After reading Al's recent article Why the Cubs Will Win the Pennant, where he lays out a scenario in which the Cubs will be a .500 team at best, I became instantly overcome with despair. Why? Because I agree with him. How, after two disappointing seasons could the Cubs continue to justify fielding a team full of scrap-heap signings, unproven potential "stars," and injury-prone players hoping to bounce back to form? Our only bragging rights as Cubs fans have been to a now top-ranked farm system and a ballpark centennial birthday celebration.
I've honestly done nothing but complain about the Cubs since 2008. I never liked Dale Sveum. I was disappointed that the billionaire Ricketts family didn't swoop in and buy us a team, and I thought signing players like Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley were mistakes from the get go. I've been disheartened by this slow rebuilding process, and frankly quite weary of being asked for further patience.
But while clearing off a shelf to make room for 2014's bobblehead extravaganza giveaway at Wrigley this year, I came to the conclusion that no matter our personal projections of the Cubs 2014 season, it is downright un-American to not hope that this season the Cubs can be better, or dare I say it, good. As fans, we have the responsibility to project upon our players an environment of positivity. Sure, booing a player like Carlos Marmol last year seemed justified and even fun for those of us with schadenfreudistic tendencies. But we must not give up or give in to negativity. Why? Because it doesn't help.
Can you imagine if people came to your job and booed you every time you underperformed even though you were trying as hard as you could? It would make it harder the next time out wouldn't it? You'd be nervous to fail and scared to get booed again. You'd be unfocused to the task at hand. And even if you're not the type who outright boos a player, the attitude at Wrigley the last few years has been depressing. Low attendance and quiet crowds. Half the Cubs players don't even enjoy a smattering of applause during the lineup announcements. It's been kinda sad.
I understand. I've been guilty of being a bad fan saying things like, "I just go to the games to find out in which new and interesting way we're going to lose." We've all sat through some grueling baseball for a while now. We've lost our big-name bragging rights to stars like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez whose jerseys remain ubiquitous within the friendly confines. We've traded every decent player that made it worth showing up to a Cubs game for the hope of young talent. It's hard to watch your team lose. But what's done is done. They've stripped it down to the bones and now it's building time.
Every team will experience devastating losses this season. Even the team that wins the World Series will lose some heartbreakers. The difference between the winners and the losers is simple. The winners don't give up in the face of adversity. We Cubs fans can't give up either. The winners believe they can win. The losers are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting to lose. Sound familiar?
I remember watching Game 1 of the 2008 NLDS at Blondies sports bar in New York with a bunch of Cubs fan friends. When the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning, the camera panned around the crowd and to one woman in particular who had her face in her hands. She had already given up, and was now projecting her lack of belief in the Cubs, the best team in the National League during the regular season, to the entire country on national TV. In the fifth inning! In game freaking one!
That, my friends, is loser talk, and I for one am sick to death of it. Five years of complaining is long enough. It's time to start believing in ourselves. Whether we win this year or in 100 years.
Let's believe in Starlin Castro's bounceback season. He was a hitting savant when he first came up. He can be again. Let's get behind him and cheer him on towards the perennial All-Star we know he can be.
Let's believe Anthony Rizzo will lead the league in doubles and have 113 RBI. Maybe he'll win the gold glove.
Let's believe Junior Lake will hit 32 home runs and be the kind of player that will take his opportunity in the big leagues to become a surprise star.
Let's believe Mike Olt was a steal for Matt Garza and will be our third baseman for the next decade.
Let's believe in Darwin Barney hitting .270.
Let's believe in our veterans by default like Emilio Bonifacio and Nate Schierholtz.
Let's believe in our bullpen which has added depth and some great young arms.
Let's believe that Travis Wood will continue pitching like an All-Star; Jeff Samardzija is the ace he thinks he is; Edwin Jackson can do more than eat innings; Chris Rusin will break through and be a solid major league lefty, and Carlos Villanueva will pitch so well, that Wrigley is inundated with fans wearing tribute curly mustaches -- not the ironic kind worn by the hipster set.
Let's believe in our new manager and a retooled staff.
Let's believe that when our players are injured the Triple-A guy will come up, over perform, and earn himself a spot on the team.
Lets believe that we can beat the Brewers! (They really aren't that good.)
Let's believe I can finish this post without including a selfie.
Let's believe in the Cubs. Let's believe that everything that could possibly go right, goes right. It's not magic. It's just baseball and confidence.
I'm certainly guilty of not believing. I've questioned the Cubs' ability to ever field another contending team again! But as we inch closer to the 2014 campaign, I'm personally deciding to go in with a sense of optimism. Otherwise it will be a very very long season. Every hope I've listed above could happen. These are not impossibilities. What if all those great things happened at the same time? It would be a fun summer!
On paper, I agree. This is a young team with zero proven stars. The Cubs will be picked to finish last by just about everybody, but that's none of my concern. I am a fan of the Chicago Cubs, and no matter who is standing out there in blue pin stripes, this year, they have my support. If Veras blows a save. We'll get em tomorrow. If Rizzo strikes out with the bases loaded in the eighth. Well, we've got one more inning to come back and win it. If the Pirates can score seven runs in the first inning, so can we.
Did Daniel-San give up after Johnny swept the leg in Karate Kid? No. He crane-kicked that blonde jerk in the face!
Paul Simon didn't quit after he lost Garfunkel. He went to Africa and rocked it!
Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!
Gauntlet thrown. I am no longer riding on the lovable losers train in which disappointment is worn by Cubs fans like a cloak of honor. I will see our cup not as half full, but overflowing with possibility. It's time to take some fan responsibility for our century plus of baseball futility, and realize that our expectations are actually projections. Let's project winning. Not next year, or three years, or when Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are ready. But now. With this team. We need to help our Chicago Cubs build the winning culture they are working daily to accomplish. Eyes on the prize.
Call it Kool-Aid drinking. Call it foolish. Call it a pipe dream. But I believe that the Cubs have a chance to win every one of their 162 games this year. Of course they won't win all of them, but they do have a chance. Day to day. Moment to moment. Pitch by pitch. Play by Play. We have a chance.
Why not go on Stubhub right now and buy yourself a $6 seat? What do you have to lose? Let's go cheer on our Cubbies who just might be young and inexperienced enough to not know they're supposed to lose. You never know what can happen if your team gets hot. Momentum and belief in yourself is tantamount to success in any aspect of life. Magic doesn't happen. It is created, fomented, and harnessed. 2014 could be the year when the balls start dropping in for us, when our young talent starts to shine, and when Wrigley starts rocking again.
That last hope, that's on us. Let's rock this season out.
Just one request. No waves at Wrigley.