Picture this: It’s Friday, Sept. 25 at Guaranteed Rate Field. We’ve somehow made it to the final weekend of the abbreviated 2020 MLB season without further interruption. The White Sox and Cubs both can clinch a playoff spot if the weekend goes well.
And they’re playing each other.
At this point, the logistics of the still unannounced schedule are unclear. We learned Wednesday that the White Sox will play the Cardinals in the Field of Dreams Game in Dyersville, Iowa. Otherwise, we just know that the White Sox are only playing teams from the two Central divisions – 40 against the A.L. Central and 20 against the N.L. Central. Conventional math would tell you that means the White Sox will play four games each against the five N.L. Central opponents, but USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the White Sox and Cubs will play six games against each other.
There is some logic to this, as it reduces some time spent on the road. Instead of playing home-and-home series against all five cross-divisional opponents, it could (hypothetically) look something like this:
4 home games vs N.L. Central Opponent 1
3 home games vs N.L. Central Opponent 2
3 home games vs N.L. Central Rival
4 road games at N.L. Central Opponent 3
3 road games at N.L. Central Opponent 4
3 road games at N.L. Central Rival
If each team didn’t have at least one home-and-home against a cross-divisional opponent, then the home/road games wouldn’t be even. And by making it two three-game series instead of two-game series, it chops off at least one day spent in a hotel for the eight teams located in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area that can play each other with players commuting from their own homes. Plus, it creates two more intriguing games on the schedule for all teams.
I’ll admit, this is all a little confusing – scheduling always is – but what’s not confusing is this: the White Sox and Cubs should play each other to end the season.
Because there’s an odd number of teams in each division, there are going to have to be six interleague series played on the final weekend of the season. One A.L. Central team is going to have to be playing one N.L. Central team. The guess here is that MLB is going to want traditional three-game series on the final weekend, which means we’re likely going to see one of the following series in the final weekend:
Which one would you pick?
Yes, the White Sox-Cubs rivalry has been pretty dull as of late, but Eloy Jimenez did his part to stoke the flames a little bit with his game-winning two-run home run against his former team at Wrigley Field in 2019. For the White Sox, it was the highlight of another rebuilding season, but all signs point to them being more competitive in this 60-game sprint. It is completely conceivable that both the White Sox and Cubs will be playing for a playoff spot in late September.
Plus, now that we know the White Sox are facing the Cardinals, and not the Cubs, in the Field of Dreams Game, ending the season with a Sox-Cubs series is a way to give the rivalry a little more juice.
Schedule-making is always a guessing game and in baseball, the schedule usually comes out a full year in advance. In this case, MLB gets to play with a 60-game schedule on short notice and they better be making it as intriguing as possible.
So what’s better than White Sox-Cubs to close the year? Even if one of the two teams falls out of contention, that series would still get eyeballs and mean something in Chicago.
It seems like a no-brainer.