Newspaper article International New York Times

In Chicago, Hopes Are Highest on South Side ; Cubs Got the Headlines, but It's White Sox That Have Improved Most

Newspaper article International New York Times

In Chicago, Hopes Are Highest on South Side ; Cubs Got the Headlines, but It's White Sox That Have Improved Most

Article excerpt

Both the Cubs and White Sox had a 73-89 record in 2014, after at least 96 losses in 2013. But only the White Sox have made themselves significantly better this offseason.

David Robertson did not know who would chase him in free agency, and he did not think much about it.

"When you get to the off-season, teams are trading guys all over the place, different jobs open up in different places, so I didn't know who was going to call," Robertson said Tuesday, on the phone from Chicago, where he was introduced as the new closer for the White Sox.

"But this is one of those cities you really enjoy being in. My wife always traveled with me when we came here. It's a baseball town."

So it is, and not just on the North Side, where the Cubs are renovating their antique ballpark to greet a new manager and ace starter on April 5, for the opening night of the baseball season. The White Sox open up the next day, in Kansas City, where the Royals will raise the American League championship flag.

The White Sox believe they can hoist the next one, and they seem better poised than the Cubs to bring a World Series to Chicago, at least in 2015. Both teams start from the same point: a 73-89 record in 2014, after at least 96 losses in 2013. But only the White Sox have made themselves significantly better.

For all the hype about the Cubs -- including a close-up of their new $155 million starter, Jon Lester, on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated -- they are not much different than they were in the first half of last season. The Cubs' rotation began then with an All-Star starter (Jeff Samardzija) and Jason Hammel. They traded those pitchers to Oakland in July, and last week re-signed Hammel and a different All-Star (Lester).

Of course, the Cubs have a better manager now, Joe Maddon, and traded for a dependable catcher in Miguel Montero. Their dynamic young players are closer to breaking through. And there was symbolism Tuesday in their signing of Jason Motte, who closed out the last World Series title for the rival St. Louis Cardinals.

But consider how Rick Hahn, the White Sox' general manager, has remade his team. He fortified a weak bullpen by signing a top left- hander, Zach Duke, and Robertson, who seamlessly replaced Mariano Rivera as the Yankees' closer last season. …

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