An Open Letter To Cubs Fans…
If “The Three Little Pigs” has taught me anything, it’s that a good foundation is made of reliable materials.
That, and stay the hell away from giant talking wolves, but I digress…
Cubs fans have been put through a lot of stress this season with the squad’s up and down performances. The highs and lows have been plentiful, and it’s starting to take its toll on the fanbase. Frankly, no one should be shocked the Cubs are 10-17 and 6.5 games back from the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. After unloading key components of the 2011 roster like Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez, you’re going to have a hard time compensating for 2 solid all around players.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg too. We could go on for hours about how the 2012 Cubs were essentially doomed for failure, but that’s just depressing and has no constructive value at all.
Cubs fans aren’t even close to the midway point of the season and are starting to boo their own players. Carlos Marmol was not spared today vs the Dodgers as he took the mound in the 8th after an absolutely brutal performance against the Reds on Thursday. Yes, he did deserve to be chewed out, and Dale Sveum took care of business by pulling him out of the closing position. But really… where’s the class Cubs fans? Should we really be booing our own team?
Alfonso Soriano is no rookie when it comes to being booed inside the friendly confines either. He’s booed regularly when in a slump and regarded as a hero when playing well. Even during the Cubs convention this spring, he was booed while being introduced as a member of the Cubs 2012 squad. He hadn’t even hit the field yet!
Its a shock that players even want to come to Chicago at this rate. The fans have been more than hard on their team this year.
Don’t get me wrong, poor performance deserves to be highlighted and if you pay your ticket into the game, you have every right to boo anything you want. Hell, go ahead and boo the hotdog guy if he skips you in the bleachers. By all means….
Maybe its the frustration of 104 years without a world series win. Maybe its the water in Chicago… I don’t really know. But on some level, Cubs fans have the right to be frustrated.
So before you fly off the handle and start bombarding my twitter feed with death threats and calling me names that I’m not allowed to publish, hear me out: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ANGRY.
But just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you’re right in doing it.
Cubs fans need to know what the measure of success is for their 2012 team, and its not a good W-L record. They’re seriously losing sight of that.
I’ll explain this further (because if I don’t, I know I’ll be chewed up by you pitch-fork bearing maniac fans)
The 2012 Cubs were taken over by Theo Epstein (which isn’t news to anyone) and he’s been assigned with turning the team around, creating a solid foundation, and breeding a winning culture in Chicago. This is something that Epstein has done in the past as a member of the Boston Red Sox, whom also had a real doozie of a time trying to win a world championship. He’s gone out, overhauled the entire front office, overhauled the entire coaching staff, and slotted in a few new players to fill some gaps in the mean time.
Now I’m no construction worker, and I’ve never laid concrete (I imagine it would hurt the groin like hell) but a good foundation starts with a plan. Going out and hiring guys like Jed Hoyer and Dale Sveum was a great start. Both these guys have had success in the past and have been involved in the MLB in some capacity for a long time. Their credentials check out.
Once you have a front office team full of competent people, a coaching staff who know how to properly prepare and work a team, all you need are good players.
This is where things get tricky. Players (obviously) have the greatest impact on the game and some are better than others. When Epstein came over from Boston, he knew the task in front of him would be a difficult one because of the weak roster the Cubs possessed. This was largely due to bad contracts, poor drafting in previous years and a minor league system that was lackluster. While a myriad of other problems existed (including poor attitudes in the club house), it’s going to be tougher on Epstein this time around.
Under the new MLB CBA, Epstein can’t use the backbone strategy he used in Boston of going out and “buying” prospects to bolster the minor league system. He’s going to have to do it organically.
The Cubs were essentially a messy frat house filled with empty pizza boxes, empty beer cases and red cups strewn about. It wasn’t pretty.
Epstein did what any good cleaner would do: He took out the trash.
Zambrano got the boot, Ramirez was out, Pena was gone, and most recently, Marlon Byrd has been shipped off.
Epstein chose to eat a series of large contracts thus freeing the Cubs from any long term financial burdens. Yes, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol are in that mix as well and they’d likely be traded by now if they didn’t have zero value.
Epstein chose to eat up most of those contracts knowing that a large market team like Chicago would be able to recoup the funds rather quickly, so fans, make sure you buy lots of tickets, watch WGN and maybe buy a jersey or 6.
