Cubs Fans Continue to Take Sides as Storm Clouds Gather on Horizon

Cubs Fans Continue to Take Sides as Storm Clouds Gather on Horizon

The latter part of last week was supposed to be a great time for me. I was headed back from a business trip in Florida and was going to spend the next three days shuttling my two kids (Addison, 7, and Ryne, 5) between my sister's house in Columbus, IN and Indiana University in Bloomington, where the kids were participating in Tom Crean's Little Hoosiers camp.

But as I sat in the airport in Ft. Lauderdale waiting for them to call for boarding, I saw an ominous post at the top of my Facebook feed. It announced the unexpected passing of a man who had been a mentor to me, along with hundreds, probably thousands, of others over the years.

So now the rest of my week was consumed by conflicting emotional fronts, one buoyed by my joy at seeing my children running around with the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall, and the other weighed down with grief and loss. I eventually found myself realizing that my life was far better for having known this man in the first place, but that didn't prevent the week from being an incredibly draining one.

So what does that have to do with the headline? Well, in and of itself, nothing. But I think the concept of different emotions really building to a head is something that we're going to see very soon when it comes to the Cubs fanbase. I think we're all aware of the different views of the rebuilding process, but the sides have been able to co-exist somewhat innocuously for the past few years.

But with the tidal wave of high-performing prospects, not to mention the incredible play of Anthony Rizzo, inspiring audacious hope on one end and the inevitable dive into a high-draft-pick pool by the major league team sparking skepticism on the other, I think we're looking at an ideological storm of epic proportions.

Where's Bill Paxton when you need him, huh?

While it might not be as scientifically accurate as the tools used by Tom Skilling and those of his ilk, I utilize Twitter as a barometer for the feelings of fans on both sides of the argument and I get the sense that things are building toward a civil war of sorts between the two factions of this Theocracy. As Exhibit A, I present the epic thread from Sahadev Sharma's (@sahadevsharma) timeline from Sunday night.

For a long time, the banter was more of a playful, you-suck-no-you-suck variety, but it seems more and more that there's some real vitriol behind the words, that 140-characters-or-less mortars are now being launched from fixed positions and that trenches are being dug. And I'm not the only one sensing it; Rice Cube from World Series Dreaming just wrote about the growing divide among fans too.

Both sides know they're right and are clinging so steadfastly to their respective narrative that nothing short of its destruction will be able to change their view. And with that in mind, as odd as it may sound, it's that annihilation that I'm most anticipating, even if it means that the particular narrative flag I'm flying is the one lying on the ground in tatters.

I'm interested to see what the anti-rebuild faction says if they end up being wrong. Will they be contrite, admitting the fault in their beliefs? Or will they shake their fists defiantly, claiming that it all could have been done sooner? My money's on the latter, but if winning really does cure all ills, then I have a sneaking suspicion that anger will melt quickly.

Either way, I'm sure there will be more than a few toldya-so's thrown around, laced with varying degrees of righteous indignance. And it'll be interesting to see what sort of editorial decisions are made when certain narratives go from mildly nauseating in their suppositions to blatantly incorrect and spiteful.

But what if the detractors of The Plan stand in triumph over the In Theo We Trust crowd? Will they be gracious victors, reaching out their collective hand in an effort of reconciliation or reconstruction? Or will they form that hand into an iron fist, swinging on all those who attempted to call them out?

Again, I'm going with the second option and it's really a no-brainer. If this thing doesn't work out, the Cubs are going to be in a truly awful place, like a partially-developed nation in the wake of a deposed dictator...or Detroit. And I don't think that's going to be very fun for anyone; even the people who "won" won't be happy.

So I really want this rebuild to work, and work well. Not because I want to be right (which I think I will be, and which I will certainly enjoy), but because the alternative is too bleak to even contemplate. And I guess that's where I take issue with those whose view can't seem to encompass even the possibility that this thing will work out.

I can't understand the idea of maintaining a willful ignorance to the facts being presented. But again, I'm biased. And I believe these arguments are going to get much worse before they get better, that we're headed toward a pretty divisive period in Cubs fandom, one that might last as few as 6 months and as many as 18.

Then again, this could all be a moot point if Kris Bryant and Javier Baez come up and have an immediate impact, satisfying fans on both sides of the divide. But until that happens, the middle ground is going to look increasingly like a demilitarized zone, as more and more people grow too myopic to clearly see past their own noses.

I'm interested to hear what you think though. Do you see the same active fault lines among fans or am I making something up out of nothing? I'd particularly like to hear from someone on the anti-rebuild side, specifically why you have taken that position and what you'll do or say if the whole thing works out according to plan. The comments section is there for a reason, folks.


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  • The one part of the plan that I can't stand is the use of the Platoon Players. Tanking is fine. Development is fine. Signing mid-level free agent SP for a year and flipping them has been genius.

    But after three years of watching mediocre-to-bad thirty somethings stumble all over themselves alongside Rizzo and Castro, what result? Shoot, if you were tanking, why not try the second tier of prospects? Leave Olt and Lake in every day. Bring up Jackson and Vitters. Where is Ryan Kalish?

