On Friday, it seemed like another blow (in a bad way) to the crotch of the Cubs plans to dominate the National League for a decade or two. Just days after Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Raymonds for SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR to vice president and generally manage the Dodgers, the Rays manager, Joe Maddon opted out of his contract. Surely he was going to go to the Dodgers, too, which meant the two things keeping the rest of the league from being crushed under billions of dollars of Dodgers clout (Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly) would be gone, and replaced by one of the best front office minds, and the very best manager.
But then the Dodgers announced they weren’t going to dump Don anytime soon.
This October has been different. At least it feels different. Maybe it’s because I have returned to the land of my birth from a short exile into the wilds of northern Michigan, maybe it’s because nothing in baseball seems to make any sense. The past few postseasons it was hard not to watch the teams advancing from round to round and marvel at just how far away the Cubs seemed from competing with any of them. Maybe it’s because two gloriously flawed teams have clawed their way to the World Series, but anything seems possible now.
Even the impossible. Like the Cubs getting in on some of this.
It’s that time of year again. Cubs season ticket holders got their annual love letter from Tom Ricketts, where he thanks them for supporting them through thin and thin and reminds them that things won’t always this be this bad and asks them if they need help finding their checkbooks.
It’s a tradition unlike any other. It seems like every fall baseball gets ruined for me. I love baseball, it’s my favorite sport. I think it would have to be for me to devote as much time as I do to the Cubs. But for going on 15 years now I just don’t watch any playoff games involving the St. Louis Cardinals. When I say I don’t watch them, I mean just that. I don’t watch the games. I’ll watch any other playoff game. The Rockies-Diamondbacks? Nobody cared, but I watched.
I realize I’ve missed some pretty famous things. The Red Sox apparently won a World Series in 2004 and last year. I guess they did. I saw them win in 2007, so I know they did that.
If you’re of a certain age, you can still faintly remember a different Rick Telander. He was the one “young” guy on the old Sportswriters on TV, he wrote some great takeouts for Sports Illustrated and he wrote a terrific book titled “Heaven is a Playground.” He was a self-effacing, broken down jock who had played football at Northwestern. Rick Telander was cool.
In fact, he might stilly be pretty cool.
But his writing has been shit for an awfully long time now.
I’ve been around long enough to have seen some shit. As a Cubs fan, it’s mostly all I’ve seen, to be honest. In the last four decades the Cubs have been good approximately eight times.
Oh, how humiliating.
For the last three years they have been terrible, even by their own miserable standards. But I’ve largely enjoyed it. Why? Because for the first time in my life, the Cubs are being run–baseball-wise at least–like a real Major League franchise. Some of the exploits on the field have been tough to watch, but it’s all been with a noble end in mind. Accumulate assets, develop into a regular postseason contender, and set up the infrastructure to stay that way.
So while some fans have been clamoring for the arrival of hot shot prospects like Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant for many months, I’ve sat back and felt a very odd feeling for a Cubs fan.
Last night’s trade of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A’s for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily is basically functioning as a referendum on which Cubs fans are the dumbest. Not surprisingly it’s a several million way tie.
Their confusion, anger and rage is mainly focused on the idea that the Cubs have won seven of their last 10 games, have won four in a row and have one of the better records in the majors the last six weeks. Apparently, even though they are still in last place, and still have one of the worst records in the National League, those signs point to GO FOR IT!
With a 3-4 night in Pissburgh yesterday, our boy Luis Valbuena pushed his season slash line to .288/.394/.456/.850 and his OPS plus to 132. He splits his time between second and third base, and oh, by the way, he’s currently the most productive player at either position in the National League. No big deal.
So today, as though this just happened last night, Cubs fans are finally waking up to the idea that Luis is more than just a solid defender who walks some and likes to flip his bat.
The self-proclaimed arbiter of all that is important to Cubs fans even stooped to say this today:
“I’ve been tough on Luis Valbuena here in the past, but I’m going to praise him now.”