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Crosstown rivalry has changed, but still intense

Crosstown rivalry has changed, but still intense

CLEVELAND -- Paul Konerko and John Danks, the two most senior White Sox players currently on the roster, admit the Cubs/White Sox Interleague rivalry isn't quite what it once was.

Maybe that rivalry changed in 2003, when the Cubs came within five outs of reaching the World Series. It definitely changed when the White Sox swept Houston for the 2005 championship and city bragging rights.

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"When I first got here [in 1999], the focus was -- I think some of our fans might have even felt that winning the season series against the Cubs almost is more important than making the playoffs, which is crazy," Konerko said. "That was kind of the sentiment: If you beat them, then we don't care about the rest.

"Just make sure you beat the Cubs. But I think as both teams made the playoffs a couple of times or we won the World Series, we had our sights set on bigger things, and so did they."

This Interleague battle begins again on Monday night, with two games at Wrigley Field, followed by two games at U.S. Cellular Field. The Crosstown Cup will be decided by May 8, which seems a little weird to those on the South Side.

"It shouldn't be in May. It should be in June or July," Konerko said. "That heightens it."

"You never know when it's the right time to have them, but you feel like the season is just really getting started and you're having this," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of the earliest meeting between these two teams. "It's fun. It might be good for us, at the right time."

The crazy atmosphere amidst these contests might have been knocked down a notch. But the Cubs vs. White Sox games still carry a different feel than any other game outside of the postseason.

"Obviously, you try to go about it like you would any other game," said Danks, who will pitch Wednesday. "It feels different when you roll into Wrigley and both fan bases are there and it's a fun game to play in. It really is. Hopefully, we do a little better this year."

"It's not exactly the playoffs, but it's not exactly regular-season games, either," Konerko said. "It feels different. Most players look forward to that, because it kind of gets you out of that rut of just playing games every single day."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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