I had the opportunity to watch the Cubs' series in Kansas City this past weekend. As we all know, the Cubs lost two of three to the equally-as-bad Royals, stranded a slew of runners, got out-bullpened, and Starlin Castro was once again made an example of by manager Mike Quade.
Chicago Cubs Not Worthy of Such A Devoted Fan Base
It was business as usual for the Cubs.
One thing I was amazed with while taking in the atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium was the overwhelming amount of Cubs fans in attendance. From the moment I arrived in Kansas City, everywhere I looked there were Cubs fans to be found.
At a Dick's Sporting Goods twenty-five minutes north of Kauffman Stadium, the first three people I saw that weren't wearing Dick's employee apparel were wearing Cubs tee shirts.
At a mall in Independence, Missouri, it was nearly impossible to go into any particular store and not see someone sporting an Alfonso Soriano jersey or a Cubs hat.
Once I arrived inside the Truman Sports Complex, which encompasses both the home of the Royals and NFL Kansas City Chiefs, the atmosphere was that of an enormous Cubs tailgate party. There were Cubs canopies setup all over the parking lot; there were beanbag games with Cubs logos everywhere; there were Cubs grills, Cubs flags, even license plates from Nebraska that read "CUB5WIN".
Inside the stadium, it was nearly impossible to keep track of all the different Cubs jerseys that were being sported by Cubs faithful -- Castro, Soriano, Zambrano, Soto, Ramirez, Sandberg, Maddux, Dawson, Grace, Banks, Santo, Derrek Lee and even a Milton Bradley.
You'd think that with the Cubs fans taking over for the weekend, Kauffman officials would have been held at gunpoint and forced to rename the George Brett themed ".390 Club" to the "101 Year Club".
Once the games began, crowd interaction was at least 60 to 75% in favor of the Cubs. It was nearly impossible to not hear support of the Cubs.
"Happy birthday, Aramis!", one fan shouted as the Cubs third baseman came to the plate on Saturday night.
Another group of fans was overwhelmed with joy that they had witnessed a walk of Alfonso Soriano.
"How many people can actually say they were at a game in which Alfonso Soriano took a walk?", one of the men stated.
All throughout the series, Cubs fans made their presence known. For three days in a city hundreds of miles from Chicago, distanced Cubs fans celebrated their love for their team, and standings, scores, and the overall disappointment of the 2011 season didn't seem to matter. Though attendance has been dwindling at Wrigley Field, the Cubs were still one of baseball's best traveling shows.
The most difficult thing to swallow, for me at least, is that the adoration and support the Cubs receive from so many almost-pathetically-suffering fans seems to matter little to a large portion of those within the organization.
Before the games began, fans crowded around the Cubs dugout hoping for some bit of interaction with the players they watch and even idolize. Kids and their parents shout at players for a picture or an autograph as they walk by. Kids practically beg and plead with guys like Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez as they hang around close to the dugout during batting practice.
Yet, outside of Blake DeWitt, Koyie Hill and very gracious Tony Campana, the level of interaction by Cubs players was just enough to make you wonder if the team was so bad because they all suffer from collective hearing loss.
Not a smile or a wave from any member of the Cubs making over $900,000 per year.
Heck, a few fans were even ignored by John Grabow -- the way Grabow's been in a Cubs uniform, you'd think that he would be handing out cash to any fan who acknowledged him in a positive manner.
Now, I understand it's almost tradition for Major League players to act in varying degrees of prima-donna-ism, but shouldn't this Cubs team be clinging for dear life to anyone that appreciates them?
Throughout the weekend, Cubs fans expressed their support in even the most unlikely of situations.
When rookie D.J. LeMahieu came to the plate with the bases loaded on Sunday, fans were shouting "Let's go, D.J.!".
I couldn't understand how fans couldn't comprehend that LeMahieu stood no chance in that situation and how they weren't more upset with Mike Quade's decision to use the obviously-not-ready second baseman.
Then again, Cubs fans are a strange and amazing breed. As little as this team continually gives them, they never give up hope. I'm not sure whether they ever truly expect positive results, but they always have hope for the unlikely.
Instead of giving those fans a performance to be proud of, the Cubs gave them moments like Starlin Castro's half-hearted effort to pursue a muffed catch; or Alfonso Soriano's striking out on 55 foot sliders; or Mike Quade's decision to bat Jeff Baker third on Saturday night.
Cubs fans should be proud of themselves, however. For as uninspiring and as difficult as this team is to root for, Cubs fans are never too ashamed to display their loyalty.
It's a shame that the Cubs organization rewards them with such a lack of effort, lack of discipline and lack of appreciation. And it's even more of a shame that Cubs management doesn't do a better job of holding the players accountable, at least out of respect for such a devoted fan base.