    In my heart I know that none of these guys will ever amount to anything, but what if they did? Then they would have more value than what's left of Sweeney, Schierholz, Dejesus, Bonifacio, etc. None of those guys, not a single one, should have ever been given an AB under my execution of The Plan.

    I have been saying for three years - no position players over 25 years old.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    A lot of teams use platoons. I remember complaining about the same thing with Dusty and with Lou when the season was winding down, and they were not making the playoffs, but yet no one was getting called up to see what we had. If guys were called up they sat on the bench in favor of aging vets who are manager thought gave us a better chance to win, because we will owed it to all the teams in contention to field a competitive team.

    It's just another bullshit unwritten rule of baseball. I'm sure if the Cubs were in contention and the team close to them in the standings was playing a bunch of AAAA scrubs we'd be pissed off.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    I can dig the age limit.

  • In reply to Rob Letterly:

    The issue isn't the platoon, but using players that shouldn't be in MLB.

    The proper Hegelian synthesis seems to be Barry Rosner's "Theo has been transparent with his plan, but nobody is making you pay to see the current garbage." So, when and if Theo's plan pays off, then buy tickets. But ignore the sideshows like Clark and bobbleheads. Make Ricketts pay for the rebuild.

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    I can't argue about letting Lake and Olt play more to see what they are capable of. The Cubs will be trading more of their vets before the deadline, so you will see more kids. Ryan Kalish is hitting miserably down in AAA, so no point in bringing him up.

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    I'm an anti-rebuild, because I've seen too many bad moves so far by this front office (the Edwin Jackson signing, the hiring of Dale Sveum, and the signing of Jose Veras are Exhibits 1, 2, and 3, but there are others, too. And Kerry Wood's signing was the first indication that all was not well in Theo-ville).

    I think of all the lifelong Cubs fans who are going to their graves every week that this rebuild drags on. Theo and Jed are young guys, relatively speaking, and they can afford to play the long game with the rebuild. But life is short, and there's no guarantees that any of us will live to see the Plan bear fruit. And what do you say to the fans who literally have never seen their team in the World Series? Wait until 2017, or some year further out than that? I want one title before I die, that's all. And pushing off that success to some ill-defined point in the future is cold comfort for me at this point.

    What will I say if it all works out? I'll get back on the bandwagon and cheer like anyone else. But there's no bonus points for sticking by the Plan (through shelling out the ridiculous ticket prices being asked for at the ballpark) when things are this bad. The championship hat is going to cost $30 for each of us, when/if the time comes. You say when, and I say if.

    In the three years of the Plan so far, the only big money FA signing has been Jackson. And he simply wasn't worth either the money or the years that he was given by this front office. So what do we have to suggest that the Cubs will actually land an impact free agent this offseason?

    David Ortiz helped put the Red Sox over the top when Theo was in Boston. He needs to land a similar player for the Cubs if they're going to go to the promised land. Not only does he need to identify the player/s, he needs to outbid all the other clubs who might also want to sign them. And call me skeptical, but I don't think the money will be there when the time comes. Renovating Wrigley AND locking up veteran FAs will be an expensive proposition, particularly in the face of (rightfully) declining attendance.

    I suspect the plan all along has been to rely on Baez, Bryant, and all of the home-grown talent, without fully jumping into the FA pool. But the pitching won't match up to the hitting, if this approach is followed to its conclusion. Arms will be needed, and better arms than what we have now, although I do like Jake Arrieta. If they can lock up an ace or two in the near future, it might work out OK. But there's no track record to base than on, either. What pitcher is going to want to become Jeff Samardzija 2.0 in the future?

    So yes, if all works out I'll gladly admit that I sold this front office short. But for now, I'm sick and tired of 90+ loss seasons, and I don't see the light and the end of the tunnel, even if Baez and Schwarber and all of the others turn out like we want them to. It's not going to be enough, I'm afraid.

    All the best to you.

  • In reply to Rob Harris:

    so "all" the prospects wont be enough.. but D Ortiz singlehandedly turned around the Red Sox.. if Bryant or Baez produce at half the level they are expected, that is close to two David Ortiz's in the Cubs lineup, not to forget possible "All Star" production from Soler, Alcantara, A Russell, K Schwarber.. if they do "all" turn out, it will be more than enough to get the Cubs to the playoffs and contending year after year. and I love when people cry about attendance.. they will come back if and when the cubs win.. just like the fans of all winning teams do.

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I didn't say it was all Ortiz in Boston. I said he put them over the top. There's a difference there. Theo inherited Pedro, Johnny Damon, Manny, and others in Boston. But Big Papi made the difference when they finally did break through in 2004.

    And I'm saying right now that some prospects don't pan out. That's just the nature of this game. I hope they all become big league studs some day, but there's enough Felix Pies in the world to convince me otherwise.

