Today, the Chicago Cubs have a better record than their South Side counterparts and better promise for the (near) future, including chances to win their respective division and possibly contend for a world title, doing so with a majority of players who have already won one.
But it would almost be impossible not to give the first half MVP of Chicago baseball to anyone outside of the White Sox’s club house. Surely, the Sox in many ways do not match up to the Cubs, but the crosstown rivals matched in two important ways — in wins and losses against each other (each team going 2-2 in Crosstown Classic games) and in All-Star selections.
In spite of the Cubs having seemingly a much-more national fan base and the residual fame of the 2016 World Champs existing with its three selections (Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez) — among others like Anthony Rizzo, who came close but didn’t make the trip to Cleveland — the much more upstart Sox got the same number of American League selections as the Cubs got in the National.
To look at the Sox selections (Jose Abreu, James McCann, Lucas Giolito) is to see two arguable reclamation projects and a “where did he come from?” story in McCann. The combined efforts of the South Side All-Stars along with several more plucky and emerging talents (Eloy Jimenez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, etc.) have led this team to a 42-47 record through 89 games – through the same number of games last year the Sox were 30-59.
It’s so clear that the Sox are a better team this year that it should be assumed that Rick Renteria would win a straw poll for Chicago Manager of the Year (a tasty turnaround for the former Cubs skipper to say the least) assuming that the Sox not have a horrific second half (that horrible weekend sweep in Oakland aside…)
A vote for the entire season MVP of the Chi could be a bit thornier as the Cubs will certainly be playing in more important games from here on out, and whether or not the North Siders will be able to enjoy any type of October run will surely fall to the likes of Baez, Bryant and Contreras as well as their often-shaky pitching staff.
But for a first half award we had to show love to the Sox and specifically to now-established ace Giolito, who returns to the mound this evening against Kansas City after sitting out an all-star game that he could have started in most years.
Speaking first on behalf of our first half MVP, who scored three of five votes from our WARR selection committee,* is Demonze Spruiel of the D & Davis Show:
(Giolito is) starting the second half of the baseball with a 11-3 record and a 3.15 ERA — the best in Chicago, top 10 in MLB, and one of the main building blocks of the White Sox rebuild. Giolito is pitching with confidence and might push the White Sox to be buyers during the trade deadline and make a run at a Wild Card spot.
WARR co-founder Sean Terry notes with some irony that Giolito was selected four spots after failed White Sox draft pick Courtney Hawkins in 2012. After eventually getting traded to the Sox from the Nationals, Gio has blossomed under the tutelage of legendary Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and has progressed on his own schedule along with a team that has a fraction of the expectations he would have likely been burdened with in Washington D.C. Says Terry:
League-wide that new juicy ball is jumping out of the park, frustrating pitchers to no end – yet Giolito touts a meager 3.15 era while only succumbing nine long balls to go along with a 3:1 K/BB ratio.
To take the next level in a rebuild and go from doormat to relevance, a surprise from within typically has to happen. To go from relevant commodity to bona fide champion contender, an ace needs to surface. It appears the White Sox are well on their way to checking off both boxes with the emergence of one Lucas Giolito. Cheers to visionary riches and a second half that matches the first.
Tonight we’ll get a glimpse into whether or not young Giolito can continue to carry the Sox to more improvement and himself to the middle of the AL Cy Young discussion. Such a development would certainly keep Gio in the conversation of Most Valuable Chicago baseball player for 2019 as well.
Let’s also show some love to the players who also got votes. First, Baez, who surprisingly got a vote from arguably our most devoted Sox fan, Chris Pennant:
Baez has hardly lost a step from his season last year, when he finished just behind Christian Yelich in MVP voting, and his stats back it up: his OPS is .881, identical to last season, and he’s on pace to hit 40 homers with 114 RBI. Add that to his defense (only 10 errors) and the fact that the Cubs are only aiiight this season, and Baez should get a lot of credit for keeping them afloat.
Another devoted South Sider, Sidney Brown, stayed with the home team but surprisingly went with Tim Anderson, who does stand to argue that he had the highest-profile first half in Chicago baseball. Sid cites Anderson as a team leader and an emotional igniter on a team that needed inspiration coming into 2019:
Tim’s turnaround (.317 AVG, 11 HR, 37 RBI) this year is night and day compared to a season ago (.240 AVG, 20 HR, 64 RBI in 153 games) despite being injured with a sprained ankle.
Although the Sox haven’t missed a beat offensively (during the injury), Anderson’s impact is felt and it’s a part of the team’s DNA. It’s clear to see now that Tim is ready to be one of the faces of the franchise moving forward.
*Voters: Demonze Spruiel (Giolito), Sean Terry (Giolito), Chris Pennant (Baez), Sidney Brown (Anderson) and Kyle Means (Giolito).
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