I picked a good time to go on vacation and not spend much time caring about the Cubs. I got a chance to watch most of the games while I was gone because there was an inordinate number actually being carried by WGN America, and they had the national game on FOX against the Cardinals. Never before had I wished the Cubs would be more inaccessible.
The Cubs are on fire and it is hard to envision a scenario where they win a single game on this road trip. I know that on the last road trip we said that and they promptly won a couple from Florida and then managed a victory in Boston, but this is somehow worse. If there is one thing you can count on from the Cubs is that there is no rock bottom. They will beat that lesson into you until you are bloody pulp or you simply just give up and die.
You see, the Cubs fire has spread beyond just the major league team. What started when Sam Zell kicked over a lantern in the Cubs dugout as he departed has now consumed pretty much the whole major league team and is starting to damage the frail farm system.
Cubs fans are wondering why we haven’t seen Brett Jackson considering he is the next great white hope for a team that peddles hope as its main commodity. He was hurt for a couple of weeks and is just 4 for 32 in the week since he’s been back in action. Trey McNutt is having blister issues that make me think he is Ismael Valdez in disguise. Jay Jackson suddenly just sucks and Robert Whitenack came out of nowhere to get folks excited about his possibilities just in time for his season-ending Tommy John surgery.
When the prospects do manage to stay healthy enough to survive the flight to Chicago, they suck. The position players seem only dimly aware that they aren’t required to swing at every pitch they see like they will get fined for making the catcher throw a ball back to the pitcher. But as bad as the hitters are, the pitchers the Cubs call up would probably still find a way to walk them because they are seemingly allergic to throwing anything resembling strikes.
All of this is culminating in seven losses in row, being 11.5 games behind the Cardinals, a record that now stands at 7-20 in the “weak” NL Central, the second worst run differential in the majors (behind only Minnesota) and almost no reason at all to think any of it is going to get any better.
The team seems pissed off. Marlon Byrd snapped at reporters after a baserunning gaffe that seemed rooted in miscommunication from the coaches. They felt they needed to have a players only meeting awhile back. Now Zambrano comes right out and calls the team embarassing and just about everyone agrees with him.
Quade has pulled out a few expletives after losses (usually in a folksy, aw shucks kind of way, but nevertheless there they were), he has publicly scolded the team for playing sloppily and has been trying to find some sort of mix that actually works to the point of playing middle infielders in the outfield allowing Samrdzija to pitch in situations that matter. We can criticize the tactics, but the man is at least trying his best to make something of this mishmash.
The media is starting to get bitchy even by Chicago media standards. When Steve Rosenbloom is on to you as a flimflam man, you’re doing something very wrong. When the games have become so meaningless that the writers start trying to manufacture storylines out of nowhere, you know fire is quickly getting out of control.
Meanwhile, as Cubdom goes up in flames, Tom Ricketts is talking about how fun it was to be in Boston, how there isn’t anything wrong with the team other than injuries, and how he hates to hear fans complain they can’t afford Cubs tickets. The solutions his regime have come up with include free t-shirts, cheap(er) beer, and dollar hot dogs. That’ll fix everything. Thanks, Tom.
Intrepid reader and season ticket holder, WGC provided a video of Tom Ricketts addressing the season ticket holders at the appreciation day they just held and he is just glossing over everything and having to make a Sam Fuld reference in the absence of any actual good Cubs stories he could tell from this year. This is before the Zambrano incident, but let’s face it, the fire was already burning and his biggest concern was that people not ruin the ivy by jumping into it.
All I could think about as I pondered the team from afar was how Nero supposedly played a fiddle while Rome burned. Granted, the Cubs have never reached the heights in the majors that Rome reached in the ancient world, but I think the simile is pretty close.
So, thanks to Pat LaMorte (who you may know from such Photoshopping work as the OV banner), here is the current image I have in my brain of Tom Ricketts as he presides over the the 2011 Cubs:
I think that seems about right.