Back as early as spring training, with the media hyping this season’s dreams and almost tangible possibilities, the believer in me thought that this was THE year for the Cubs. True, I have been there before, too many times, but this year felt like the real deal. All the pieces were in place – a winning manager, a couple of trades, hitting, pitching, a touch of youthful energy and a team that, I felt, could believe in itself. The 100-year mark became 101 and the pressures of that embarrassment settled back in to same-old, same-old. Even new ownership had me hoping things would be different this time around.
The ivy was still a twisted brown mesh when the season began to “go south.” Despite some early strong pitching, as expected, the Cubs played as if they had enrolled in a course titled “Coming Up Short.” The heart of the lineup seemed to stop beating and, worse, stop hitting. The fielding, except for a few lightning flashes, became a downpour of sandlot errors. That felt new and inexcusable but, unfortunately, all too familiar to Cubs fans.
Something is very wrong at Wrigley. Though I have argued about managerial decisions on many an occasion, the problem with the Cubs is larger than any one person or any one segment of the franchise. There is a deadly mold infesting the Friendly Confines that needs to be expunged.
Why is it that so many former Cubs thrive on other teams? Not all of them but enough to make one wonder what happened to their talents while wearing the Cubs’ uniform. Seems to me there is a foul atmosphere enveloping the organization that aids and abets the inevitability of losing when it counts – something like an urban myth that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, something players buy into without even realizing it. Not that it is subtle. The so-called curses hanging over Wrigley are legendary. Unfortunately, they are also money-making.
The league-leading Reds came to town and Wrigley was wall-to-wall and overflowing. It was not a crucial series for the Cubs since they were well out of chasing anything except pride; that, if nothing else, made it a “statement” series. Three games later, they were that much closer to the bottom of the division. The loveable losers did their thing; the money poured in and the mold mentioned above spread that much more.
There has to be a way to confront the self-defeating mindset that is defining the Cubs’ mystique and miseries. Whoever the new manager will be next season should show up wearing hazmat gear. And loyal Cubs fans need to abandon all hope to find an anger for their frustrations. Hope happens to be the last of the evils in Pandora’s box, according to the myth, because hope, some interpreters say, gives permission to wallow in waiting – endlessly.
This Cubs fan is tired of waiting. The loveable losers are not so loveable at the moment, and I want to see the kind of baseball all Cubs fans deserve. I know I am not alone. Enough already.