Rage against the machine, indeed.
I used to like Tom Morello. The dude could flat-out shred, make a guitar do things people hadn't heard before. Unfortunately, he can also make a keyboard do things people hadn't heard, or read before. In a recent article for Rolling Stone, the musician laid out his "seven-point program to end Chicago's century of misery."
Wow, thanks, Tom! You've done it! In just under 1400 words, you've solved over a century of futility and have done what Dallas Green, Jim Hendry, and Thed Epstoyer never could: you created a plan to make the Cubs world champions. Allow me, if you will, to bang my head in celebration.
Morello was in town for the Hot Stove Cool Music event last night at the Metro and he got to throw out a ceremonial first pitch (along with WAYNE NEWTON!), as well as sing the stretch with Mr. Cub. I was jealous of him on Friday, due in no small part to his ownership of the 40's throwback jersey I so covet.
But when I heard about, and subsequently read, Tom's open letter, my jealousy quickly turned to contempt. Like it or not, and I'm firmly in the "not" group, Morello has now become the de facto voice of the Cubs fan in the eyes of RS readers across the country. I think my boy Tommy Meyers put it best:
Tom Morello, supreme leader of the cubs meatballs
— Tommy Meyers (@TommyM44) June 21, 2014
If we have to have a rock star representative, can we get Eddie Vedder back? Heck, even Billy Corgan would be a better option at this point, though I'm not sure how much cachet he's got left. At least Vedder knew enough to hope that "Someday We'll Go All the Way;" Morello's hubris led him to lay out a full plan.
So let's take a look The Nightwatchman's strategy and see if it indeed contains the secret to a long-missing Cubs title.
1. The Cubs must have the highest payroll in Major League Baseball until they win the World Series.
I guess if you're gonna go, go big. This undermine's Morello's credibility right from the start. Sure, a huge payroll can help to put you in position to succeed, but how sustainable is that. I'm going to file this under the "if a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass when he hopped" category, which, not surprisingly, is going to fill up quickly with the remaining points.
Here's the conclusion of the opening point of The Plan:
Plus, when we DO win that World Series, we fans make this solemn pledge: You can sell-off the entire team and their high salaries, put a minimum-wage, junior-high team on the field, and we vow to fill the stands for the next FIVE years. We'll just sit in our seats watching the awesome YouTube highlights of our World Series victory on our phones and cheer wildly. Then after five years of euphoria for us, and record profits for you, we can renegotiate.
I should have stopped right there, but I'm a glutton for punishment. First "sell-off" is actually a noun, so the typo sort of turned me off, like when people saying they're going to go workout. Basically, Morello wants the Cubs to become the Marlins. I get that one title would alleviate the suffering, but why just be satisfied with that?
2. No petulant superstars.
Huh, no more Sammy Sosas or Milton Bradleys; well, that's just genius. It goes without saying that you want guys on your team who reflect your own personal values, but I would be willing to bet that Tom Morello wasn't complaining when Sosa was launching baseballs onto Waveland with regularity.
Sure, the Cubs have had their share of a-holes, most of whom we've conveniently pushed out of our collective memory. But if the goal is to win and an abrasive character is the final piece to the puzzle, are you telling me you'd rather exchange "Kum Ba Yah" for "We Are The Champions?" Didn't think so. Next!
3. The booing ends now.
Are the fans booing the team that has the best record in the NL over the past month-plus, 18-13 in the last 31 games? No, they boo when the product on the field isn't worth the cost of admission and $8 Old Style or $8.75 Goose Island (I might be off by a quarter or two there, but does it really matter?).
I'm not a booer of my teams, it's just not me. But at least the fans who are are doing so because they care; I feel that it's misdirected and inappropriate at times, but I know those people at least want to see the Cubs be better. I'd prefer that over a bunch of people out there for a party, who, after a few too many of the aforementioned barley sodas, don't even know what's going on.
4. Zero tolerance for racism.
This is another one that should go without saying, but the sad reality is that ignorance exists and will never be completely eradicated. As long as vendors are creating Horry Kow t-shirts, people are going to buy them. But I doubt the Cubs are the only MLB team with idiot fans.
