The next few days are important not just for our beloved Cubs and the reviled White Sox, who will play three games on the South Side, but also for several other teams with natural rivals. These pairings so enrich the experience of watching Major League Baseball that they justify enduring the less enriching matchups, like the Braves vs. the Blue Jays or the Angels vs. the Nationals. Don't believe me? Ask Bud Selig.
In addition to the Cubs/Sox showdown this weekend, the Cardinals will travel to Kansas City, the Giants will visit Oakland, the Angels will play the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, the Orioles will meet the Nationals in D.C., and the Mets will host the Yankees (after the Yanks host the first half of a two-stadium day/night doubleheader on Friday afternoon; why does everything have to be so complicated in New York?).
Whenever this "natural rival" aspect of interleague play comes up, my stomach turns, because it's the very reason the Cubs are matched up every season in two series against the generally respectable White Sox, while the Cubs' most bitter in-division rival, the Cardinals, are annually pitted against the never-respectable Royals.
How much of an advantage has that been for the Cardinals over the Cubs? Since interleague play began in 1997, it has been an advantage for Saint Loo...but not nearly as much as I would have thought.
Here is a look at how NL teams have fared against their natural AL rivals, with team wins in parens. (Sorry, though the Padres and Mariners have forged some sort of interleague relationship, I do not consider it "natural." Baseball's version of an arranged marriage, if you will. Also, the Orioles and Nationals would qualify as natural rivals...if I recognized the Nationals as an actual Major League franchise, which I do not.)
Cubs (33) vs. White Sox (30)
Reds (25) vs. Indians (29)
Marlins (35) vs. Rays (26)
Astros (25) vs. Rangers (23)
Dodgers (28) vs. Angels (37)
Brewers (22) vs. Twins (27)
Mets (27) vs. Yankees (35)
Giants (28) vs. Athletics (37)
Cardinals (26) vs. Royals (22)
Heading into this year's interleague derby, things were a little more skewed between the Cubs and Cards, since the all-time series between the Cubs and White Sox was tied at 30-30, while the Cardinals held a 7-win advantage in their all-time series with the Royals. The Cubs' sweep and the fact that the Cards were swept by K.C. in mid-June have managed to level the difference a bit.