Back in town today, brunchers, after a fun and wrestling-filled jaunt around the East Coast. But as is the way, I came back to find some turbulence in greater Cubdom.
I have to say, as the news spread on Tuesday and I was in New York, I tried to just ignore it and told myself I would just worry about it when I got home late that night. But I couldn't help but be deflated when seeing the Cubs had acquired Daniel Murphy. Not just in the acquisition of that person, and the cold calculation behind it, but because I knew what the cycle would be, both internally for myself and the coverage and reaction around it.
Here's the thing: For all the good that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done for the Cubs, and there's a lot clearly, we know they're just overgrown bros. Previous instances have told us that, like their relationship with BarfStool. And though they are not dumb or even uncaring, the calculation has always been that wins on the field will wash away, or cancel out any concern we might have about players off it. Though you and I may have those concerns at all times, most fans don't. It's cold, but it's generally correct. Which hurts. Theo and Jed knew exactly what they were doing with Murphy, and though there would be a rocky few days, maybe even weeks, banners in October will become the story. Just as they did two years ago with Aroldis Chapman, whom they clearly didn't prep for questions about or even really bother asking about his domestic abuse. We know that now.
Also, Theo and Jed know that part of that calculation is that the media isn't going to ask questions very hard or for very long. There was one question from Paul Sullivan at Murphy's introductory press conference at Wrigley, and his surprise and lack of any real answer showed once again he wasn't prepped for it, which probably means the front office didn't give it much mind. And Theo and Jed aren't stupid, so if they decided it wasn't worth the time, they did so not out of ignorance but out of judgement.
Their "defense," such as it's been, is that they talked to MLB Ambassador of Inclusion Billy Bean about Murphy, and that cleared the air for them. But at no point have they been forced to tell us what Bean said about him, or what they asked, because really all that's going to come out of it is a glorified, "I have a gay friend," excuse for Murphy. He's never apologized, or corrected, or really done anything about his quite simply abhorrent views. Bean basically would have told them that Murphy has been nice to him, and the Cubs FO thought that was enough. If they even did that much.
We were also told that the Ricketts Family signed off on this. Ok? What were they told? What did Laura specifically say? What does "sign off" entail? Did they know about Murphy's past comments? Not everyone did. To simply take that at its word is either fearful or lazy. And if Laura did object, and said she didn't want this on her baseball team, does she have the pull to stop a deal that Tom would? I really wonder.
These are non-answers, and the Cubs media was basically ready to sop them up and much like the Cubs themselves, hope it all blows over.
I write about this today specifically because it is Out At Wrigley Day today. It's supposed to be a celebration, or welcoming, or simply an acknowledgment of the LGBTQ section of Cubs fans, and that they can be who they are at the ballpark. That it is a welcoming place for them. That their concerns will not be ignored, and they will not be made to feel like an outsider because of what baseball and its fans have been and honestly, still quite frequently are.
So how do you square that with the acquisition of Murphy? And it's not just the acquisition, but it's what is stirred up with it. The reaction to the reaction, where those who align with Murphy's hateful thoughts are spurred to speak up and divide the fanbase and make being a fan for those that Murphy quite simply attacks nearly or fully impossible. Or the largest component, my guess, of fans who just want everyone to shut up, watch baseball, so they don't have to think about any perspective that isn't their own. That people can feel inspired to tell other fan their concerns don't matter and if they don't agree they don't belong. Because you've already seen it happen. And if you haven't, I encourage you to read this by Parker Molloy to understand.
The Cubs and Epstein could have said, "We feel that Murphy is a player we need on the field, but his views don't align with how we see Wrigley and Cubs fans and we want to make that clear that it is against who we are as a baseball team. We will continue to work with Daniel on this," or something to that effect, instead of the, "Well this one dude says he's all right" that we got.
But sadly, we're not there yet. I know we're moving toward that, but it may be farther than feels encouraging. The calculation is still that these things don't matter enough to enough people, and that wins are all that matters to more than enough fans that no one really has to look quizzically.. Don't compare this to Josh Hader or Sean Newcombe, who were spewing hateful things as children. Murphy was a grown man. WhatAboutism? gets us nowhere.
I've been asked repeatedly, both about the Cubs and Hawks, why I still would be a fan if things like this bother me. You know this is just the way things are, right? I've always thought loving something meant partly to help make it better and improve it together. I see where the Cubs can be better, and I want them to get there because I've loved them all my life.
Looks like there's still a lot of work to do.