This post may be epic and wordy, but I have a lot to get off of my chest. I have stuck by the Cubs through thick and thin, but I am at a point where I may sell my “fanhood” to another team, just like the Cubs have tried to sell the team for the past 24 months. In the following post, I am going to explain why I’m pissed, what the Cubs can do to win me back, why I’m allowed to question my loyalty as a fan, and what the future holds for the Chicago Cubs.
Listen, I am 28 years old, I’ve been through some thin years as a Chicago Cubs fan. I know some people older than me have had even worse experiences than me, but you got to enjoy Jack Brickhouse and Harry Carey longer, so we’re even. The last six years, as a Cubs fan, have been probably some of the best years an Cubs fan could realistically ask for. A few division championships, a few playoff wins, but not one World Series appearance. I know that if a Cubs fan rarely believes that his team has a chance to win the World Series. There is always hope, but you have visions of Steve Garvey, Ivan Rodriguez, and even Augie Ojeda go through your head and grounds your hopes.
This is why I am pissed off. Jim Hendry started off his career as a GM very well. He got pieces that the fans wanted and made everyone excited about the future of the Cubs. We finally had someone that wanted to go out and win right now. That may be the underlying problem with everything that is wrong with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs haven’t manufactured any great talent out of their farm system in years. Mark Grace was the last great player to come through the farm system. They have lacked the expertise to develop their own players, so they traded their young pieces away for mediocre talent in return. If a team is always in the playoff race, young talent will not have the time to develop at the Major League level. My examples are Rich Hill and Felix Pie, I know neither of them are winning post-season awards right now, but they didn’t have time to develop. Rich Hill bounced around the minors and Chicago the last few seasons. He dominated in the minors and had trouble pitching in Wrigley. Pie also bounced around between Iowa and Chicago and was mostly kept around to make Alfonso Soriano comfortable. They were both traded to the Orioles for scrubs and I hope they flourish in Baltimore.
Which leads me to another reason that I am pissed. Why does Jim Hendry always trade with Andy MacPhail in Baltimore? I know that MacPhail was his boss when he was first with Baltimore, but this personal relationship has severely damaged the Chicago Cubs. If they are such good friends, why was it so difficult to pry Brian Roberts away from him? A rumor floated around for about two seasons that they were in trade talks, but nothing ever happened with that, but somehow we ended up with Ryan Freel and Garrett Olsen? Hendry needs to quit being so chummy with MacPhail and talk with other teams when trying to improve the Chicago Cubs.
Ownership changes have drained this team of any emotion. The players knew that they had to play the entire season with the players already on the team, since they couldn’t add any more payroll because of the sell of the team. Injuries hit the team and Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano were all missed time at the beginning of the year. The team lacked emotion and even a Lou Pinella rant couldn’t bring them out of their funk. They attempted to get Jake Peavy from the Padres, but couldn’t take on his salary, which lead to the White Sox getting him at a discounted rate near the trade deadline. I’m not saying that Peavy would have won the NL Central for Chicago, but it could have showed the players that management wanted to do everything to win. With no major additions to the team at either trade deadline (I’m sorry John Grabow doesn’t count), the Cubs slipped down the standings as the Cardinals added Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday. This ownership change happened at the absolute worst time, since this team was a right-fielder and a dominant closer away from at least a Wild-Card spot.
The Cubs have one of the worst farm systems in all of the Major Leagues. They have been signing Type-A and Type-B free-agents the last few seasons and don’t have many blue-chip prospects. Josh Vitters could be their lone future star, but Wellington Castillo and Tyler Colvin both look promising. The problem there is that Vitters plays 3B and Castillo is a catcher, two positions that the Cubs have a small need for. Colvin could turn into a player that they could use, but they are currently tied up in a few bad contracts in the outfield and there isn’t any room for him. John Grabow, Rich Harden, and Kevin Gregg are all Type-A free agents and if they sign with a team, the Cubs could get that team’s first-round draft picks. Jim Hendry was smart in keeping them, even if they have no interest in re-signing the trio. This could help restock the farm system and build this team from the ground up. If only they had the minor league managers and instructors that could develop any of that talent.
I am allowed to question my loyalty to the Chicago Cubs. They are the only team that I have ever rooted for, but they have let me down in a way that I wasn’t ready for. Selling the team at this point, when their team has elite talent, is such a horrible ending to this team’s arc of improvement. I believe that they need to blow up the team. I said it, I didn’t think that I would get to this point, but just ride out the contracts, trade the pieces away that you can get young talent in return, and give me a product on the field that I can feel good about myself while cheering for you. Milton Bradley’s attitude and racially-filled paranoia added with Zambrano’s lack of focus and his inability to sound like he even cares, has made me dislike this team. Give me players like Kerry Wood, who was willing to take a pay-cut to stay with the Cubs out of loyalty. I don’t know if I am at a point where I can see the greed in the players eyes, but there is something that I don’t like about this team.
I’m not asking for a World Series, I’m not asking for an NL Central crown, just give me a team that looks like they are trying and you will have me as a fan of your team for as long as you’ll have me. If any players read this, go out there, run out ground balls, slide hard into double-plays, dive for foul balls, and have fun out there. The season is officially over at the end of the regular season, you’ll have plenty of time to be lazy this off-season.