In fact, it's the lack of tolerance for racism that forced Charles Weeghman to sell the team in the first place. It's a sad irony, or just incredibly unfortunate, that the team hasn't won a World Series in the time since that ownership change.
5. This is not a job, this is a quest.
Okay, once we start getting into the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, we get WAY off-track in terms of the reality of the situation. Cubs players didn't all grow up as fans of the team; they don't button up their jerseys thinking about the ghosts of Tinker, Evers, and Chance and wanting to win it all to honor the memory of fans like Morello's dear Aunt Isabelle.
And that's not to speak ill of the dead; we've all got a relative who passed on having never seen their team achieve the ultimate success. But you can't lead off saying the team needs to have the highest payroll in baseball and then come back with some corny business about a quest. What, are players supposed to come to Chicago for glory over money?
If that was the case, the Cubs would get every free agent every off-season. Playing professional baseball is, by its very definition, a job. Sure, the guys who do finally win here will be revered as heroes, but this might be the asinine of Tom's seven points.
6. The Curse is real.
I have to admit, I sort of dig this one. I was watching that inane made-for-ESPN trial as to whether the Cubs or Red Sox had the more valid curse and I was really upset when the "jury" decided in favor of the Sox. No, I don't believe that Billy Siannis really put a hex on the team.
But I do believe that the weight of all the years of losing and the mentality of the fans and ownership over the years has impacted the team's success. Just ask the New York Knights' team psychologist: losing is a disease. But how does saying that it's real help to create a winner, Tom?
Let's match our top-paid team of amazing, petulance-free, dedicated, gametime-sober superstars with our non-booing, racially harmonious, wildly cheering, quest-committed fanbase against this Curse. So when the next black cat appears, or the next Bartman makes his move we'll be ready. We'll stare that Curse dead in the eye and say "We are Chicago. We know you, and together we can beat you."
So this isn't really a point at all, just something the Cubs will overcome by implementing your previous five point. Unless he's indicating that only by admitting the enemy can we defeat it. Eh, whatever.
7. Truth and consequences.
I propose that unless this plan is adopted by Cub's ownership, we let our voices be heard and next year, we skip Opening Day. Imagine that. Opening Day at Wrigley Field and an empty stadium. Now you have their attention.
Does Tom Morello actually pay to get into Wrigley Field? Is he using his MasterCard to gain access to the pre-sale that opens the day before single-game tickets go on sale to the rest of the general public? Who knows, maybe he does. This topic is just another example of someone continuing the uninformed narrative that Wrigley always sells out.
Sure, the Cubs are a very profitable franchise. But the attendance numbers have been dropping each year at a staggering pace. While filling Wrigley to 78.5% capacity (8th in MLB) might be a good number relative to the rest of the majors, it's a far cry from what they were only a few years ago.
For eight years, from 2004-11, the Cubs drew more than 3 million fans. While they're still on pace for about 2.6 million, that represents a drop of nearly 700,000 attendees over the peak of 3.3 million in 2008. At an average ticket price of $44.16, that's comes to almost $31 million; and that's without factoring in parking, concessions, program, etc.
It's a convenient narrative to look at the team's profitability and see that it's among the best in MLB and then draw the conclusion that the Ricketts family doesn't care about winning since they're raking in the dough. All they care about is money, right? But see, there's this thing about people who want to make money: they want to make as much as they can.
And the best way to make money, in addition to video boards, additional signage, and a hotel, is to put a winner on the field.
When I first perused the letter, I was as fired up as bulls on parade, but writing, as always, is cathartic. I still think Morello is out of touch and I lament the fact that many will believe he speaks on behalf of all Cubs fans, but I do agree with him on this: it does matter if the Cubs win the World Series.
And while I can appreciate his love for this team, I'd prefer it if, moving forward, he would just stick to the stage and leave the Cubs commentary alone.
Follow me on Twitter: @DEvanAltman
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Filed under: Pop Culture