Another Chicago baseball season comes to a close and fans on both sides of town have that same recurring taste in their mouths. It's a little bit sour, a little bit like stale beer, and a little bit bitter as we watch perennial playoff teams return for October baseball together with suprise teams in Oakland and Baltimore, but no one with "Chicago" on the front of their jerseys is doing anything but raking leaves.
On April 5, 2012, I published a post on this site in which I described my father's lamentations after he listened to the Cubs first game of the season in his car while driving back to Chicago from his "snowbird" life in Florida. (http://www.chicagonow.com/its-never-just-black-and-white/2012/04/cubs-will-lose-100-games-and-wood-should-be-fired-says-long-suffering-fan/) In that post, my father predicted 100 losses for the Cubs and begged for the Cubs to "fire" Kerry Wood. As I described my father, he is indeed a long-suffering Cubs fan, having attended the 1945 World Series as a boy and stuck with the team since then. I also begged Theo and his crew, for my father's sake, to speed up his overhaul of the franchise.
Fast forward to when my cell phone rang at work two days ago and it was my father calling me from a cramped seat on an airplane repeating himself over and over, "100 losses, 100 losses, 100 losses ..." While I wondered what the person sitting next to him on the airplane may have been thinking, I also tried to interrupt him to ask if he was ok. He said he was fine and reminded me of the April 5 post (which he proudly shared with all of his friends) and suggested that I remind the world of his predicting prowess. "And don't forget they got rid of Kerry Wood, like I predicted also." Yes, Dad.
I have also dabbled in Cubs-based predictions myself (see my August 17, 2011 post in this space titled, "An Open Letter to Tom Ricketts - We're Dying Out Here"), specifically "asking " Tom Ricketts to please hire Theo Epstein as last season was spiraling into the toilet.
While I may have been right about the Theo hiring, I couldn't help but wonder this week, as a fan of Chicago baseball who favors the White Sox, but doesn't despise the Cubs, which is worse? Losing 100 games in an admittedly rebuilding season or folding up in September and letting two months in first place go to waste?
To me, holding first place through July and August and having a three-game lead on September 18 while getting ready to play two teams going nowhere and blowing a chance for the playoffs far outweighs 100 losses. Going back to my father's predictions, he also commented that the Cubs' opening day lineup for 2012 was the worst starting lineup he'd seen in his entire life. Given that opinion alone, probably shared by many Cubs fans, what did people think was going to happen? Would 99 losses have been better? How about 93? Of course not.
The White Sox fold-up represents the lament that many Chicago sports fans feel almost every year of our lives (exceptions being 1985 Bears, Jordan's Bulls, 2005 White Sox, and 2009-10 Blackhawks) regardless of the team. We invest time, money and emotions into our teams, but they almost routinely disappoint us. The White Sox had the playoffs in their sights and they simply let it slip away. They have no one to blame but the players that filled out the roster day after day. They didn't hit when they needed to, the pitchers couldn't get outs when necessary, and the big play - either at the plate, on the mound, in the field or on the bases - never came.
Why is the White Sox fold worse as well? Money. A team in first place for two months can't draw more fans than a season-long doormat that loses 100 games is something that White Sox management truly needs to address. For all practical purposes, a winning team was on the field for the entire second half of the season. So, Kenny Williams' mantra that "if we win, they'll come" failed to ring true. While on the other side of town, the Cubs came close to drawing 3,000,000 customers.
I'm not trying to give the Cubs a pass. 100 losses is embarassing regardless and harkens back to the sorry Cubs teams of the 70's and 80's when I was a beer vendor and it seemed that our ranks outnumbered the drinkers in the stands.
But 3,000,000 fans on one side of town and a "rebuilding" campaign together with an "almost" success (Paul Konerko - this season was not a success) on the other side of town does not and should not make fans happy and eager for next year. Rather, each failure should instruct Theo Epstein and Kenny Williams that there is quite a bit of work to do and that maybe success should only be represented by a World Series championship.
In the meantime, I'm rooting for Oakland. I've always liked the uniforms.
Filed under: Uncategorized