by Kent Sterling
It’s hard to know who to be more pissed off at – the idiots who continue to pay retail to watch horrible baseball in Wrigley Field, or the morally bankrupt ownership who continues to charge among the highest prices in baseball for a product they know is incapable of a reasonable facsimile of success.
By listening to fans and media in Chicago, you would think that winning is impossible for the Cubs without another three years of losing.
The media applaud the incredible work done by the Cubs brass to sign four of the top 23 international prospects – including the top two – while the team is an overwhelming failure for the fifth straight season. They mention quietly that Eloy Jimenez, Erling Moreno, and Gleyber Torres are 16, and top scouts are unsure what their ceilings are or when they might reach the majors (2018 is the most optimistic estimate). Jen-Ho Tseng is 18, and my guess is that he’s two years closer than the other three.
Comcast Sports Chicago shows home runs hit by prospect Javier Baez in AA as though his runs count at Wrigley Field today. Jorge Soler is injured, and fans talk about how this will delay the resurgence of a franchise that has played in the postseason in back-to-back seasons only in years ending in 07 and 08 (1907 and 1908; 2007 and 2008) in the last 106 years.
So as we move toward the 10th anniversary of the most disappointing moment on a long list of disappointing moments for a franchise whose brand is the very embodiment of disappointment, the dynamic duo of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are setting a miraculous standard of soft-selling that is designed to extend their contracts rather than to bring championships to a 100 year-old building that has never experienced one.
That seems to be fine with everyone. Does the acceptance of losing by the team doing the losing absolve them from justifying wildly aggressive ticket prices as they relate to success?
The Cubs are on a pace to lose 92.178 games this season after losing 101 games in 2012. Never before have the Cubs lost more than 193 games in any two consecutive seasons – ever. As bad as the Cubs of the College of Coaches were, they never lost like this era of Cubs might. As horrible a team as the Cubs had in 1999-2000 and 1974-1975, they never lost 194 games. Only once have the Cubs lost 90+ games for three straight years – 1960-1962. That appears to be a likelihood in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
The Cubs front office is applauded by fans and the media for trying something radical – like losing – as though losing has never happened before to the Cubs. No, losing has been tried – in spades. Maybe this is the first time it has become a strategy that is openly discussed, but there have been decades of losing through incompetence that sustained a routine of heartbreak unrivaled in the history of sport.
The supossed young core around which the Cubs will build – Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija, and Edwin Jackson – have been awful. Shouldn’t someone be held accountable for the current train wreck before we celebrate a 2019 World Championship six years early?
Yet Cubs fans and the media are ready to host a parade for Theo and Jed – the duo who finally made hope impossible to justify to a fanbase whose willingness to hope in the face of all logic is their only redeeming virtue.
If longtime Chicago Ford dealer Bert Weinman sold cars by claiming the highest prices and lowest quality, he could open a showroom where the Cubby Bear is and make millions.
I know exactly where I sat for each of the dozens of Cubs games my Dad took me to. I know where I sat to watch games with Nick Anson when we were in high school. The first day our son was allowed to leave our apartment after he was born ill, my wife and I took him to a double header in which – not surprisingly – the Cubs were swept. I know exactly where I sat with Bill, Larry, and other friends in Chicago on so many great afternoons and nights I can’t count them. I mention all that to let you know that Wrigley Field is among my favorite places on the planet.
But I can’t in good conscience watch a game at 1060 West Addison because the evil men running the show are frauds. The owner is a liar who threatened to leave Wrigley Field when he had no interest in doing so. Wrigley Field is the only asset drawing fans through turnstiles, and without it the Cubs would be the Miami Marlins. He also guaranteed a championship if updates to Wrigley were approved. Choose the story that resonates best.
The president and GM are allocating resources to sign school kids whose minor league development will last well into their second contracts. Over three million per year with no chance of winning until year five at the earliest is a hell of a deal for Theo.
In my lifetime, the Cubs have been woeful, mediocre, five outs away, pathetic, thrilling, and moving. I’ve laughed, cried, and died just a little bit at Wrigley Field. As a Cubs fan, I’ve been disappointed, excited, bored, and tortured. But I never felt cheated until Tom Ricketts bought the team.
I knew that being a Cubs fans was a choice that came with risks – like never knowing what it was like to celebrate – but I never felt duped or stupid until Ricketts spoke of living across the street, guaranteed championships, or abandoning Wrigley Field.
There is no doubt that Ricketts is a smart man, but he has one fatal flaw – he thinks Cubs fans are all idiots.
I wish one person in Chicago would stand up and say so. Where’s Mike Royko when we need him?