By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Neither the Chicago White Sox nor the Chicago Cubs are in the 2015 World Series. No trophies have been garnered. All the salty cynics out there — of whom I usually count myself a member — can stress that all they want. Haters are going to be compelled to show their odd complex with the other team and their post-traumatic stress from years of Chicago baseball abuse.
Right now, it’s not about what hasn’t happened. It’s about being lucky enough to have two Major League Baseball teams in this town and the stars aligning to where both have blatantly shown their fans and the rest of the league that each considers itself for real. Hot damn, this is fun.
First it was the White Sox, who cannonballed into the annual Winter Meetings session by trading a paltry fee for former Cub and established dominant starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and giving big bucks in a four-year deal to closer David Robertson. A few weeks before, they had filled the Paul Konerko/Adam Dunn gap by signing Adam LaRoche and bolstered the middle relief by grabbing Zach Duke. And just for good measure — and I like to think trolling — they signed the uber-grindy and diminutive Tony Campana to a minor league deal.
On the North Side of town, the Cubs began their offseason by breaking unwritten rules and looking like shrewd baseball people hell-bent on winning by sending an otherwise competent manager and good guy in Rick Renteria packing just because a better manager became available in Joe Maddon. Next they sent prospect Arodys Vizcaino back to Atlanta from whence he came for infielder Tommy La Stella and a coveted international signing bonus.
Then the Cubs brought back starting pitcher Jason Hammel on a two-year deal after using him last season to acquire pieces for the future at the trade deadline. Miguel Montero was acquired from Arizona to be the signal caller that Welington Castillo just quite hasn’t been. Then in the wee hours on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the dust settled on all the frenzied Jon Lester rumors, and the prize of the free agent pitching class was in blue pinstripes.
For a Napoleonic Second City always concerned with East Coast bias and never getting enough respect, we are certainly front and center right now as the bullies of the baseball offseason. This is what the Hot Stove time is supposed to be about: amassing all the fuel for the hopes of spring rebirth, a competitive summer and an “oh please, oh please” fall.
And we now know that unlike the entire half of this decade, there’s going to be interesting baseball on both sides of town in the coming year beyond the recent usual, “Let’s see how this youngster develops.” The White Sox are definitely going for it. The Cubs look like they are going for it. There’s an unlikely-but-not-out-of-the-question possibility of a Red Line World Series in the near future … if you’re not afraid to ride the Red Line. That should make you want to high-five random strangers regardless of black or blue loyalties.
The two teams are spending lots of money. They’re getting big names. They’re practically checking off every holiday shopping list item of the typical disgruntled fan calling 670 The Score. This is real life.
best winter so far. 1. cubs 1a. white sox— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 10, 2014
And the subplots! Oh, the subplots!
What about when Samardzija has to face the Cubs for the blood, sweat and tears etched into the Crosstown Cup? Will he look even that much more like a musketeer when in black? He did his best not to express his frustration with being traded from the Cubs in a really good interview with Boers and Bernstein on Tuesday, but he still managed to say, “To be wanted is better than to not be wanted.”
The Cubbie kids — how many more will we see next year? That team is like The Duggars all of a sudden. And while the building of the farm system has been an interesting watch and has kept fans from going completely insane from starvation, now is the time for those calories to become not so empty.
Will the intimidating top three starters in the White Sox rotation make up for some lingering holes in the offense? Is general manager Rick Hahn even done with his big moves?
It doesn’t appear the Cubs are done. Ken Rosenthal reported before the Cubs got Lester that they wouldn’t be leaning back and digesting their paper victory.
All of this stuff is really exciting. And, trust me, I’m not used to this level of Chicago baseball fun and don’t quite know how to process it at the moment. But I’m going to enjoy it because fun is all we can ask for as consumers of the game. Do your best to win titles, but do whatever you can do make us enjoy the ride, win or lose.
So shrug any doubters off. Save any serious worry for July.
This is fun right now. This is what it’s supposed to be.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.