Cubs weren’t supposed to be good; so why are fans so irritated?
It’s been a rough last week or so for Chicago baseball. Regardless of whether you root for the Cubs or White Sox, it’s very much been a ‘when it rains, it pours’ vibe of late.
Tony LaRussa’s in-game decisions of late have had Sox fans losing their minds and the North Siders have looked totally overmatched, never more so than this weekend in the Bronx when the Yankees decimated Chicago, outscoring them 28-5 in the three-game sweep.
The Cubs have dropped seven of their last eight, are now 13 games under .500 at 23-36 and are a full 10 games out both in the division and Wild Card. After last season’s fire sale and a relatively mild offseason in terms of acquisitions, we knew this team wasn’t October-ready. Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki alone weren’t going to put this team over the top.
So why are fans so irritated? There’s not one singular answer here. It’s a culmination of things, ranging from ownership yanking back the reins when it comes to spending, the revolving door when it comes to guys on the injured list and a ‘plan’ from the front office that seems murkier and less certain with each passing day.
Decisions like designating Clint Frazier for assignment while holding on to an aging Jason Heyward have turned the fan base against Jed Hoyer and David Ross alike. Obviously rostering Heyward is a front office decision, but Ross continues to give him regular starts, despite his 75 wRC+ and -0.1 fWAR.
Cubs fans are done with mixed messages and small market mindsets
This season was supposed to be about setting the team up for long-term success. It’s hard to argue that playing Heyward every day instead of letting Frazier sink or swim as a former first-rounder furthers that goal. As the Aug. 2 trade deadline draws closer and closer, the lack of an extension – or even any substantive talks, for that matter, – with Willson Contreras continues to alienate a fan base that watched Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez all dealt less than a year ago.
The early returns on those trades are strong – very strong, as a matter of fact. And, once the emotions cooled last summer, it seemed like most people understood why those moves had to happen. But the lack of big-time spending last winter paired with repeatedly failing to clearly set expectations with the fan base in the same way Theo Epstein did a decade ago has pushed a good many fans off the proverbial cliff.
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Cubs fans aren’t what they used to be. They’ve had a taste of winning and have seen the franchise act like the financial powerhouse it is (as Rizzo reminded the media and all of us this weekend). Reverting back to the ways of the past, where a vision was either non-existent or poorly communicated, and you feel good taking one game in a three-game series just isn’t something the fanbase will accept.