a Red Line Series day/night doubleheader with one game at U.S. Cellular Field and the other at Wrigley?
Maybe some broadcaster swinging? Stoney and Len do an inning or three or a whole game together. JD and Hawk do the same, just extremely uncomfortably (sorry, JD).
Coincide one of the games with a big concert afterward. Cubs vs. Sox at 3 p.m. at The Cell, followed by Kanye or Pearl Jam or something.
Mix it up somehow, because this series is as stale as it can get. I want to enjoy these games the way I used to. They can never be made “fresh” like they once were because of factors like inferior talent and season-long interleague play, but they can at least have some novelty to them.
Right now the feeling seems to be, “Oh, this again? Do I have to pretend to care and get all tribalistic and stuff?” We don’t even get a reporter goading President Obama into smack talk anymore.
It doesn’t have to be this bad, but while it is, I can’t just “enjoy the games,” nor should I be relegated to just accepting easily fixed negative factors.
This town deserves a better class of sports civil war.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.