The Chicago Cubs have been very busy this off season making moves, signing players and working on improving the enjoyment factor of a day at Wrigley Field. However, just about all of their moves have left some Cub fans rather upset that they are spending more time and money on these various aspects rather than spending big dollars signing the stars that have hit the free agent market. They are upset that the Cubs seem to be putting competing for a division title and a World Series crown on the back burner while spending their time and money on things that will do nothing to help the Cubs actually win a World Series.
Let's briefly review how the Cubs have spent their off season.
We begin with the new Manager of the Cubs. After two lackluster seasons, the Cubs fired Dale Sveum and began their lengthy and extensive search for a new Manager, someone who might be able to help the on field talent get the most out of their abilities and fulfill their potential. There was great hype over the Cubs chances of actually hiring a big name to manage the Cubs, however Joe Girardi was never a real possibility. Girardi and his agent used the rumors of his going to the Cubs to soak every penny out of the New York Yankees, where he eventually re-signed. There was never any real chance the Cubs were going to sign him, but his pending free agency gave false hope to a large percentage of fans who thought that he would want to "come home" and lead the Cubs to the World Series.
Instead, the Cubs went elsewhere for their new manager and brought in Rick Renteria to become the new leader of the Cubs. Not too many people have ever heard of him, so of course this move left some fans angry. This decision led many fans to complain, saying that the Cubs went on the cheap once again instead of finding a real manager. They could not understand how or why the Cubs would waste their money on a man who had no credentials as a Major League Manager when they say they wanted someone who could be a solid leader. and who could teach the players who to get the most out of their talent.
Another off field move was the Cubs bringing in a new radio partner for Pat Hughes. After Keith Moreland's contract ran out, he chose not to return to the radio booth siting the usual reason most people use when deciding not to return to a job once a contract runs out; he wanted to spend more time with his family. True or not, that is the typical excuse around sports. After another extensive search, the Cubs hired Ron Coomer to sit next to Hughes for the next few seasons. You would not believe this, but yes, some fans were upset the Cubs spent time looking for a new radio voice instead of looking for players in free agency. The comment I heard from one fan was "now that the Cubs have the important issues taken care of, maybe now they can turn their attention to building a team".
Of course, you also had the never ending battle with the rooftops which seems to be going around in circles. Some fans are very vocal when this subject comes up. You have the percentage that demand the Cubs leave Wrigley alone, because of all the tradition the place holds. Then you have those who get upset that the Cubs are spending money to keep Wrigley standing with their renovation plans instead of investing all that money into the team. They do not care about Wrigley, they just want to see a winner. The revenue dollars the team could get with these expansion plans be damned, put that on the back burner and buy a contender. The voices got even louder when things began to drag on even more with the recent news of a lawsuit being filed to settle this seemingly never ending struggle with the rooftops. Should the Cubs buy the rooftops to put an end to this mess? I wish they would, can you imagine what they could do if they did? While the Cubs may look like easy victors, their winning any case is no sure thing due to a number of reasons. Maybe the Cubs will just have to leave Wrigley all together. Who knows.
My favorite off season story though, would be none other than Clark the Cub being introduced as the new Cubs mascot. This set off a storm like I have never seen. Some fans upset that the Cubs are turning Wrigley into even more of a circus that what is normal, fans upset that the mascot is not wearing any pants (yes, I am serious) and of course the fans who are upset that the Cubs once again spent money on something that will not do anything to help them win the World Series.
Seriously, this guy in the costume is likely making $30K a year wearing a suit that cost at most $10K to make and fans are complaining about the money spent on that when they think the dollars could have been better used. Tell me, what player can the Cubs buy for $40K? I do not think you can even afford a minor league deal worth that much, so spending money on a mascot should be the very least of their concerns.
The final off the field move the Cubs made this off season was to finally bring good pizza to Wrigley Field for the fans to enjoy while they watch the ball game. A few days ago, the Cubs announced they will be bringing in Giordano's to Wrigley Field. While many fans celebrated real pizza finally coming to Wrigley, once again even this move was met with complaints. There were fans who were once again upset that the Cubs were spending their time worrying about something that will do nothing to actually help them win the World Series. Again, the argument was made that instead of worrying about the food choices, they should be more worried about which players they should be bringing in to actually help the team win some games, and avoid another near 100 loss season. I do not know about you, but I love pizza, and Giordano's has some amazing pizza. While they are a step below Lou Malnatis, they are a close second and I will gladly purchase a slice or two when I am there watching the boys in blue.
