By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Every next thing we hear from the Cubs is crazier than the last.
The season sputtered and fizzled faster than even pessimists imagined, yet all concerned march merrily along, whistling cheerful tunes, dancing sprightly jigs, and apparently watching a different team.
Owner Tom Ricketts set the tone weeks ago with his curt dismissal of a simple question: “What’s wrong with your team?”
“Nothing,” he said. “Just a lot of injuries.” And he walked away.
Since then, Ricketts has even taken the time to re-endorse the fine work of GM Jim Hendry and manager Mike Quade, expressing “100% confidence” in the former and saying the latter has “done a great job.”
The trickle-down effect has allowed Hendry to live in his own special place where everything’s fine. This silly idea that a moribund, overspent team would try aggressively to use the upcoming trading deadline as a chance to improve its health on the field and the balance sheet? He’ll hear none of it.
“They use the word ‘fire sale,’” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Of course not, Jim. You wouldn’t want to upset the delicate balance of this humming baseball machine, or alter the direction in which it’s going. Onward!
Hendry’s loyal lieutenant Gary Hughes was even more puffy-chested, telling MLB Network Radio yesterday that the Cubs could be adding players at the deadline, presumably to beef up for that run at their first three-game winning streak of the season.
If Ricketts has Sirius XM, he probably fled the country upon hearing that, setting up a new life in a small fishing village in Finland, content to spend the remainder of his days alone, salting herring.
Quade does most of the talking, seemingly trying to laugh to keep from crying, referencing Seinfeld episodes and quoting Winston Churchill as a way to avoid addressing the grim reality of his team. Poor guy is nice enough, but hasn’t done much to convince us he’s big-league timber, and probably won’t get much of a chance to do so.
We hope most of this company line is an act — mere public façade to keep turnstiles cranking in the long months to come and retain any hope of success for when they repackage their failed plea for millions of our tax dollars – and it may be. Ricketts is thought to finally be close to convinced that all’s not exactly well, with the drumbeat louder that Hendry is toast.
Baseball America’s Tracy Ringolsby said Padres VP Josh Byrnes was “sniffing around” the Cubs’ GM job, and the Tribune’s Phil Rogers Tuesday referred to Hendry as a “lame duck” (though he’s already shrunk timidly from that position, it appears, now using passive phrases like “a feeling around the majors that Hendry and manager Mike Quade are on baseball’s endangered species list”).
But the current disconnect between truth and public fairyland forces fans to have to hope that all these people are either lying or unaware of a bigger picture that won’t involve them. It’s a tough place to be, especially since it’s not even July.
There have been no tangible indications that anybody in the Cubs organization finds any of this less than acceptable.
The owner is perfectly pleased with his executives, and the executives love all the players.
A time existed not too long ago that fans welcomed high expectations and real hope. They just want to see a convincing road map back to the point where they can allow those feelings to return.
“You can turn things around in a shorter time than you used to,” Hendry said, brimming with confidence.
I’m sure the Cubs have their reasons for pretending everything’s ok, but I need to be more certain they know it’s really not.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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