CSNChicago.com is taking a look back at what turned out to be a memorable year in the Windy City, by counting down the 13 biggest Chicago sports stories of 2013. Check back each day to see what other storylines were good enough to make the list.
This year’s most antagonizing moment in the Cubs-White Sox rivalry came when Matt Garza walked out of the bullpen and strolled down the right-field line…in the middle of the first inning.
Flanked by two Cubs coaches, Garza forced everyone at U.S Cellular Field to stop play for a few extra moments on July 8 after a 29-minute rain delay.
“They gave me 20 minutes to get loose,” said Garza, the winning pitcher in an 8-2 victory. “So if anything, that’s their fault. They ran in at 7:15 to tell us we’re starting at 7:30 and we had to argue and say: ‘No, we don’t even have time to get loose.’ That’s just them trying to rush. I’m not going to mess up my system just because they want to rush me to the mound. It’s a makeup game. It’s not like it was Game 7 and we were delayed three or four times.”
Yeah, it wasn’t exactly a playoff atmosphere on the South Side. The Cubs and White Sox lost 195 games last season and generated almost no buzz around the city. They watched the Blackhawks party with the Stanley Cup and became filler until the Bears opened training camp in Bourbonnais. Neither team had a soap-opera star like Derrick Rose.
Garza got traded to the Texas Rangers two weeks later, part of another summer sell-off on the North Side. Alfonso Soriano – one of the few remaining symbols from Tribune Co.’s win-now mandate – got shipped back to the New York Yankees. Manager Dale Sveum – the handpicked choice of Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer – got fired with one guaranteed year left on his contract.
The only guarantee on the South Side was the White Sox finding a way to play some of the worst baseball in franchise history on a daily basis.
An atrocious offense produced only 598 runs, the team’s fewest in any season since strike-shortened 1981. So that means, yes, the White Sox scored more runs (633) during the strike-shortened, 113-game season in 1994.
The defense went from tied for the best in the majors in 2012 to one of the game’s worst a year later. Whether it was routine grounders kicking off gloves, infielders colliding on routine pop-ups or outfielders overrunning balls, the Sox committed 121 errors.
Comcast SportsNet’s stats guru Chris Kamka ran the numbers and quantified just how bad this baseball season was in Chicago:
• The 195 losses are the most combined by both teams. The previous high was 191 in 1948.
• The .398 combined winning percentage trailed only that 1948 season (.376).
• Cubs and White Sox fans saw 94 home losses in 2013, which eclipsed the previous high of 90 in 1948.
• The Cubs set a new franchise record for home losses in a season with 50. They had 49 in 1962, 1966 and 1974.
• The White Sox set a new franchise record for road losses with 55. Their previous mark was 54 in 1969.
• The Cubs finished with a .238 team batting average that was their lowest since 1981 (.236) and their lowest over a full season since 1965. They scored 602 runs, their lowest total over a full season since 1992.
While the Cubs are waiting for a farm system that Baseball America has ranked as one of the best in the game, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has done his best to distance the club from last season and start fresh with a new core in 2014.
Beginning with four trades in July and August, Hahn has reshaped the team’s roster. First it was the Avisail Garcia deal, then signing Cuban free agent Jose Abreu and trading for outfielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson. All will be 27 or younger on Opening Day.
Colorful characters like Ozzie and Lou and Big Z and A.J. are no longer part of a rivalry that has become pretty boring. With all these new faces on both sides of town, maybe someone will pick a fight in 2014 and become the new villain.
Top 13 stories of 2013
6. Historically bad season for Cubs and White Sox