This past weekend, as I combed the Cub universe for news and tidbits, I stumbled across a warning flare of sorts. This little diddy about Jon Lester and his “Dead Arm” sent me for a small spiral. Strangely, I smiled, thinking how long it has been since I cared about a Cubs ace and an arm injury? Five years? Six maybe?
Along with that were the commenters across the webosphere talking of doom and gloom…
“Here we go again” yells one put out fan.
“What do we have to do to win a World Series in this century”, Screams another with just the right amount of pitiful to sound like a Cub fan, “no chance if Lester goes down!”!
I mean, it is good to see fans thinking this way, and honestly, something in me is caring again about the Cubs fortunes, but let’s not get crazy, we ain’t goin’ to the World Series! I started thinking about all the heartache and discontent I spent as a fan for the last few years and I thought up the timeline below. This basically charts out my years as a Cub fan, a modest, yet proud, 17 year stretch, which goes something like this….
1997 – A 14 game losing streak to start the season, Sandberg retires for the second time, and Harry Carey dies. My first visit to Wrigley Field.
1998 – Sammy Sosa, Kid-K , Brant Brown, a post-season
1999-2002 – Wind screens (it feels like there was a whole lot of nothing here?)
2002 -2003 – Mark Prior, Dusty Baker, and Bartman (no , it wasn’t his fault)
2004 – The Chip Carey / Steve Stone era ends with some drama and a disappointing season
2005 – 2006 – Towel Drills and blisters (much like the 1999-2002 gap, a weird bunch of nothing?)
2007-2009 – Lou Piniella, some fairly average teams that I believe over-achieved, Sam Zell, and Milton Bradley, which gave me a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach before the ink could dry on the contract.
2010 - The Cubs have new owners, and Ron Santo Dies
2011 – Ricketts hires Theo Epstein & Co.
2011 -2013 – The team is disassembled, it feels like a cleanse of some sort, but came to the realization that we will not win for a while because we are doing the largest rebuild ever, of not just a roster, but the entire Cub system, way of thinking, way of life. I think they even changed the hot dogs that the vendors sell.
2014 – Theo’s rebuild starts to gain steam along with Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant and Renovations followed by more rooftop drama
2015 – ???
There is torture, misfortune, and then just plain confusion. It’s gonna take some more heartache to undo what has already been done to the Cub fan base over the last 75 years (trying to think of every fan still alive, not just my timeline). I felt desperate at times and other times completely disconnected. There were some seasons where I checked out by July and others where I hung on every pitch until the last fatal blow. Here we are getting all excited again because we have a few good prospects (one great one), a true staff ace, and a new outlook on life from April to September…dare I say beyond? The vision that started about three quarters the way down that timeline above is now taking hold, but what is realistic?
It seems not a day goes by that I read something sensational about Kris Bryant and an overly positive prediction for the Cubs as a whole but I have to admit, I am a little pessimistic. There will always be a pessimist inside me as a Cub fan. Until that final out is recorded, because of all the other final outs and the way they came about, I will hold out all hope and wait, as a burned fan being cautious. I am damaged goods!
Look what the Red Sox fans had to endure! Hell, they had to come back from insurmountable odds and a couple prior trips to the post-season to win that first series. We aren’t the Marlins for god sake, we can’t just rip it down and retool inside of a season. We have way too much bad mojo debt built up to make this easy.So Lester going down for a few games in spring is just a blip. Shake it off because we’re gonna need to get tougher for what’s coming.
The Cub fan (AKA, damaged pessimist) in me realizes, as you should, we may not go to the post-season this year or next, but take some solace in the fact that there is a plan in place, it is working, and Cub baseball matters again, and that’s a good thing.
As a little side note, here is a piece by Joe Posnanski that I like to read before each Cub season. In a way, it is a roundabout explanation of the Cubs history and a set of theories as to why haven’t been able to win it all. It is fittingly titled “The Cubs”.