It takes so much patience to be a Chicago Cubs fan. The Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and they have not played in the World Series since 1945.
Unlike the Boston Red Sox, who during their long drought periodically reached the World Series only to lose in seven games, the Cubs have not sniffed baseball’s world championship contest in going on 70 years.
Doom and Gloom
For decades, anyone growing up in New England had the phrase, “The Red Sox will win the World Series in my lifetime,” imprinted on their minds, whether they believed it or not. And then the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918, and they have won twice more since.
This season the Cubs are doomed to finish last in the National League Central Division once again, with a record well under .500. The question is whether or not they are really making progress or if the bad news bears of the sport have dragged potential savior Theo Epstein into the quicksand along with and is drowning him.
In Comes Epstein
Epstein is president of baseball operations for the Chicago North Side club, and he was the architect of the Red Sox’s success, making him a hero in the Greater Boston area. It was a shock when he skipped town and moved 1,000 miles west to the Midwest. It was as if one baseball miracle wasn’t enough for Epstein and he had to become known as the man who rescued not only the hapless Red Sox, but the hopeless Cubs.
Epstein has been wheeling and dealing, hiring and firing managers, ditching and promoting players, in Chicago since 2011. By any objective standard, he has achieved little. The Cubs are still the worst team in their division and one of the worst teams in the league. They have not moved any closer to winning any kind of title or of advancing into the World Series.
Less trial and error has gone into medical research trying to find a cure for life-threatening diseases than has gone into massaging the Cubs’ roster. If you are a cynical Cubs fan – and there are many of those – it would be easy for you to suggest that medical science will cure any number of well-known illnesses before Wrigley Field hosts a World Series game.
The Cubs of this moment, with the 2014 regular season winding down, appear to be running in place. They do not appear to be a threat to anyone in their division. What the Cubs have going for them is Epstein’s proven track record. In 2002 he became the youngest general manager in baseball history. His talent judgment was sound enough to lead the Red Sox to the Promised Land.
Currently, there are a whole bunch of players populating the Cubs’ roster that few fans in other cities know a thing about (and it is unclear if even Chicago baseball fans know anything about them). Can these strangers play? Can these strangers uplift the Cubs?
Offense and Defense Woes
Unless Jake Arrieta, who looks like the real deal, does it, probably no one on the pitching staff will win 10 games this season. Kyle Hendricks, 7-2, seems to be coming on strong. Other than that it remains murky about who is likely to become a regular in a 2015 starting rotation. Epstein needs to stay busy on the Home Shopping Network in search of a good deal on starters. With 25 saves and a 2.62 earned run average, Hector Rondon is demonstrating the makings of a permanent closer.
There is not a single player on the team batting over .300, though it is obvious there are long-term commitments to some position players who are solid, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo (31 homers, 73 RBIs), shortstop Starlin Castro (.292), and maybe third baseman Luis Valbuena (16 homers, 50 RBIs).
However, it will take considerable upgrading in the off-season for any prognosticators to say without blushing that the Cubs are 2015 playoff contenders. The clock is ticking and the Cubs must show progress. Even Cubs fans may run out of patience.