  • In reply to Rob Harris:

    was felix pie and overall top 5 prospect.. or just a cub top prospect? it is silly to past failures with this current organization.. do all prospects pan out? no, but the top ones are more likely to be impact players than anyother.. and cubs have 3 in the top 5.. and likely to have 7 in the top 100

  • In reply to Rob Harris:

    Papi no doubt was a huge factor.

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    In reply to Rob Harris:

    At the risk of sounding obtuse, I don't care about the fact that a lot of people won't see the Cubs win a WS title. Those same people missed out on it when the team was throwing money around too, so I'm not really sure what the difference is. In fact, I'd argue that having an expectation of being terrible is better than thinking they can win. We've waited all our lives, what's a couple more years?

  • if our top 7 minor league players turn out as we would like, we will be in the playoffs every year for the next decade starting in 2016. You asked for a David Ortiz type. Jake Arrieta may be that guy...a top 10 SP acquired for one of those veteran players you aren't a fan of. An expectation of no mistakes is an unrealistic standard to meet. Sveum was a bad hire, I feel Renteria is another one, Veras was a rather minor mistake. EJax has not pitched well, but he has soaked up 180 innings for likely two years in a row, which was basically what he was signed to do. I wish he had pitched better, but it's basically meaningless except we prob won't be able to sell him off for anything good like we would have if he had pitched well.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    Name one HOF manager, past or present, that could have gotten better results with the rosters that Dale and Ricky have had to work with. Like they say, good players make smart managers.

  • In reply to dumbass:

    I think lots of people could have got better results. I find the bullpen mgmt of both to be silly at times. Lineups at times have been extremely questionable. In game mgmt is neither's strong suit. Enough to make a difference - to get us out of the cellar? No, prob not. I guess we should be thankful - more losses means better draft picks. I don't think either is what you could call a top notch manager in the game who will give you an extra edge and I do think we will hire someone else in due time.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    Just one point on Arrieta. I think we fans make a mistake assuming Arrieta could a long-term core piece. I hope he proves me wrong, but he's never pitched more than 175 innings in any season. Even this season -- considered his breakout season -- there's no guarantee he reaches that figure thanks to missing all of April to shoulder stiffness. And given that he'll be 29 next year, I don't see his arm getting stronger and more stamina. Love the first half he had, and how hes changed his style of pitching to be more efficient. But it's hard to put too many eggs into his basket to become a true work horse who can both put in 200-plus innings in a regular season and then another 20 innings during some future deep playoff run. Given all this, I won't be surprised if Theo/Jed build up his reputation as an "ace" in name only like they did with Shark and then hope he starts strong in 2015 to flip. And given that he will be in his 30s by the time our prospects might mature into contenders, that could be the smartest move.

  • I'm fine with the rebuild. But of course, I was a tear-it-down and flip-em-for-multiple-assets guy a couple years before Theo came to town anyways.

    I understand the impatience many fans have. But we do forget how little the Cubs had when Theo got here. And throwing money at free agents didn't work when we had Pinella, and with industry changes that have seen most quality young players locked up early, there have been even fewer top free agents to go after. Plus Theo inherited so many impossible to move contracts with over-comfortable veteran prima donnas. The only trading chips of any value they flipped smartly: Marshall for Wood, Cashner for Rizzo. The one "big" trade everyone blistered them for (Colvin & LeMahieu for Ian Stewart) has really been of no consequence. (Colorado "won" the trade, but none of the players are/were championship calibre pieces.)

    The front office also guarded as well as possible the value of DL-tourist Garza. Traded high on the jocular but unintense Dempster (even after his diva move nixing the Atlanta deal), and expertly nurtured the innings of Samardzija to groom him into the perception of an ace and flipped for maximum value.

    The over-paying for rehabbing SPs on one-year deals was a genius invention and helped substitute for the outlawed over-slotting in the draft. The structuring of the Edwin Jackson contract with the upfront signing bonus was potential genius for future flipping purposes except Jackson proved as coaching-proof as he when under Don Cooper and Dave Duncan. All of this shows a front office working harder and more creatively than most front offices, and not just resting on the laurels of high draft picks (like the Astros).

    My main quibble though is I wish they had signed a few more higher quality veterans. I'm not talking superstars. I'm talking somewhere between the Jacoby Ellsbury's and David DeJesus's. When you see a Jerrod Saltalamacchia go to the Marlins for "just" $15M over two years, or a Russell Martin sign a similar deal the season prior with the Pirates, you wonder what their veteran knowledge and leadership could have done for our young pitchers... let alone helped our parade of rookie managers and beleaguered coaches better manage the clubhouse.

    Same thing in the infield. Why didn't they get a veteran second baseman to pair with Castro three years ago to help with his defensive maturation? (Darwin Barney was never going to be any more than a plus-glove Ryan Theriot.) In hindsight, putting it all on Sveum alone to "get through to" Castro was a real organizational blunder that resulted in a lost year of development. I sense (but don't know for sure) that the Cubs losing coach Dave Mackay to the Diamondbacks to speaks to some of these missteps.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Wonderful point on EJax. I said same recently.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Keep up the great writing Tom. Love the site.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Thank you Jeff. I am proud of this team lately.

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