Monday, August 29, 2005

fifth place: a celebration of the macFail era

it was just a few days ago, it seems, that some were actually talking about how this cub team was ready to make a move in the wild card race and get on to the playoffs. deleterious optimism, for some ungodly reason, had reared its dreadful head yet again in spite of all we have come to know about the cubs organization since the macFail era began. i suppose that love is blind, even to oozing, abscessed malignancy.

but somehow the wind shifted yet again, blowing the vacillary vagaries of aimless public opinion back somewhere closer to the truth as the cubs have sunk down to fifth in the NL central. perhaps it was the hendry mea culpa and the subsequent move of doomed-playoff-drive-acquisition matt lawton to the yankees.

no matter. whatever spurred the mob to abandon the cubs this year, it was a long time coming. we forecast back in may on a brewer message board that the brewers would finish better than the cubs this season. it only rational to observe that the cubs had lost a lot from a good-to-middling 2004 club, did nothing to replace it and would struggle to win more than they lost in 2005 even as far back as february.

little did anyone suspect we'd be tangling with the reds and pirates for the very cellar of the division. this team has proven itself even worse than expected, having very little hope now of climbing back to even on the year with only a month left to play and a good chance of staying exactly where they are, guttering back and forth between fourth and fifth.

of such a magnitude is this collapse -- on a team with, mind you, a $104 million outlay in player payroll, it has few precedents in the free agency era of baseball -- that heads must roll, even in the uniquely unresponsive world of dollar-obsessed corporate management. such a total failure is so embarrassing that it must seek accountability, as it threatens the very apathy and nostalgia upon which profitability depends.

the obvious candidate for execution is dusty baker, for whom the skids have already been well greased. i think there is very little chance that he'll be back next season. macFail's feared and heavily ironic "vote of confidence" for general manager jim hendry raises the possibility that the doughnut man will feel the blade upon his neck as well.

but would even that be enough?

as the ongoing celebration of the 11 years of the era of macFail -- initiated by our own resident genius corncobdress (the 1060west version of both james carville and the maharishi mahesh yogi) -- shows, the problem reaches all the way to the top. the numbers prove it out.

in the eleven seasons from 1984 to 1994 the chicago cubs:

  • won 854 and lost 872, a .495 winning percentage

  • managed three winning seasons, including two division titles

  • lost as many as 90 games only once

  • since bringing on board our third-generation baseball czar in 1995, in the almost eleven seasons since, what have the cubs done?

  • the cubs won 832 and lost 900, a .480 winning percentage

  • managed five winning seasons, but just one division title

  • lost as many as 90 games four times

  • fewer titles. more losses. slower rate of winning. ladies and gentlemen, remove the veil of 2003's fortunate september and the epic october disaster it cumulated in, and it becomes quite easy to see that the cubs have in fact significantly regressed under the leadership of andy macFail. it is time to declare the macFail era to be the failure that it is -- not from the corporate marketing perspective, of course, which has never seen pure nostalgia sold for higher prices so successfully at any point anywhere in sports -- but from the perspective of the fan who loves this team and wants to see it succeed on the field as well as a balance sheet.

    it isn't enough for baker and hendry to go. if the problem reaches to the top -- if it starts at the top -- then the top must go too. for the sake of long-suffering cubs fans, andy macFail must be relieved.

    and it is the fans that must demand for it to happen.

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