by Kent Sterling
There is no punchline worthy of the beginning of baseball’s best joke – How stupid are Cubs fans?
Scores of sentimental dork sportswriters romanticize this ridiculous bunch. Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times extolled the virtue of the 2.88 million who poured through the turnstyles to watch one of the worst teams in the pathetic history of sports’ most enduring losers.
Again, Cubs fans will pay top dollar to watch a collection of misfits struggle to win 40% of their games. They will watch Alfonso Soriano earn $19-million while refusing to lay off low and away breaking balls. They will watch a third baseman named Luis Valbuena try to improve on his .219 batting average (where’s Gary Scott when the Cubs need him?) And they will enjoy a starting rotation of Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva – the wideout, Mr. Mediocre, who?, who?, and who?.
In the outfield, there is some new blood – a savior named Nate Schierholtz. Career average of .270, and his OBP in six seasons with the Giants and Phillies is a not-so-robust .319. He has 24 career home runs and 20 career steals in nearly 1,400 plate appearance. Can I get an ugh from the corner of Clark and Addison?
The oddity of this Cubs rebuild, which to be fair is required because of the protracted and profound boobery of former general manager Jim Hendry, is that owner Tom Ricketts spent big to hire dream team tandem Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer years before it was necessary.
There are lots of GMs who could take on the task of deconstructing the Cubs bad contract by bad contract. Hire the poor schlub who runs the Royals on the cheap, and once the franchise hits the water table, then grab the staff to build a champion. For 2013 and 2014, Ricketts is paying Ferrari wages for Plymouth results.
And Cubs fans are paying steak prices for tickets, but being served ramen noodles. They smile for the privilege. That makes them idiots.
Steve Goodman wrote folk songs about being a Cubs fan, and fans sing one of them every time the Cubs win a home game. It doesn’t happen often enough. It’s a great song.
In some ways last year, this year, and 2014 will be among the least cruel season for Cubs fans because they have no chance at all of fulfilling the wishes of the most lamented fan bases on the planet.
In the meantime, fans will pay to watch bad baseball. They will buy jerseys that scream at all who see them, “Im an idiot!” And they will dull the pain with an $8 beer every inning of misery.
Somehow, according to a report released last week, the value of the Cubs has increased $150-million since Ricketts bought the team. Part of that value must have been evaluated an a fancy actuarial table that is also used by companies that produce $200 bottles of tequila, bejeweled baby carriages, and $1,700 toilets that look like boxes.
Other baseball fans are no less loyal, but they are rewarded for it. The St. Louis Cardinals have been to the playoffs nine of the last 13 seasons, and have been awarded championship rings twice in that time. Showing that they actually care about their fans, the Cardinals gave away replica rings to fans on two nights last season.
Those rings are regularly sold on ebay for $60-$80. That is how a team says thank you to fans, and the Cardinals do it 25,000 fans at a crack, while the Cubs dispense trinkets at a meager 10K per game.
That’s beside the point as the on-field product is what matters, and bribing fans to watch horrible baseball would be as unseemly as charging the prices the Cubs do for that honor.
Down deep, way down deep, there is part of me that remains a Cubs fan, but the way the Ricketts run this franchise and abuse Wrigley Field as a movie theater made it quite easy to become an admirer of the Cardinals. They routinely do things on the field and off with pride and grace.
The only grace the Cubs have shown in the last 20 years is spending his nights in a work released camp in Arizona after his second DWI in less than two year, and is named Mark.
Cubs fans should stay home until Ricketts uses their hard-earned cash to put together an onfield product worthy of their investment.