By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) “It is easy to see,” replied Don Quixote, “that thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants; and if thou art afraid, away with thee out of this and betake thyself to prayer while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat.”READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Winter Weather Advisory Issued For Illinois; 1-3 Inches Of Snow Possible
When I say I forgot about the Chicago White Sox, I mean that in no Kevin McAllister sort of way. It’s just that the Cubs’ celebration hasn’t worn off its buzz and the Springfield tire fire that is the Bears is solidly noxious and the Bulls are suddenly a thing and the Blackhawks are still good. The otherwise uninspiring White Sox in late November just aren’t top of mind. The last time I remember thinking about them was when their new business partner, Guaranteed Rate, pulled rank on them and refused to lose the downward arrow from its logo that will be plastered all over the stadium at 35th and Shields, which is sadly funny. Since then, nada, which isn’t necessarily bad as the fall-to-winter percolations seep out from the baseball hot stove.
But then the White Sox decided to trip down the stairs into the conversation.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote an otherwise innocuous piece on the Washington Nationals as perfect dance partner with the White Sox for ace left-hander Chris Sale. Problem is the one tiny passing nugget Olney dropped in there:
The White Sox have told the Cubs they won’t deal with them, but it appears that a handful of teams — the Dodgers, Cardinals, Rangers, Nationals and Astros, among others — have a legitimate shot at landing MLB’s second-best left-hander.
And then the record scratch. The White Sox have told the Cubs they won’t deal with them…
The White Sox have told the Cubs that any potential hypothetical yet-to-be discussed deal making any whiff of baseball sense between the two is for naught. The White Sox have abandoned reason. The White Sox are angry that their big brother won the World Series and told the Sox that they’re adopted.
(Vigorous rubbing of forehead and temples with heels of palms)
White Sox? How. Does. This. Help. You?
Why are you charging into a fight that isn’t there? There’s no damn feud between the White Sox and Cubs. Fans and their dumb tribalism is one thing, but you’re a major league organization playing friggin’ Mean Girls with actual baseball business, you schmucks.
This adds to the really dumb, forced Civil War that isn’t in this city, the lameness that is certain Cubs fans relishing in any White Sox failures and certain White Sox fans actively rooting against the Cubs. They’re teams in opposite leagues who have a negligible baseball effect on one another but whom kids are raised to hate for no worthy explainable reason.
It’s one thing to lecture some meatball in a Rowand or Fukudome shirsey that the team across town has no tangible bearing on the other and that hating the other is illogical even for the arbitrary illogic that is sports fandom. But to see team brass itself get involved in the stupid pep rally effigy smashing? It’s gross and shameful. It’s tilting at windmills, and it’s bad business.
Most of all, it’s unfair to fans, conscious of it or not, for whom making the best baseball decisions would benefit. Fans get to let emotions override sound baseball decision-making. An owner, a team president and a general manager do not.
Tom Fornelli explained on his Write Sox blog, after reasonably noting that as a Sox fan he’s always found the historical hesitancy of the Jerry Reinsdorf era to trade with the Cubs to be stupid:
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It’s going to hurt enough to see Sale traded because he’s been the best thing about this team for a while now. He may be the best pitcher to ever put on a White Sox uniform. It’s going to kill me when (if) he’s traded.
The idea of seeing Sale pitching in a different uniform makes me cringe. The vision of him finally reaching the postseason, but with another team, makes my knees wobble. Both are hard to take.
But Sale finally reaching the playoffs and possibly winning a World Series in a Cubs uniform? I’m sorry, but I just don’t even want to deal with how that would make me feel.
Fornelli is cool with the White Sox trading anyone to the Cubs but Sale because of that sentimentality. I don’t have such a Sale attachment and so can’t empathize and still think long-run logic should prevail over any immediate pathos, but Fornelli’s a fan. Fans in situations like this are going to be sentimental.
Add the territorial aspect of the Cubs/Sox perpetual peeing contest, and that gets exacerbated.
But what’s maddening is that the rivalry-that-isn’t isn’t supposed to concern management. You make the moves that make you better, fan opinion be damned, because fans collectively don’t know what the hell is best for themselves. That’s the front office’s job. As an organization, you aren’t supposed to reflect the little brother stereotype of your fan base, but that’s what the White Sox are doing, and it’s incredibly disappointing and small time.
The Cubs shouldn’t matter a lick to White Sox management, but they do, and that sucks. Worse is that this childishness won’t bother the Cubs. They’ll roll their eyes and laugh at the Sox and move on toward trying to get fitted for their next ring. There’s no actual war here, White Sox. You’re not sticking anything in the Cubs’ craws. You win nothing from this playground crap other than severely misguided pride.
For some reason, one fewer team is out there for general manager Rick Hahn to drive up the price of Sale or any other White Sox trade bait. That’s irresponsible.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer noted in August regarding any potential deal with the Sox while the Cubs are in a position of power and the Sox are not that there’s “probably a tax you have to pay or not be able to get a deal done.”
Why? What makes the White Sox different from trading with the Diamondbacks or Rays? Petty image crap.
“I think that there’s going to be a lot more focus or scrutiny on a deal that’s made between (the Cubs and White Sox),” Hoyer said. “At some level, I think that both teams are aware of that. I think when we were sellers (in years past), we had some awareness of that, and I’m sure on the other side of town, there’s some awareness of that as well. I wouldn’t say never. There might be a deal that makes sense someday, but (the White Sox) are certainly not a team we look at as a likely trade partner.”
We had some awareness of that. Mmm hmm. That’s Hoyer being diplomatic as he can without literally saying the White Sox won’t make deals with us. Then the joke’s on the them, not the Cubs.
You want attention at the end of November, White Sox? You’re getting it. But like that downward arrow stuff, again it’s laughter.
And you again have fallen on your rear end, as has been the unfortunate case so many times since taking the 2005 bragging rights that no longer exist. Looking foolish to a national audience that has never quite understood you in the first place, charging at an indifferent giant without need.
And you’ve been knocked over by an imaginary enemy. Or maybe it was a real enemy — your own insecure selves.MORE NEWS: Northwestern Medicine Study Gives Clues About How Long COVID-19 Symptoms Can Linger
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.