Chicago baseball: Why the ‘Crosstown Cup’ isn’t working

The two professional baseball franchises in Chicago, the Cubs and White Sox, have played against each other many times over the years; from their annual interleague series since 1997 (including Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski in the face), to their charity games from 1985-1995, and also the 1906 World Series.

crosstown cup, chicago cubs, chicago white sox

The ‘Crosstown Cup’ trophy. Look at all of those name plates!

Ever since the 2010 season their yearly match ups have been referred to as the ‘Crosstown Cup’, and the team that wins the series even gets a trophy to show for it! But despite the fancy name and trophy, this series does very little to demand attention from fans.

This article by Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue discusses not only this series, but the “natural rivalries” that are used in the current interleague play format. This, as well as some of the comments on this article, was the inspiration and basis for this post.

Problems

A couple of the biggest problems with the set up of this year’s series was summarized in five words: “early in the season weeknight.” What exactly does that mean? With these games being played at the beginning of May, that means that school is in session for most students (including college kids), and a lot of adults would likely not attend a night game if they have to work the next day. I understand that the teams themselves have minimal control over the scheduling of the series, but to increase the possible revenue from this series it needs to be scheduled in the middle of summer on a weekend (with the weekend aspect being more important). A summer series means that parents can take their kiddos out to the ballpark and not have to worry about anybody being sleepy during school/work the next day.

Another scheduling problem that I have with this series is the number of games that are played. Before the ‘Crosstown Cup’ was christened the teams played two three-game series – one at each team’s home park – and that was perfectly fine, in my opinion. 2010-12 saw the same format, and the last two meetings (including this year) had four games played in a row also split between the two parks. These formats are problematic because if one maths correctly that comes out to an even number of games being played, which means that there is a decent chance that no one could win the treasured trophy. Thankfully, these teams have not split a series since the ‘Crosstown Cup’ was introduced, but I would feel much better if that was not a possibility to begin with.

Possible Solution

In his article Al lists a possible change in scheduling that would allow for teams to play against more opposing clubs, but eliminates the yearly Cubs-White Sox match up. Instead, I’m going to combine his scheduling proposal with one made in the comments by ‘imacubman':

  • 18 games vs. teams in your own division: 72 games
  • 6 games vs. teams in other divisions in your league: 60 games
  • 3 games vs. one division in the other league: 30 games, rotating the divisions so that a team will face a given division once every three years.

In my plan the ‘Crosstown Cup’ falls into the last group of games and would continue to be played annually, regardless of which division the teams would be scheduled to play. If the Cubs are scheduled to play against AL Central teams, then they would still play just three games against the White Sox. I think that this set up would be easier to implement since baseball’s current interleague system already uses this rotating divisions concept.

If I were making the schedule so that this series got an increased opportunity for exposure/revenue, then I would make it a three-game series on a weekend in either June or July (to increase the potential for attendance). This way would eliminate the possibility of a series tie, and more people would be likely to attend since school and work schedules would be less of an issue for fans. It doesn’t seem like one specific thing is causing the lack of interest in this series. There are plenty of different ways that the ‘Crosstown Cup’ could be improved (including the quality of the teams). I would like to continue seeing the crosstown rivals play against each other every year, and hopefully the two franchises will try to do something to bring back the excitement.

For more Cubs news and notes, check out their team page here at isportsweb.