“Baseball is better…”
Theo Epstein said it six times. Like a beautiful wedding vow.
“To me, baseball is better with tradition,” Epstein said that day. “Baseball is better with history. Baseball is better with fans who care. Baseball is better in ballparks like this. Baseball is better during the day…..”
And then he said it. The one line that made us all realize that this isn’t just a fairy tale. This isn’t about Theo coming over to the Cubs and immediately accepting the Commissioner’s Trophy. It’s not about Theo, Jed, and Jason rolling into town, shooting their six-shooters in the air a time or two, finding the beautiful triplets, and then riding away and living happily ever after.
“And baseball is best of all when you win.”
(Cue the over-dramatic echo saying “win…win…win…win…”)
(Cue the visual and sound of the atom bomb detonating.)
(Cue quick flashbacks of Don Baylor, Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Derrek Lee, Sammy Sosa, Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez dropping the double play ball against the Marlins, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, Leon Durham scooting to his left to field the grounder against the ’84 Padres, Ryne Sandberg)
(Cue the visuals in double-time of Cub players, one after another on the screen, with sound bites of Ron Santo and Pat Hughes distressing over Brant Brown’s dropped ball in 1998 echoing in the background, (“He dropped the ball!” “Noooooooooooooooooo”), of the Padres’ call of Steve Garvey’s walk-off homerun in Game Four of the 1984 NLCS, and as the screen goes black, you hear a muffled, echoed heart-torn voice mutter, “The Florida Marlins are your 2003 National League Champions”).
[Abrupt silence and fade to black………………]
There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s very clear that this Chicago National League Baseball Team is different. There is a metamorphosis happening right here, right now. It’s a process that this town and these fans have not seen for a long time. One that fans begged Jim Hendry to start before the 2011 campaign.
The time is here.
In a matter of a few short weeks, TheoCo has made their mark on the Chicago Cubs.
They parted ways with Aramis Ramirez to start the offseason. The same Aramis Ramirez who spent 8 ½ years anchoring the 3rd base position that had been a nightmare since the days of the aforementioned Santo. After a few strangely cross words about his defense and laziness from Bob Brenly, Cub fans curiously jumped on the “Bye-Bye-Aram” bandwagon without too much nudging.
Then the ball got rolling.
If the Cubs were a proverbial fire hydrant, the organization would be soaked by the spraying of TheoCo marking their scent all over it.
The apocalypse was here. “In Theo We Trust”. Though most fans didn’t know Andy Sonnastine from Andy Van Slyke or Travis Wood from Wilbur Wood, they applauded the deals.
TheoCo said NO! to Prince Fielder. And people accepted that. If Jim Hendry passed on Prince Fielder, Ron Santo’s flag would have been ripped off the left field foul pole, and Hendry himself would have hung there.
But people are so giddy, so enamored with TheoCo that they believe. Blind faith (which isn’t really that hard for Cub fans to do, as it is). But it is January. Cub fans are still drunk from the wine that was the Cubs Convention. They are still reeling from the Carlos Zambrano trade that actually netted us something – ANYTHING!
I will stop short of calling TheoCo the devil, because they are not evil. Quite the opposite. But, my fellow Cubs fans, you have, indeed, sold your soul to them. You belong to them.
You asked for this.
You danced in the streets when they came over.
You believed them when they said that it was to be a long-term venture.
You cheered wildly at change – good, bad, or indifferent.
And now they own your soul. You can’t go back on a contract. You’re in this like a marriage. Remember the vows? “Baseball is better…”. For good or bad, in sickness or in health. You WILL love and honor TheoCo for all the days of their Cubs lives.
Which means that you will all still be on your honeymoon in July, in August, and in September. Those are the days you’re going to wake up and look at Theo and Jed and Jason and say to yourself, “Holy crap! I married THIS??”
Those months are going to be very, very difficult. Don’t be surprised to see a team ERA hovering around 5.00. Don’t be surprised to see no more than a player or two or three with more than 15 homeruns. Don’t be surprised to see the Cubs flailing away, 30 games out of first place. Horrible with runners in scoring position. There will be stretches of three, maybe five games, where this team scores two runs or less. There will be stretches of the same in which the pitching gives up more than 6 runs a game. Quality starts will be a premium if your name is not Garza.
This is going to be a very difficult team to watch at times.
But you will love and honor them. You will get through the good times and the bad times. You will go to counseling if need be. You will resist the urges of having a tryst with another team. You will remember that YOU wanted this. YOU asked for this. Nary a soul is going to want to hear your marital problems while you are mired in the midst of a 6-game losing streak. Or losers of 9 of 10. Or 18 of 21. Yeah, that’s an ugly spouse.
But that spouse is yours. And you chose your spouse because those first days together were like magic. You remember the excitement, and the anticipation. You remember how much you wanted to be a part of his/her life.
Cubs fans, look down at that ring on your finger. We’re all wearing the same exact one. We are all part of your support group. We’re all in this together. We’re all going to get that magic back.
No “I told you so’s” in July.
No “We should have gotten Prince” in August.
No “TheoCo STINKS” in September.
In sickness and in health. This is gonna be a sick team (not sick like “Whoooooa, that’s siiiiick!”. Sick like “Awww, man, get AWAY from me! You’ve got droolies and you stank!”) for a good part of the season.
Don’t turn away when it gets ugly later this year. Don’t be the know-it-all guy who KNEW that TheoCo didn’t know what the hell they were doing. Don’t lose sight that this is a process.
Your frog will turn into a prince (NO! NOT Fielder) soon enough.
You may now kiss the bride……