That just about takes care of the off the field stories from this off season. At least the major ones. But to ease your mind, the Cubs did in fact pay attention to the actual team. That's right the Cubs did sign a few players you may never had heard of to minor league deals to give them organizational depth. The Cubs also actually signed and traded for a couple of players to upgrade the bench. This of course set off a long run of some fans asking who this player was, or who that player was. Of course, that led to more complaints from some fans asking why the Cubs are wasting money on these players instead of buying real players who might actually make as difference to the ball club.
I do not know what to tell you guys if you feel this way, other than all major league teams sign players to minor league deals for organizational depth and also sign players for the sole purpose of platoons and backing up players at the Major League level, Even the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox do this, so complaining about the Cubs doing so is amusing. No team will sign star players and pay them 10s of millions of dollars to ride the bench and backup another player who is making 10s of millions of dollars. That is simply not realistic for any team, no matter how rich the owner is, or how much money a team makes in a given year. I am sorry if I am breaking news here and disappointing you, but that is just a fact of life and quite frankly a truth in baseball.
However, the Cubs also improved in another area; one that was much needed when they signed a few relief pitchers to help their horrific bullpen. That should have made those few complaining Cub fans happy right? You would think so, after all the bullpen needed a lot of help after blowing nearly 30 saves last year (and no, Marmol was not the cause of them all). You would think, but you would be wrong. No matter who they signed (Wesley Wright and Jose Veras), or which pitcher they brought in to help one of the worst bullpens in baseball last year, some fans did nothing but sneer at the moves and offer up mocking chants of "World Series here we come" followed by demands to sign a big name player that might actually matter.
Correct me if I am wrong (and I might be) but is not fixing the bullpen doing something that might actually matter? Even if the Cubs only blew 15 games instead of the near 30, you are looking at a team with wins in the mid 70s. A better bullpen will lead to more wins, even on a team that struggles to score runs as the Cubs did last year. It is a fact that if you do not blow a lead, you have a great chance of actually winning the game. So signing bullpen pitchers to help the bullpen is doing something to help the on field talent.
I get that some Cub fans are getting anxious and impatient. I would love to see them go out and spend $300 Million every year and bring in the best players money can buy. But that is not really a realistic way to build a contending ball club year after year. At some point, the owner is going to run out of money, the players will all leave in free agency and you will not be able to afford new players. I get that fans are frustrated and are wanting to see some improvements made quicker than they are, but some of the improvements that are being made are going unseen by some people.
The farm system is amazing with some truly jaw dropping talent who will be making their way to Wrigley Field very shortly, maybe even this season for Kris Bryant and Javier Baez. You just have to wait, and yes I know Cub fans are getting tired of hearing that they need to be patient and wait. But that is how things are. Good times are on the horizon, and you can see them in the not too distant future.
Not sure if fans care after they lost out on Masahiro Tanaka, but they actually did try to sign a big name player. They just failed in the long run. Who knows, perhaps them missing out of the $155 Million player was a good thing. But they did try to spend some money on what some fans would call a "player that matters".
Whether you choose to believe me or not, the Cubs actually can do more than one thing at a time. They can take care of all the little things while actually building a team, and making them better. If you do not like the moves the Cubs have made this off season, I do not know what to tell you. Not everything the Cubs do has to be done to improve the on field talent., even though everything the Cubs have done this off season (even Clark the Cub) is to improve the team and the game day experience.
Clark will get more children interested in the team, give them something to entertain them and a reason to continue coming back (besides their parents bringing them). Hook em while they are young, get them interested int he game and bring them along slowly and when they get older they will start spending money.
The Wrigley expansion will generate a ton of revenue which will allow the Cubs to sign those mega deals for the super star free agents. You may not want to see your beloved Wrigley changed, but the changes are being done to bring in more money so that Tom Ricketts has more money to spend on the team!
The pizza, that is an easy one. If a team is selling good food, fans will buy more good food. There is not much food that I would consider good at Wrigley, maybe the Nacho Helmet and the Italian Beef Helmet, but anything the Cubs can do to generate more revenue, and make the game day experience more enjoyable, I am all for.
All I can say is suck it up buttercup. Changes are being made, and they are all being done for the same reason. To improve the team. Everything, whether you see the moves this way or not, is being done to help the Cubs build a strong fan base and get them to the World Series.
The new season is about to get underway, and Spring Training is about to start. Time to ditch those post season blues, complaints about what has, or has not been done and get ready to enjoy some Cubs baseball once again!
By the way, why not enter our Home Run Call Contest? Believe it or not, the Cubs were 9th in the majors in hitting homers last year, so we'll hopefully get a lot of chances to use your winning call this year!