Where's the hope?
THEY MIGHT NOT BE PLAYOFF CONTENDERS, BUT CUBS SHOW PROMISE
So they have that going for them.
But in all seriousness, while Cubs management and most educated fans were not counting on a playoff contender emerging this summer, there are certainly concrete reasons to be optimistic and actually enjoy this season so far.
Watching Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro at the plate on a daily basis is entertaining on its own. Both All-Star candidates, LaHair is batting .339 with 21 runs batted in, 10 home runs and is second in the league in slugging percentage at .688 going into Thursday. And oh yes, he also reached base in 32 straight games before the string was snapped on Wednesday.
And despite bunting into a double play Monday, something many would argue he should not have been asked to do in the first place, Castro is hitting .322 with 22 RBIs and is tied for fourth in the league in hits with 49.
The Cubs starting pitchers, or at least Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Jeff Samardzija -- who is really getting fun to watch -- are pitching consistently well and giving the team a legitimate chance each time out.
While the Cubs are tied for last place in the NL Central, six games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, they are 7-7 in May, which is the second-best record in the division. They're not exactly out of it, which most of us predicted would be the case by now.
You want signs of optimism?
Anthony Rizzo is batting .359 with 37 RBIs, 13 home runs and a .704 slugging percentage at Triple-A Iowa. Whenever Rizzo arrives in Chicago -- and reportedly it could be very soon -- LaHair may have to be moved to the outfield. Where he goes will be a debate only good teams engage in.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
RIDING BOUNCE-BACK SEASONS, WHITE SOX SHOULD CONTEND ALL SEASON
If next-to-nobody watches the Chicago White Sox compete at U.S. Cellular Field, does that mean they won't make noise in the AL Central?
Through 38 games, the White Sox are struggling to find a foothold, especially at the bottom of the order, but the third-place team is very much in the race for the division. It's only mid-May, so that's not saying much, but in a better division they'd be buried. The AL Central is the only one where, going into Wednesday's games, no team had a positive run differential. The Sox's minus-1 (150-151) was the best in the division.
With abysmal attendance, there doesn't seem to be a financial cavalry to bolster the team's deficiencies this summer, but as Tom Thibodeau says on the West Side, the Sox should have more than enough to win the Central. The Cubs are mired in last place in their division.
Dime-store logic predicted the Sox could win this season if Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy had bounce-back seasons. All three are doing just that. Dunn looks like himself, all homers and strikeouts, Rios has been decent, and Peavy very good.
The Sox are struggling thanks to an unreliable bullpen, a poor start from John Danks, and almost no hitting after the top four in the lineup. Brent Morel can field, but I'd rather have Robin Ventura at the plate. Today's Ventura.
The bullpen has been an issue as well. The overall ERA isn't bad, but there's no clear closer, and Sox relievers have given up 15 homers, second-worst in baseball, and blown six saves. But I expect an improvement as guys settle into their roles in the next month.
If the Sox stay healthy and actually win a few games in a row, this team will be in the hunt through August. Can the Cubs say that? No.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.