This isn't the way Cubs and White Sox management envisioned this year's crosstown interleague series.
First, the teams decided to play for the "Crosstown Cup". It would have been largely ignored by fans of both teams, primarily because it was created to get sponsorship money. Unfortunately, the sponsor chosen -- BP -- is now perhaps the most reviled company in the world. The deal was signed before the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and as a result, the teams are downplaying the trophy:
"We're trying to stand behind our sponsor, but at the same time be respectful of what's happening off the ballfield," Cubs spokesman Kevin Saghy said. A BP spokesman did not return a call seeking comment, but representatives from both the Cubs and Sox said it was their understanding that BP's planned promotion of the newly minted cup -- a three-foot trophy of brass with a sterling silver overlay that took local jeweler Howard Kaplan three months to create -- has been scaled way back in the wake of the oil rig explosion.
By the same token, BP has not moved at the last minute to remove its name from the cup or try to void the sponsorship agreement. Sports-marketing experts believe that would have been a mistake anyway.
"It would look a lot worse if they suddenly pulled out of the deal," said Brad Back, a senior vice president with 361 Degree Experiential, a Chicago-based sports-marketing firm. Back said BP, with all the image problems it's facing, still could use the cup sponsorship, in some small way, to help resurrect its badly battered image.
And then, there's the mediocre performances of the teams so far this year. The Cubs stand 27-33, 7.5 games behind the NL Central-leading Reds; the White Sox, at 26-33, are 8.5 games back of the Twins in the AL Central.
The teams have played nearly completely even in the 13 seasons of interleague play. There have been 72 games played; the White Sox have won 37, the Cubs 35, and even the runs scored have been almost equal: White Sox 355, Cubs 341. Those totals might have been closer, except that the White Sox won the last two matchups in 2009 by shutout. Overall the Sox have shut out the Cubs four times; the Cubs have blanked the Sox twice.
Today's game and Sunday's will be on both WGN and CSN Chicago; today, Len Kasper and Bob Brenly will announce on WGN and Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone on CSN. They'll switch channels for Sunday. Tomorrow's game will be on Fox (Channel 32 in Chicago) with Kenny Albert, Eric Karros and Chris Rose announcing.