In the 1980s and early 1990s, MacGyver ruled the airwaves as one of the most popular classic action shows on broadcast TV. Played by Richard Dean Anderson, the hero of the show was staunchly anti-gun and very involved in social activism, while at the same time solving crimes and defeating bad guys with science. It was actually intriguing how a former special ops agent would be so anti-gun (since, y’know, they kind of train special ops agents to use guns so they can double-tap bad guys), but the contraptions MacGyver would conjure up out of common household reagents and discarded items lying around were really awesome. Of course, the writers were very careful to leave out the one key ingredient so kids at home didn’t blow themselves up, which is one main reason I’m still alive today.
While thinking about the Cubs’ roster construction last season and this offseason as they prepared for 2013 and beyond, I kept thinking about parallels to MacGyver. Essentially, aside from the solid guys up top like Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza (if he ever gets fixed), Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo making up a small “core”, everything else looks like it’s being held together by twine and duct tape in order to squeeze out 70+ wins (depending on which projection you use or how good your gut feels). As evidenced by the number of complaints of #RickettsCheap on the interwebs, many people are upset that Theo and Jed are basically plugging up a radiation leak with melted chocolate at this point. Getting retread pitchers like Scott Feldman and Scott Baker are like duct taping a map over the hole of a rapidly deflating balloon.
Even Wrigley Field is in need of tons of MacGyverisms to fix it. I’m sure Tom Ricketts had to run to Costco several times to get Theo and Jed the industrial-sized pack of duct tape and chewing gum. Some of these MacGyverisms are going to be very quick; just a dab of chewing gum here, a touch of money thrown over there, and a temporary fix is implemented.
But for the most part, we’re talking about long-term MacGyverisms. In several episodes, even though MacGyver is able to find the right materials around him, he still needs time. Ditto with Theo and Jed. They need to find a diversion to buy time for their long-term MacGyverisms to take shape. It might be a glove filled with hydrogen gas from a pipe that explodes when it hits a well-placed light bulb at the right time to lure the bad guys away for a few extra seconds. It might be a cleverly disguised hiding spot to cover their work as they build the next great contraption. It might be a timely trade of Tony Campana to the Diamondbacks to distract Cubs fans from the fact that Matt Garza hurt himself again. But Theo and Jed, like MacGyver, can use those extra moments to their advantage.
In one episode, MacGyver needed several hours to build an ultralight airplane out of some plywood and an old generator. In another, he had to build a hot air balloon out of a refrigerator and while mixing up some homemade superglue. All these things take time. But the point is, after the diversion works and the contraption is built, MacGyver can escape. Sometimes stuff doesn’t work and there’s always a Plan B or a Plan C, which Theo and Jed often have (see the backup trade of Ryan Dempster to Texas while still getting something good out of Atlanta with Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson).
Here’s hoping for a season full of fun and wonderful MacGyverisms to fix the Cubs, on the baseball side as well as the business side. In the meantime, they’ll have to rely on their trusty Swiss army knives/utility men in Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge until they can qualify for an upgrade.