MESA, Ariz. — Joe Maddon has been a part of forced and real rivalries, and a year into it sees Cubs-White Sox falling into the latter category.
A standing-room-only crowd of 15,417 showed up to Sloan Park on Saturday for the 2016’s first Crosstown game, even if it came in a laid-back Cactus League setting with the Cubs playing only a handful of regulars. But there were loud cheers for Dexter Fowler’s solo home run off Erik Johnson, and fans successfully urged someone to lob Avisail Garcia’s seventh inning home run back on to the field.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
The Cubs won Saturday, 9-2.
“I think, I went through the Angels and Dodgers, which I thought was a legitimate rivalry,” Maddon, who previously was the Angels’ bench coach and Rays’ manager, said. “For years, they were trying to make the Rays versus the Marlins a rivalry, which I thought was contrived and wasn’t necessarily true. Obviously the Cubs and White Sox are real.
[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
As both the Cubs and White Sox struggled to win games, the rivalry cooled a bit. But the Cubs’ 97-win 2015 season helped rekindle it on both sides of town, and if the White Sox are even close to being the best team in the American League (as USA Today boldly projected), there should be some sizzle to this year’s four-game Crosstown series.
“I really think that’s pretty cool,” Maddon said. “It’s legit, and I’m glad that it’s there. You grew up where I did and it was all these rivalries in high school that I loved and collegiately all these rivalries, I think they’re wonderful for any sport. It’s legit. It’s not contrived, and that’s why I appreciate it.”