The San Francisco Giants (remember them?) may have won the World Series in 2014, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the hype a certain Northside team is getting.
The Chicago Cubs are opening the 2015 season Sunday Night with a nationally televisied game against the archrival St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN2 (Sunday night games are usually on ESPN, but this week’s game is being bumped due to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.)
The Cubs have leapt from also-rans to championship contenders this season, with the addition of manager Joe Madden and ace pitcher Jon Lester. In addition, fans are getting a new look Wrigley, with a new multi-million dollar videoboard in left-field and new bleachers being constructed, though those won’t be ready until at least June.
And as you know by now, the team’s media lineup is changing as well. CBS-owned WBBM-AM has replaced WGN-AM as the team’s longtime radio partner, carrying all 162 games starting Sunday night, ushering in a new era. Another new Cubs era takes place on the television side, where ABC-owned WLS-TV begins carrying 24 games starting with a 1:20 p.m. afternoon game Wednesday against St. Louis. Pre-empted programming (General Hospital, Jeopardy!) will air in the wee hours of the morning after the day’s game, while Rachael Ray (which is on the fence for renewal next season at WLS) won’t air at all.
Meanwhile, WGN-TV has cut the number of Cubs games it is carrying to only 45, with the season debut taking place Tuesday afternoon, and no Cub (or White Sox) games are airing on WGN America this season. Instead, WGN has put together a regional ad-hoc network of stations in Illinois and surrounding areas to carry the games. Five Cubs games are also airing on Fox-owned WPWR.
The White Sox will start their season on the road in Kansas City, but open at home against
Cleveland Minnesota on April 10.
And if that weren’t enough, in addition to the Cubs-Cardinals game opening Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues play an important game to determine playoff position in the Western Conference this Sunday night on NBC SN, starting at 6:30 p.m., an half-hour before the Cubs opener. The Bulls play earlier in the day against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavilers in ABC’s “Sunday Showcase.” Both the Bulls and Blackhawks have clinched playoff spots.
Plus, don’t forget the NFL Draft is coming to town for the first time in 50-or so years later this month.
The month of April promises to be a great time for Chicago sports fans. And the best part about it? No mention of the words “Jay” or “Cutler”.