By George Ofman-
(WBBM) Some Cubs fans are scary. And nuts.
“Why not us? Why can’t we be the Baltimore Orioles of 2012? Why can’t we win the division?”
Because you’re not the Baltimore Orioles of 2013. Because you don’t have the talent. Not yet, at least.
Slow down. Calm yourself. Take a pill or adopt a billy goat as a pet. But please, please stop thinking the Cubs will win 90 games. They won’t win 80 and might be lucky to get past 70.
This is a work in progress. (Though I do admit a work in progress shouldn’t take 104 years.) Hysteria travels fast through Wrigleyville. It’s like a winter virus that begins during the fan convention, gets worse around spring training and pretty much needs hospitalization on Opening Day. Does Medicare cover Cubdome? I get the optimism. What I don’t get is why reality seems to elude those who bleed Cubbie Blue.
The last I looked, the future, which is supposed to include players such as Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Arodys Vizcaino, Junior Lake and Matt Szczur, aren’t here yet. And I bet more than half of these maniacal Cubs fans can’t pronounce Szczur. It’s Caesar, like hail Szczur. You know, the guy Brutus stuck the knife in. These Cubs are not the Ides of March… or April, May and June. But some might be candidates to be “assassinated” by July, or in other words, traded by the deadline.
Look, you know these are the still the lovable losing Cubs when their most tradable asset is injured again. Matt Garza was supposed to be gone last season. Eventually he did disappear, but only because his elbow barked and he couldn’t pitch anymore. Then came the strained lat muscle. Next will be a shoulder contusion trying to throw the ball to first base.
And while we’re at it, who’s on third? That’s Ian Stewart or Luis Valbuena, neither of whom you could rearrange their letters to spell Santo, Cey or even Buechele. And what did the injury prone Stewart do in the first intrasquad game? Why he strained a quadriceps muscle. Somewhere, Lou Piniellla is muttering: “This is a Cubby occurrence.”
Elsewhere, I like Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo, but something tells me when the Cubs contend, one of these three will playing elsewhere. And Alfonso Soriano needs a new home — whether it’s Texas or nursing. David DeJesus is admirable in many ways (as is his wife) and right field is a jumble. If only Brett Jackson can come to the plate not carrying a K in his pocket, he might be part of a good team. The current crop of catchers won’t win you a title and the pitching is a hodge podge of has-beens, could-bes and probably-won’ts. Pitching wins and at least three starters who will line up in late October aren’t here yet. The bullpen is not that bad, but if I was considering a birthday gift for Carlos Marmol, it would be compass. He can hang it around his neck when called upon. That way, finding home plate won’t be such a chore.
I’m trying to be optimistic about all of this. The Cubs should be a better team this season, but better doesn’t mean courting delusion. It’s hard to do worse than 61 victories, though the Cubs have been worse. They won 59 games in 1962 only to capture 82 the next season and then fall backwards. They won 59 in 1966, the year Leo Durocher arrived but blossomed with 87 the next because Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Billy Williams also had Fergie Jenkins, Ken Holtzman and Joe Niekro on the mound. Those Cubs teams were the best in the last 40 plus years. They put together six straight winning seasons, averaging 86 victories. But they didn’t win a championship of course and there’s no reason to get into the 1969 thing. Lived it once. Don’t need to live it again. The 2013 Cubs don’t have near that kind of talent, but at least there is hope that the farm system, plus additional revenues that will be created when the Cubs recreate Wrigley Field into a cash cow again, give Theo Epstein the flexibility to buy the right guys.
For now, Cubs fans (you know, the ones who think the Messiah will bring forth success sooner than expected) just relax and try to enjoy progress.
George Ofman is a sports anchor and reporter for WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9FM.