To the average Chicago Cubs fan, the hiring of alleged miracle worker Theo Epstein to rebuild the franchise and lead it to the Promised Land of the World Series is starting to look like a failure.
The President for Baseball Operations arrived with much fanfare and blind hope in 2011 to end a century’s worth of struggles for the National League club in the Windy City. Epstein came bearing the best credentials in the profession. He presided over the Boston Red Sox’s end of “The Curse of the Bambino.” On Epstein’s watch, the Red Sox won the World Series title in 2004, the first championship for the franchise in 86 years, and then won it all again in 2007.
Not good enough
For some reason that was not enough for the young front office executive and he surrendered his status as a Boston icon to attempt to duplicate the cure for one of baseball’s oldest and most iconic clubs. It wasn’t enough for Epstein to be assured of never again paying for a turkey sandwich and a beer in Boston, he apparently wished to be able to eat free lunches in the Midwest, too.
Let it not be said that young Theo, who was just 28 when he took over as general manager of the Red Sox, shrinks from a challenge. He had to know that the Cubs problem was as intractable as they come, but when you are riding high you think you can take on any issue and walk away smiling.
Right now, three years into the job, Epstein’s smiles are probably reserved for whenever he watches the opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live.” The Cubs are still lousy and fans that habitually populated Wrigley Field, good news and bad, are getting restless.
Decision to settle
Just this past week the Cubs displayed evidence indicating that they are not particularly close to contending for the NL Central Division crown by shipping top pitcher Jeff Samardzjia to the Oakland A’s for prospects. They are hovering in last place in the division, around 14 games under .500, and as stacked as the division is with good teams they are unlikely to make any kind of move this season.
It did not seem to make much sense to exile Samardzjia. He is only 29 and he was pitching so well that despite a 2-7 record his 2.83 earned run average earned him a place on the All-Star team. So what message does that send to Cub fans? Probably it’s an indicator that the Cubs aren’t going to be any good any time soon.
No more patience
Anyone connected to the Cubs front office that asks fans for patience should bite his tongue. The Cubs have not appeared in a World Series since 1945 and they have not won baseball’s championship since 1908. A lot of Cub supporters felt that when the team hit the century mark without a title success would magically occur. Instead, the team shot past the 100-year barrier without a crown as if accelerating from a NASCAR re-start.
The season before the Epstein changeover the Cubs finished 71-91. In 2012, Chicago finished 61-101. In 2013, the Cubs finished 66-96. Almost surely they will lose 90-plus games again this year. A signal that Cubs fans are wearying of their reputation of supporting a loser no matter what is that attendance dropped by about 400,000 between 2011 and 2013. And with a couple of months to go this year, the drop-off appears to be continuing.
It seems that even Cubs fans have their limit.
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