I never wanted this blog to become just another place on the Internet where a baseball fan whines about traditional media. That’s partly because I’m still technically a member of the traditional (read: ink and paper) media myself, but also because there are so many sites out there who do a much better job of it than I could. However, to mark Opening Day I wanted to get something off my chest, and hopefully I won’t feel the need to keep coming back to the cubject for the rest of the season.
The Cubs lost today, 2-1, to the Nationals to kick off the 2012 campaign. Losing a one-run game thanks to some really bad bullpen work isn’t a surprise for us anymore. Being unable to generate more than one run of offense isn’t really that shocking, considering the lineup the Cubs put out on the field. Having a ninth-inning rally killed due to some questionable managerial decisions and odd baserunning is old hat. I know this because everyone I know who was watching the game had pretty much the same reaction: “Of course.”
That’s not the way the local sportswriters saw the reaction, though. The Tribune’s David Haugh said this on Twitter:
Nats take 2-1 lead and 41,176 people at Wrigley scramble for the calendar on their phone to make sure it’s indeed 2012.
In the Sun-Times, Rick Telander somehow knew what we were all thinking:
Cubs fans’ devotion to him, without a game under his Armani belt, is profound and nearly fatalistic.
The writers in this town seem to be working under the delusion that Cubs fans have wildly different expectations about 2012 than 2011, and it’s all because of Theo Epstein. We’re supposedly expecting Epstein to suddenly turn the Cubs into contenders just by virtue of their being in proximity to his brainwaves. And, after one game, we’re left stunned and stupefied when the 2012 Cubs look an awful lot like the 2011 Cubs. We’re so blinded by our worship of Epstein – a mere executive! – that we’re unable to process reality properly. Allow me to retort in a manner befitting the level of discourse:
Yeah, there were a lot of jokes about how “the honeymoon’s over” for Epstein in Wrigleyville because of a crummy Opening Day loss, but those were pretty easily identified as jokes. Ha ha, no one really wants Theo fired because of one game, that’s stupid. But Telander’s column was preceded by a photo illustration of Epstein walking on water, and based on the tone of the column you have to wonder if Telander thinks he’s telling a joke:
Has there ever been a baseball team whose superstar was the … president of operations?
I’m thinking not.
The day humans pay to enter a ballpark because of faith in a man who has a high IQ and looks good in a tailored business suit is the day, well …
Hello, Cubs fans!
Theo Epstein — boy wonder-turned-genius achiever-turned-mythical savior — is the main draw as the Cubs’ 2012 season approaches. Fans haven’t knelt and wept and touched the hem of his Italian-cut pants. But the sentiment seems to be there.
Oh, the sentiment seems to be there, okay. The “sentiment” “seems” to be there. It doesn’t get more concrete than that, folks. Rick Telander and David Haugh don’t have to worry about actually asking Cubs fans how they feel about 2012 – because the sentiment seems to be there. Good enough for me, let’s go with it. Copy!
So now the story of the 2011 offseason naturally leads into the story of the 2012 season. “The Cubs turn to Theo Epstein to rescue them from permanent failure” becomes “Cubs fans expect miracles from Epstein, he’s the biggest thing about the team in our eyes, and we’re going to panic if things don’t change immediately.”
There will always be fans with more optimism than common sense, especially with this team. But I’d be willing to say that the majority of the fan base is smart enough to recognize that David DeJesus and Ian Stewart were not going to be the missing pieces of the puzzle, you can’t change a Major League hitter’s approach at the plate overnight, and we’re in for a long haul before this franchise is turned around in the right direction. Anything else is just a sentiment that only seems to be there.