Winter has nothing for me except for occasional and subtle reminders of my own mortality. It's a dead season that inspires despair and invites cold, unloving emotions. I hate winter and I hate winter in Chicago. The darkness comes earlier, the cold bites harder and my bones feel the wind cut through me. There's no baseball to be had in Chicago's winter landscape. The fields are unplayable and indoor facilities are way the hell out in the northern suburbs. It sucks, but it's part of the process. I've made peace with that. Baseball lives, it breathes, it flourishes and then it dies.
We are talking about the theory of baseball games rather than the actual substance of those games now, and while it occasionally warms the heart it does little to assuage the deep longing I have for the game. It's going to be a long wait too, because baseball is like that. It's not immediate. There are very few moments in a baseball game that offer up immediate gratification. There's the home run and there's the amazing run saving defensive play and that's about it. Every other part of this game requires a set up. Strikeouts need planning and execution. Multi run innings require a sequence of baserunners to not make outs. There are many examples to drive this particular point home. This is a marathon game played at a unique pace, but you likely knew that already.
There's a segment of Cubs fan that believes Javier Baez to be the best option at third base that the Cubs have available. They see Bryce Harper and Mike Trout and Manny Machado and ask "If they could do that, why can't Baez?" There's another segment (with some venn diagram overlap) that sees how quickly football teams go from worst to first and wonder "Why can't the Cubs do that?" In each case there are a different set of challenges that answer both questions.
We live in an American Football nation. Sports will always be contrasted to football, whether its subliminally or not. Football is immediate, football is instant, football isn't about the substance, it's about the flash. Teams turn it around from year to year, parity exists and the nature of the game itself allows for that. There's a lot of skill that goes into being a football player but athleticism reigns supreme in the NFL. That's why 22-24 year olds can make an immediate impact on the field.
Baseball isn't like that. Football thrives on flash and surface level charms. Baseball is about substance. The development process for a football player involves learning on the fly in the biggest level because the league collectively bargained for that. The NFL needs parity. Baseball's developmental process takes serious time, with rare exceptions. There's a multitude of nuanced reasons why Javier Baez will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Cubs in 2014. Some do have to do with money, most of it has to do with him just not being ready to handle Major League baseball.
Trout, Machado, Harper and the younger superstars in the game today are rare. Don't let the recent run of young talent confuse you, it isn't supposed to be this easy.
How much longer?
Kevin Brown wrote something up on Theo's comments over here. There was a bit of a controversy as Bleacher Nation speculated that *GASP* the Cubs might be bad in 2014 and 2015 as well. I can't claim to know the roster construction of those teams. I don't know how good or bad they will be, the future is rarely written in stone like that.
All I can do is speculate, and I speculate that they will be a much improved team in those years. I'm not placing bets on them to win the World Series then; I don't bet on baseball and even if I did I wouldn't bet on an uncertain future like that. But, I believe in some of the kids that the Cubs are pumping out. I think that this front office has shown an ability to identify good tier 2 free agents (much like the Red Sox did in 2013). I think this team will have a good blend of homegrown talent and acquisitions made via free agency and the trade.
It's not all rainbows, this was never going to be a quick fix. Pain was going to be involved because that's the nature of the game. It's a masochistic ritual held over 162 games and six summer months. It takes time, as much as you don't want it to.
In a lot of ways, that's life too.