The message from Chicago Cubs President of Operations Theo Epstein from former Joe Maddon was obvious. Knock it off.
It started with a parting in St. Louis. Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon, after a night of drinks and reminiscing, decided Maddon would be moving on. The band was breaking up. Ok, fine. It happens. In their press conference, they talked about how these things happen, you know, managers and front-office execs grow apart. It was eerily like watching two parents explain divorce to the kids.
So, now come the recriminations. My colleague Jake Misener wrote about the Maddon comment a couple of days ago, but I’ll pull out the Maddon quote,
“Philosophically, Theo needed to do what he needed to do separately. At some point, I began to interfere with his train of thought a little bit. And it’s not that I’m hardheaded. I’m inclusive. But when I started there — ’15, ’16, ’17 — it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after ’18 going into ’19, they wanted to change everything.”
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So they wanted to change everything? You think, Joe? One hundred eight years without a championship? Darn straight, they did. Jeez, Joe, have a shot and a beer, or I guess in California, it’s a Chardonnay.
If you thought that would be the end of it, you were wrong. Certainly, Theo has more worrisome things to deal with than a shot across the bow from his former manager, right? Apparently not.
Theo detailed his view of things, and pointedly said, “I’ve sensed and feared and had been concerned with a bit of organizational complacency…that developed in the aftermath of the Championship.” Yea? Well, so have the fans since the end of 2017.
Then he went on, “Joe and I aren’t the same. I think his approach is that things will work themselves out, these are great players let them play, but from my perspective, there was a little bit more cause for concern.”
Here is my take on all this. I don’t give a darn.
No fan base has dealt with more abuse, more disappointment, more shattered hopes and dreams than Chicago Cubs fans. All the decades of just awful baseball from 1946 to 1968, the crushing collapse of 1969, more years of stink until 1984, then the Leon Durham Gatorade glove in the1984 NLCS, in 2003…no, I just won’t, and the fails of 2007 and 2008. And every opening day of every season culminating at season’s end with the refrain of “wait ’till next year.’
Then, finally, it all came together. The weight of decade upon decade of “wait ’til next years” and curses and the lousy baseball and the agony and abuse finally, gloriously, miraculously ended on a Wednesday in Cleveland.
For Cubs fans, there is everything that came before 2016 and everything that comes after. It is one of the most visible lines of demarcation in a team’s historical arc since the US Olympic Hockey Team beat the Soviets in 1980. Cubs fans will glorify the 2016 season and that night for time immemorial. They should.
Fans know baseball is a business. We know that it’s about money and ego and metrics and analytics. But what drives baseball is way beyond all that. Fans want to believe, need to believe, in the Field of Dreams, the Natural, yes even in Major League. Even Eight Men Out, a movie about the darkest World Series in baseball history, ended on a positive note. It just had to.
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So much to our chagrin, there go Theo and Joe, bickering about stuff fans don’t need to know, and don’t want to know. So, to Theo and Joe, a word, please. Knock it the heck off!