Chicago Baseball: A Lost Summer?

Wednesday, Jul 6, 2011  |  Updated 11:50 PM CDT
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Chicago Cubs' Marlon Byrd, bottom, takes out Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham after Beckham turned a double play on a ground ball hit by Alfonso Soriano during the second inning of an interleague baseball game on Saturday, July 2, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)

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As I sit here having just watched the White Sox drop two out of three to a Royals team that would define "sputtering," and the Cubs lose their third consecutive one-run game to the Nationals, it dawns on me that for the first time in a decade, Chicago very well might be in the throws of a lost baseball summer.

This might not bother most. For those who harbor a fair amount of bile for their crosstown rival, their struggles against the current will bring them some joy. But schadenfreude is fleeting and doesn't really work when your team is seated next to them at the bar of the damned, and there are many of us who don't go in for that anyway.

Though I am a Cubs fan, life is more interesting when at least one Chicago team is playing meaningful games for at least a majority of the season.

It could still happen. The AL Central is a wasteland of mediocrity mating with comedy, and it's likely that no one will ever get too far away from the White Sox. But here we sit in the first week of July, and they're still under .500, having just lost a series at home to the Royals.

That is followed by a visit from Nemesis of the Century in the Minnesota Twins for four games, and all of the sudden the Sox could be sitting at the All-Star Break a distance from break-even and having more questions than answers.

It's been so long since we've had a completely toast summer, baseball-wise, here in The Second City. The last time was 2002, and that wasn't a streak, as both the Cubs and Sox were in the race in 2001 until September.

The Sox went to the playoffs in 2000, the Cubs in '98. Since that 2002 summer, the Cubs went to the playoffs the next year (which we won't talk about) and the Sox competed for the division until the final weeks.

2004 saw a completely dysfunctional and unlikable Cubs team take a wild card race to the last weekend, though no one really got any joy from that. The Sox won it all in 2005 and competed again in 2006. The Cubs won back to back division titles in 2007 and 2008, with the Sox joining them in the latter year. The Cubs were in 1st place in August of '09, as were the Sox a year later.

But it's looking like we won't get any of that this year. And while many will take comfort in that, they won't have to have a pennant race right in front of them that they can't care about. 

There's something sad about a town this size not having any baseball to get excited about. Cubs fans have already signaled the surrender, and the only drama left is who gets traded, and whether any kids from the system get a look. 

Sox fans haven't gone that far, but judging from attendance numbers they haven't bought in either.

The summer passes by, and no one will get that daily charge from a competing baseball team playing sometime that day. It's a rite of summer. To watch the daily results pile up, the momentum carrying you either way, getting up for those series with the other teams competing for 1st. 

Now it just seems we're watching two boats float listlessly at sea, wanting it to be over but not wanting to let go of summer. And the two are two intertwined for those of us to separate them.

I guess we could get lives?

*Sam Fels is a Chicago-based sports writer who spends most of his time writing witty, informative posts for NBC Chicago's Blackhawks blog, Madhouse Enforcer, and SecondCityHockey.com.

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