The Black Line: The confidence of Cub fans remained relatively stable last week, brushing off the bad news that spark plug Mark Grudzielanek will be out for a month with the fracture of the fifth metacarpal of the right hand. Bad timing there, as we’ve seen a marked increase in reasonable pronunciations of his last name. The good news is Dusty Baker will have one less white guy on the field during the late summer heat. Oddly, disciples of sabermetrics had predicted that six-fingered Antonio Alfonseca was more likely to fracture a metacarpal as he has 20% more of them to break.

The White Line: The Sox Confidence Index has had more steep accents and precipitous declines than a 500-Level Comiskular beer vendor at the All-Star Game (the All-Star Game marking the only time a beer vendor has ever been to the upper deck of that park). Now within striking distance of the division lead, the Sox play host to the Kansas City Royals, who return to town just as Governor Blagojevich approves stiff penalties for individuals convicted of “disrupting live sporting events.” Sox fans could argue that shirtless, drunken father-son tag teams from Alsip tumbling over the first-base railing are only marginally more disruptive than the sight of Billy Koch jogging in from the bullpen.

Partial List of Factors Influencing the Chart:

Wins. Streaks. Attendance. Walk-up. Average front-page story position in the dailies. Whininess of sports-radio callers. Uninterested parties’ unaided response to specific trivia questions. Logo merchandise worn by criminals in “perp walks.” Percentage of (Wrigleyville/Bridgeport) tavern TVs with the volume turned up. Bobble-head prices on eBay. Negative and positive adjective counts in Letters to the Editor. Total Google results found for term “cubs suck” versus term “sox suck.” A bunch of other proprietary qualitative and quantitative research and polling data.