The freedom from large contracts allows the Cubs to have spending cash which in turn creates flexibility in the market. They wont mind spending a couple of big bucks on free agents down the road because no one will be weighing them down. In short, these are all good things for the Cubs’ future.
Next step: Experimentation.
No… I’m not talking about college anymore, I’m talking about placing players in position and seeing what’s comfortable. Messing around with the batting order, swapping positions around, giving guys a shot are all included in this. By taking a chance, you’re going to see a lot of mistakes. Mistake tend to lead to losses, but the lessons learned by making those mistakes are more valuable than the win itself. This is standard practice for any rebuilding franchise.
Take Marmol for example (just because its fresh in everyone’s mind). Dale Sveum isn’t dumb and knew Marmol was struggling to throw strikes as a closer. So why does he put him back on the mound for Thursday’s hold attempt against the Reds?
Because Sveum knows it’s the right thing to do.
By putting Marmol back up on the mound despite his struggles, he’s saying “I still trust you to get the job done. Now go out there and show us what you have”. It sends a message to the team as a whole that you’re in it until you fail miserably, hit rock bottom and are ready to rebuild. Once you’re back to game form, you might get a chance to get back out on the field. That’s the right thing to do and I applaud Sveum’s move despite the blown hold.
This is where Cubs fans are becoming frustrated. You hear the cries of “where’s Anthony Rizzo? Where’s Brett Jackson? Why is Alfonso Soriano still here? Why don’t we go sign a REAL pitcher?”
I really didn’t want it to come to this, but you’re all idiots. All of you. Think before you speak.
If you assume control of a team, you have to know what they’re capable of. Just because you have the paper records or have watched the team play before doesn’t mean you know the team inside and out. You need to allow players to go out, prove themselves and show the coaching staff whats their strengths and weaknesses are.
From there, you can analyse what your team is missing and make the appropriate adjustments in order to let your team have success. And this doesn’t apply to just baseball, its applies to every sport!
Think of it this way. You hire Theo Epstein to sell Product A. You know Theo is good at his job because he’s sold millions of Product Z in the past, and you trust him to do the same while selling Product A. After your first week, you analyse your sales and realize that sales have dropped. You immediately turn to Theo and start chewing him out for not selling enough of Product A.
I can promise you if that was the case, Theo would look at you and say: “I cant sell a product I’m not familiar with yet. It takes time to find a sales strategy that works effectively”
He’s right and you know full well he’s right. Suddenly you look like a total jackass with absolutely no forsight in front of your brandnew salesman.
Guess what Cubs fans! You look like a bunch of jackasses!
I had such high hopes for Cubs fans this season considering all the buzz and commotion around Epstein’s signing. He said on what feels like millions of occasions that this team would take time to rebuild and to be patient with this team. You all smiled and nodded and basked in Epstein’s glow while he said it.
And now? You’re a bunch of pitch-fork bearing mobsters who are out for blood when the Cubs lose a single game. Its like dealing with a schizophrenic child.
If you don’t believe me, take Bryan LaHair for example. The guy has been fantastic and quite frankly, he’s been carrying the team along with Starlin Castro. If Epstein never gave him a shot to prove himself, he’d still be in AAA and he would have gone out and wasted money on another first baseman.
Breakout performances are part of letting a team grow organically within their own system. But you need time to let players come out of their shells and prosper at the major league level.
I don’t mean to be rude Cubs fans, but when I read the tweets and hear the banter online, it makes me ashamed that we cheer for the same team.
Success for the 2012 Cubs is measured in sweat, grit, and learning from mistakes, not win-loss. Our record means absolutely nothing this year. We’re not going to win the world series in 2012 and you’re a fool to think otherwise.
So cheer loud when things go right! Homeruns, great pitching and all that good stuff deserves a lot of praise. But don’t boo and belittle your team… they’re humans too. They make mistakes. They hear every boo and every press release and despite being a professional athlete, it doesn’t motivate anyone to be better.
So please Cubs Fans… please…. have a little more patience with your team. I beg of you. This team will be outstanding in the near future and we can all hug and laugh and share that wonderful moment when the Cubs win the world series together. But for now, support your team… they need every bit of help they can get.
Put the pitch forks down….