I am a 3rd-generation Chicago Cubs fan. My Grandma Goldie saw the Cubs play at Clark/Addison before it was called Wrigley Field (it was known as Weeghman Park). My Dad was born fifteen years after the Cubs’ 1908 World Series victory and, like so many other Cubs fans, never lived to see them repeat that glorious deed. He died at the age of 51, almost 42 years before Cubs finally emerged victorious in 2016. True Cubs fans know that those numbers add up correctly: 15 + 51 + 42= 108.
Most of the Cubs teams in the years of my fandom (1967-present) have been fairly….um….non-competitive. Regardless, I have remained their loyal fan unconditionally, and have no plans to change that status. I am a sheep, and (at present) Tom Ricketts, Jed Hoyer and David Ross are my shepherds. Do you get what I’m saying?
Somewhat problematically, the Ricketts family has proven time and again that their political views are very different from my own. Their beliefs have antagonized some of my friends, causing them to withdraw their support of the team. But I’ve remained true to the course, rationalizing this with the feeling that the politics of virtually every pro sports team’s owners are also likely in stark contrast to my own. Then, when the Cubs rolled out their Marquee Sports Network, it was found that the political agenda of its operator (the Sinclair Broadcast Group) was equally heinous. But, once again, I was able to compartmentalize, choosing to focus on my beloved Cubs and their jewel of a ballpark.
The team’s recent era (2015-2020) has been an unparalleled one in terms of winning percentage. But it can be argued that this team, with the same basic core of very talented players, underachieved by only making it to the World Series once (not unlike the 1985 Chicago Bears, who should have made it into another Super Bowl with that core of players). Sensing that the window for success might be closing on this roster, the Cubs parted ways with some noteworthy names (Yu Darvish, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, Albert Almora Jr.) before the start of the 2021 season.
But, even with fairly low expectations, the Cubs overachieved during the initial third of the season. The high point may have been a combined no-hitter on the road against the dreaded Dodgers in the last week of June. However, reality showed up in a large way when the Cubs then proceeded to lose the next eleven games in a row. This swoon sent a signal to Cubs management that it was time to part company with some players as the trade deadline loomed, and that’s exactly what they did, to a degree that has seldom occurred in recent memory.
Older fans (like me, I guess) long for the days when players didn’t change teams nearly as much as they do now. With the advent of free agency, players are free to test the market much more easily, so teams need to be more proactive in determining their rosters. Three of the Cubs players recently sent packing were beloved stars from the 2016 champs: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. This proved particularly traumatic for Cub Nation, but the team’s thinking seemed to be that this roster (as shown by the 11-game swoon) was looking to be no more than an average team with these stars, so it was time to move on. Along with the departure of other veterans, it was painful to have ripped off the band-aid in such a dramatic way, and it was painful to instantly transform from 2016 Champs (seems like a long time ago now) to 2021 Chumps.
It’s impossible to know (in real time) whether a team has traded a player too soon (missing out on further productive years) or too late (overpaying for under-production). Even so, Rizzo, Bryant and Baez all declined new contracts that would have earned them more money than 99.99 percent of us can even imagine. So it all came down to the arcane monetary calculi to which each team devotes countless units of brainpower.
Almost without exception, Major League baseball teams lose 54 games and win 54 games each season. It’s those other 54 games in a 162-game season that separate the wheat from the chaff. So, if you come to a game, you have at least a 1 in 3 chance of seeing your team win. A batter who gets one hit out of three at bats is considered to be an elite hitter.
We’ve seen high numbers of Cubs fans disavowing their allegiance after this remarkable purge. To them I say: So long. We’ll see you when the Cubs are good again. You’ll be more than welcome to hop on the bandwagon again. As for me, I look forward to watching the Cubs braintrust fiddle with the pieces, trying to build a roster for the next great team.
Call me stupid, but Go Cubs!