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Reasons to enjoy Chicago baseball

Cubs and White Sox are on exact courses smart observers expected

Dan McNeil

8:22 PM CDT, May 2, 2013

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Chicago now has digested a month of uninspiring baseball on both sides of town. The reaction has me puzzled.

"It's going to be a long summer," seems to be the most common response from fans and the media.

No, it isn't. The Cubs and White Sox are on the exact courses any thinking observer would have anticipated when both clubs were still in Arizona.

There is no call for agonizing over it. Stop it.

When Cubs President Theo Epstein suggested there's really no difference between winning 73 or 78 games, that should have been a pretty good indication 2013 was going to include some turbulence.

As for the Sox, when signing Jeff Keppinger was the big offseason move, it stood to reason that the club would be capable of only its traditional midsummer tease at best.

More often than not, Chicago baseball bridges the gap between the postseasons of the United Center's tenants and Bears camp. This is one of those years.

If August football doesn't do it for you and you simply cannot bear the thought of a baseball season in which winning a division or wild-card berth is unreasonable, I'm here to comfort you and jog your memory on the perspective you may have had, only to have lost it.

Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs' first baseman has battled through a rocky start and is swinging the bat the way general manager Jed Hoyer expected when he traded for him. If the Cubs are a division contender in 2015, Rizzo's development will be one of the major reasons. Enjoy it.

Paul Konerko. The clock is ticking on the career of the second-best hitter in White Sox history. At 37, Konerko continues to lead by example and embodies all the qualities in an athlete that are admirable. Soak it up. It's not going to last much longer.

Wrigley's renovation. The game of political football may not even be wrapped up before the season is, but there will be a resolution. Count me among those tired of the almost 30-year discussion of preserving the precious old-time feel of the ballpark (lights, the scoreboard, rooftops, video boards, advertising signage, etc.), but the commitment some still have to the Friendly Confines' proud traditions has become comical.

Chris Sale. The lanky Sox left-hander has been a bit shaky at times, but efforts like Wednesday's turnaround at Texas should serve as a reminder why there was joy when Rick Hahn signed Sale to a team-friendly deal in early March.

Dateline Florida. Is Jorge Soler going to be the masher he's supposed to be, or will he implode again and wield a bat at an opponent following a hard slide? Soler and Javier Baez are decidedly more important to the Cubs' future than David DeJesus and Dave Sappelt.

On the air. Hawk Harrelson's war against sabermetrics has freshened up the oddness of White Sox television. And his description of Ichiro Suzuki's head leaving his neck by "a foot and a half" the other night was priceless.

On the North side, it's been an easy transition from Bob Brenly to Jim Deshaies. I'm eager to hear, however, the former Astros analyst handle the weirdness of some of those interviews with seventh-inning stretch guest conductors.

John Danks and Matt Garza. Well ... we're waiting.

No lines, no waiting. Above average baseball at U.S. Cellular Field means small crowds. There's something to be said for elbow room.

Bang for the buck. It's safe to assume that when the Cubs slip to 15 games below .500, tickets which so often have been priced prohibitively will be on blue-light special. Youngsters won't mind that Carlos Marmol still has a roster spot.

Options. Still can't stomach it? There are other things that can prevent the "long summer" being forecast. The Chicago area offers some of the finest public golf courses in the country and fine fishing opportunities. There's theater, great restaurants, outdoor festivals, concerts. Look around.

Anything beats sitting around moping over what was known to be coming in the first place.

Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.