CHICAGO – A new-look crosstown series between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs this week figures to maintain the old energy despite growing fan indifference as plenty of seats remain available for all of the games.
Multiple series that used to sell out before the final snow had melted might be played this week with more empty seats than ever before.
Because of a schedule change, the annual city grudge match will be reduced from six games to four this season with a pair of two-game series happening back-to-back this week.
The White Sox get first chance to play host when they welcome the Cubs to U.S. Cellular Field on Monday and Tuesday nights. On Wednesday and Thursday the series moves north to Wrigley Field for a pair of day games.
Other than that, there should be a similar feel to the games as last year when the White Sox were trying to live up to expectations, while the Cubs were trying to find an identity in the midst of a rebuilding project. Those factors are key when analyzing declining attendance for the games.
The White Sox are not anticipating a sellout for either of the games at U.S. Cellular Field unless walk-up ticket sales are more brisk than usual. The White Sox did have nearly 2,600 in walk-up ticket sales Sunday, their best of the season.
Both crowds at U.S. Cellular Field this week are still expected to be over 30,000, something the White Sox have only done once this season when 39,012 were on hand for Opening Day.
At Wrigley Field, a check of the team’s online ticket sales site on Sunday afternoon showed tickets available for all sections, including the bleachers for both games.
For those playing in the games, the series will be the same. They will head into the opener as just another matchup but will realize it’s much more than that when they feel the energy of crowds that still figure to be buzzing despite the smaller numbers.
“I think it’s fun for everyone,” Adam Dunn said. “It’s fun for the fans, but it’s a lot of fun for us. I know that the stadium will have electricity and it will be pretty much of a playoff atmosphere.”
Dunn said his desire to beat the Cubs blossomed long before he signed a contract with the White Sox.
“The thing is, when I was coming up that was kind of our rival in Cincinnati so it’s something that is definitely not new to me,” Dunn said.
White Sox closer Addison Reed grew up on Angels-Dodgers interleague games in the Los Angeles area, but said that fans in Chicago give White Sox-Cubs games an added layer of intensity.
“Those (Dodgers-Angels) games were the most fun to go to because the intensity was a little bit higher and fans were more into it,” Reed said. “Last year, it was awesome playing the Cubs and I’m looking forward to it.”
What the White Sox are far more excited about, though, is the fact that they will head into the games against the Cubs playing a much better brand of baseball than earlier in the year. Sunday’s victory over the Miami Marlins was their ninth in their past 12 games and fifth in six games.
“It's nice that we get four days where we're going to be at home,” manager Robin Ventura said. “As far as two (at each ballpark), that's just the way the schedule is. It's been a little wacky this year as far as the interleague stuff. We had interleague our first road trip. It's been a little odd, but they're fun games. I think the fans enjoy them and it's great for the city so we're looking forward to it.”