Is there a world record for the fastest time to go from mattering to not mattering? The Cubs have done it in a blink, and although the Guinness people might want something more accurate, something involving fractions of a second, what I can I say? By the time we had blinked once, a formerly competitive, interesting baseball team had relocated to a town called Nobody Cares.
The Cubs recently went through an 11-game losing streak. That’s not just one white flag being waved. That’s the equivalent of all the flags outside the United Nations headquarters turning white and flapping in the wind. Then the Cubs won a game – yay! That was followed by another loss – oh, you again — and all the talk about gaining some “momentum” heading into the All-Star break changed back into muttering.
Weren’t we just discussing how cool it was to have two good baseball teams in town?
Wasn’t the public conversation all about how Cubs ownership was going to have to fortify the roster before the trade deadline?
To paraphrase “Young Frankenstein” (and to connect with all my young readers out there), didn’t that hump used to be on the other side?
And here we are, looking for other diversions. Oh, sure, people will still go to Wrigley Field, because it’s beautiful, because it’s summer and because it beats working. Cubs fans tramp to Wrigley instinctively, in the same way no one has to tell them to get dressed in the morning.
But to say that this season has meaning anymore, well, no. The same, possibly, for next season. That’s what the last two weeks have done. Amazing, when you think of it. And I know you’re trying not to think of it.
It’s not hard to believe that, even with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez still around, it has gotten to this point. The World Series title came in 2016, and five years is a lifetime in sports. The strange part of what’s happening now is the abruptness of it. Two weeks and then poof! We had seen the Cubs’ house for what it was, a structure that was showing lots of wear and tear. It still had some nice features, but it was clear that real work needed to be done.
Then an EF-5 tornado came through, there was no more wear and tear, and no work to be done. Also, no house.
That’s what the losing streak looked like.
And now? If you asked me what the Cubs should do about Rizzo, Bryant and Baez, I’d respond with, “Any good movies playing in the theaters?” Keep them. Trade them. I don’t care.
Maybe this is how chairman Tom Ricketts wins in the end. If you hold to the “Major League” view of things, then the Cubs’ not winning and not mattering is exactly what ownership wants at present. The family can get rid of some expensive players and cut costs. You’d have to be really cynical to believe that. Not me. Not cynical at all. No, sir.
Team president Jed Hoyer knows how much darkness and despair the word “rebuild” carries in these parts, which is why he took pains the other day to say that whatever the Cubs might do going forward, it most certainly won’t be a rebuild. He knows the franchise can’t push that button twice. It can’t unload everybody and put the fan base through profound losing and sky-high ticket prices. The Cubs did it for at least three years before an appearance in the 2015 National Championship Series finally saw the return of the sun. And then the 2016 title.
“We’re in a different situation now than we were in 2012,” Hoyer said. “And so, the decisions we’re making, the process we’re going through are completely different. So I think that label (rebuild) is certainly something to be avoided.”
He did imply that the losing streak has changed how the team will conduct business heading into the July 30 trade deadline.
“You have to keep one eye on the future and think about what moves you could potentially make that could help build the next year, the next great Cubs team,” he said.
Two weeks ago, he wanted to get married. Now, he’s talking divorce. One blink, and it’s all over.
Pardon me for not giving a whit about any of it. The Cubs have been tap dancing around the possibility of darkness for a while. Now they’ve gone all in, right into the abyss.
For those of you who still really care, here’s a flashlight. For the rest of us, there are still plenty of fun things to do in the sunlight.