With just over three weeks until Opening Day, the Chicago Cubs seem to be fine-tuning a replay of 2013. Apart from the owners naming a new manager, the off-season produced no major moves or surprises regarding the team’s make-up. Wrigley Field itself and its immediate surroundings are up for a major money makeover but the team itself is wearing almost the same profile as last season. Spring training may offer some surprises but at the moment it seems as if the Ricketts believe they already have the makings of a contender.
There isn’t a whisper in the media about “This is THE year!” But the Cubs’ farm system, they say, looms large with possibilities. Still, the subdued energies of the sports writers are unnerving, reflecting a kind of resignation to what lies ahead – specifically, more of the same.
Baseball, by nature, is always about another day or at-bat or start on the mound. And another season. The cast of characters will have a few new faces besides the manager, likely in the outfield, at third base, on the mound and behind the plate. But the core of the team will remain familiar to Cubbie devotees.
It is time to get rid of all the jokes, curses and woes of the team’s century-old frustrations. It is especially necessary for the team to play like something other than lovable losers – task #1 for the new manager. The fans themselves need to make much more noise about that. “Longsuffering” is an understatement, describing loyal Cubs fans who have been paying big bucks to moan and groan while witnessing creative ways to lose ball games. They keep coming back, though, because “There’s always tomorrow.”
But no tomorrow need be about the same old, same old. The chemistry of any team has the potential to surprise, at any time. All it takes is the proper mix. Maybe the owners sense something this fan is missing. Newspaper coverage of spring training seems to be marketing a product once again overshadowed by bigger “name brands,” enticing hope out of hopelessness.
My guess is that come Opening Day, some kind of hope will be tangible. That’s the magic of baseball. But with the Cubbies, that magic has been quicksilver for what seems forever. Same old, same old.
But the Cubs fan’s mantra is as ever, “Maybe, just maybe, this tomorrow will be different.”