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Column: 10 things to watch for this weekend during Round 2 of the City Series between the Cubs and White Sox

Major League Baseball whiffed three times when it came to scheduling the annual City Series between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.

Not only did MLB neglect to schedule a Friday game at Sox Park, it inserted both rounds too early in the 2022 schedule and only three weeks apart.

For that, the schedule-makers deserve the golden sombrero.

Nevertheless, the games will be played, so here are 10 things to watch for this weekend.

1. The Cubs and Sox combined to give up 36 runs on 39 hits Thursday. But both teams used a position player in relief — even with an off day Friday and nine-man bullpens. So managers Tony La Russa and David Ross should have a full complement of rested relievers Saturday.

2. Cubs rookie Christopher Morel is expected to make his City Series debut. In nine games since being called up from Double A, Morel has two home runs, a .313 average and a .968 OPS. He also has played flawlessly at short, second, third and center field and could be the Cubs’ best starting option at all four positions.

General manager Carter Hawkins was at Triple-A Iowa last week and told the Des Moines Register the farm system was “on the up and up.” OK, then let’s see them at Wrigley this summer. If Morel’s brief success has proved anything, it’s that Cubs fans would rather watch kids develop than journeymen such as Jonathan Villar going through the motions, as he did Thursday. Villar reached on an errant throw as he jogged to first on a grounder, sending the wrong message.

3. If the rivalry were as heated as it used to be, the Cubs would’ve started Marcus Stroman on Sunday on his normal rest. The Sox rank 24th in the majors with a .228 average against right-handed pitching and fourth against left-handers at .258. Instead of throwing two right-handers, the Cubs will start Keegan Thompson on Saturday and lefty Wade Miley on Sunday. Ross has a 1-7 record versus La Russa.

4. Marquee Sports Network’s spin on censoring criticism of team President Jed Hoyer on “The Reporters” seems to have worked. Sunday’s episode will be hosted by WSCR-AM 670 personality Danny Parkins, who sources said will discuss the decision by the network to halt taping of this week’s episode because of a bogus “technical issue” before telling reporters not to return to the subject of Hoyer’s alleged lack of “transparency” when retaping the segment.

Will Marquee admit to censoring reporters after initially lying about the reason to stop taping?

When former Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal tweeted “The Reporters” was a “sham” and that any media outlet looking for credibility should avoid reporters making appearances, Parkins’ responded on Twitter by calling it “laughably ridiculous,” adding: “Good to know you went your entire career without making a mistake.”

Censoring criticism of team management on any team-run station is disturbing in any media market and bad for baseball. But Marquee pays panelists $500 and won’t have trouble finding guests. Money talks. Check your journalistic ethics at the door.

5. Luis Robert’s stint on the COVID-19 injured list was ill-timed for the Sox. Robert has four home runs in nine games against the Cubs with a .412 average and 1.311 OPS. La Russa said Tuesday that he jumped in Lake Michigan when he heard Robert would be out.

“If I survived it, I thought, well, we can survive (without) Robert,” he said. “We barely did.”

A reporter told La Russa the lake was “kind of cold” for jumping in.

“I’m a wuss,” he replied.

6. The first rule of Fight Club is there is no Fight Club. The Sox once avoided Saturday night games in the City Series to avoid fan incidents.

During the first round at Wrigley Field, Sox analyst Frank Thomas said the word around baseball was MLB decided to reduce heated interleague rivalries from six games to four to reduce fighting and ugly incidents. We’ll find out Saturday if there was any reason for concern.

7. “If people want to write me off, that’s OK.” Those were the words of Sox starter Dallas Keuchel on Thursday after getting shelled from the get-go in a 16-7 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Consider it done. If Keuchel isn’t moved to mop-up-man duties by the end of this weekend, La Russa has some explaining to do.

8. The White Sox unveiled billboards this week touting Tim Anderson as “The Face of Baseball.” He is shown shushing New York Yankees fans after Sunday’s ninth-inning home run at Yankee Stadium. Another billboard simply reads: “Baseball Needs More Tim Andersons.” Actually baseball couldn’t handle another player as open as Anderson. Sox fans should be glad they have the real deal.

9. Anderson and Ozzie Guillén shook hands Tuesday, ending their beef after Anderson told the former Sox manager and NBC Sports Chicago analyst to “STFU” in a tweet.

Guillén didn’t really have a beef with Anderson and actually was criticizing La Russa for sitting the team’s best hitter in the second game of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals. Anderson seemingly took it as a personal shot. The incident was forgotten by the time Josh Donaldson disrespected Anderson by calling him Jackie Robinson.

10. Ross’ streak of being ejected two straight games will be on the line. Has any Cubs manager been thrown out of three straight games? This is where we really miss Les Grobstein.


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