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Who leads the American League in homers? The south-siders' first baseman, Jose Abreu, with 29.
Who leads the National League in homers? The north-siders' first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, with 25.
Knock on northern white ash, both players should be swatting the ball out of sight in Chicago for years. Abreu, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound rookie from Cuba, is 27; Rizzo, who's 6-foot-3 and 240 and in his third year with the Cubs, won't turn 25 until next month.
Abreu has amassed his 29 homers—and 23 doubles as well—despite missing two weeks at the end of May because of a sore ankle. His .618 slugging percentage leads the majors. Rizzo's slugging percentage, .539, is fifth in the NL. He walks more than Abreu (55 bases on balls for Rizzo, only 23 for Abreu), and so has the higher on base percentage (.389 to .340). Abreu is hitting .292 with 74 RBI, Rizzo .285 with 55 RBI.
Chicago baseball fans have been brought to their feet by many powerful first basemen through the years. Frank Thomas, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday, hit 448 homers for the White Sox; Paul Konerko, who will retire after this season, has hit 432. Dick Allen only played three seasons for the south-siders, 1972 through 1974, but led the AL in homers and slugging in two of them. Ernie Banks, a shortstop his first nine seasons and a first baseman the last ten, belted 512 homers for the Cubs. In his memorable 2005 season, Derrek Lee slammed 46 homers (second to Atlanta's Andruw Jones, who had 51), led the NL in slugging, at .662, and hit .335.
Konerko hit 40 homers the year Lee hit his 46. The number of big league homers has declined significantly over the last decade, from 5,017 in 2005 to 4,661 last season—and the rate is down even more this year. That makes it all the more impressive that Abreu is on pace to hit 46 this season, Rizzo 41.
So if your friends or family in another city try razzing you about this year's Sox and Cubs, remind them that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how many long balls your main man swats.