Thursday, May 24, 2007

Coming to grips with disappointment

After lastnites defeat, the Cubs third in a row, the Cubs record now stands at 4 games under .500, 6-1/2 games behind the front running Brewers. I was pretty bummed when I grabbed the morning paper and saw the team had lost. So, I decided to look into my current emotions as a fan of this team. Why am I so disappointed in this start to this Cubs season? It goes back to October 1, 2006 when the Cubs parted ways with Andy MacPhail and installed John McDonough as interim team president. McDonough, a marketing man, went to the podium and told us this:

"My goal is singular," McDonough said in a news conference following the Cubs season finale, an 8-5 win over the Colorado Rockies. "The purpose of why I've been asked to do this job is for the Cubs to win the World Series -- not win the Wild Card or win the division or win the pennant. It's time to win. It's time to win the World Series."

"I think we need to reward these tens of millions of fans who have waited for a long time," McDonough said. "I just witnessed something miraculous. We're 30 games under .500 and you see 30,000 people standing in unison at the last out singing, 'Go, Cubs, Go,' at the end, as if we had just clinched the division. They need to be rewarded, we need to win. We will win. We will win the World Series. The goal is to win consistently. Anything short of that, I will not be doing my job."

That boys and girls was the day that as Cub fans we were told to expect more from this franchise. We were not told this by the television or radio announcers or some idiots on a crappy/unpopular blog. We were told this by the president of the ballclub. What do we get? We get the firing (or should I say not renewing the contract) of an idiot manager, but somehow the idiotic general manager survives. Not only does the idiotic general manager survive. He's allowed to go out and spend money like a drunken sailor. But it's not money for this season. It's all backloaded because the team is gonna be sold. In the spending spree that wasn't, we see the Cubs general manager admit that his farm system sucks. The 2006-7 offseason will go down as Mother Tribunes last attempt to build a "quick fix" winner.

This all brings me back to McDonough's promise above. Honestly, what was the point? At the time I wanted to give McDonough the benefit of the doubt. I really did. It seems that my friend and 1060west guru gaius marius wasn't buying at the time it happened:

sadly, dear reader, very little. placing the mastermind of "beer-and-ivy-and-who-cares-what-the-score-is" at the head of the team tells everyone everything they need to know about what tribco's priorities are and have always been -- now such a noncontroversial fact that the tribune itself will tell you so. enticing words from dennis fitzsimons or mcdonough mean nothing. this club is concerned about profitability, not winning; mcdonough's promotion is yet another in a long, long line of crystalline signs confirming the verity of that statement.

the hard truth is that the baseball operations of this franchise are a disaster from head to foot. with extremely little positive except ticket sales to talk about, nothing will be revolutionized in a day -- the scale of the troubles is simply far too great for quick fixes. the process of rehabilitating the chicago national league ballclub will take years, probably several years. dumping macfail and baker -- while certainly necessary -- is but a minor first step. the words spoken by fitzsimons and mcdonough are signal of nothing so much as their complete lack of understanding of just exactly how horrifying the condition of their ballclub is. and why should they know? neither of them has the faintest idea about how to evaluate anything related to baseball operations.

this writer would like to call the events of the last day a great step forward for accountability for this ballclub, to say that they gave rare credence to those who would argue that the management really do notice what happens on the field and take it seriously. but it seems that just the opposite is the deeper message of these events -- particularly in light of the continuing presence of the incompetent boob most responsible for the ridiculous state of the team, general manager jim hendry.
There is a reason to be a skeptic when it comes to this franchise people. I have never figured out why optimism rules the day in Cubdom. Yeah, it might feel good and taste good at the time, but like any drunken binge you will pay for it at a later time.

This brings me to my disappointment in the first quarter of the season. I think my disappointment is more in myself as a fan, than it is in the Cubs. You see I bought McDonough's charade. The sad truth is McDonough made the comments above (and the Cubs spent the money) to stop the growth of empty seats that popped up at the end of last season. Today's no-shows are tomorrow's unsold seats. McDonough is no fool. He knows this. He made the above statement, and in doing so made suckers, like me, think you can wave a magic wand and win. Well that dog don't hunt. As much as I would like to see a quick fix, a quick turnaround, that ain't the way it should be done. Quality baseball organizations take years to build and grow. Over the Tribune's rule of this ballclub they have never made the commitment to building a quality organization.

As we all know there is no action that can be taken now against the Tribune. The Cubs are going to be sold at the end of the season. While the new owner won't inherit a healthy baseball oraganization, they will inherit the hopes and dreams that all of us Cub fans have for this club. I just hope the next owner can be a responsible steward of this franchise. Instead of making promises he can't keep, focus on building this organization from the bottom up. Focus on getting good baseball people to run the baseball operations. Building this team into a contender is going to take time (Jim Hendry's made sure of that). Don't worry about empty seats, after the misguided Trib ownership I expect the new owner will get a long honeymoon period.