Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Can you handle rebuilding, Cubs fans?

The Chicago Cubs' current record is atrocious. It is good for fourth or fifth place in the NL Central, 11½ games behind the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals. They are officially playing out the string.

Why not rebuild? The Cubs have been afraid of suffering at the gate during a rebuilding period, especially if that takes more than one year. With one-third of Cubs home games played during the business day, that concern is certainly understandable. But doing little or nothing should not be an option, either. Is ownership's goal to make a profit with a mostly full ballpark? Or is it to win a World Series? Writing from the desk of a lifelong Cubs fan, it had better be the latter.

Rebuilding is a challenge. Fans need to keep the faith. To see how it works, one only need look as far as Philadelphia and Detroit. The Phillies, recently so bad they were the Sillies, won the World Series in 2008 and lost the Series in 2009 to the Yankees. The Tigers were horrible in the early 2000's but won the pennant in 2006. They lost the World Series to the Cardinals.

Cubs fans more accustomed to 95-loss seasons than division championships would consider a pennant-winning season a huge accomplishment--a first for most fans. A World Series championship--the first since 1908--would make a lifetime of devotion worthwhile for millions of Cubs fans.

The 2006 season embarrassed Cubs management. The Cubs lost 96 games, and thousands of empty seats at Wrigley Field appearing on Cubs tv broadcasts shocked the front office. To make matters worse, White Sox tv ratings surpassed the Cubs' ratings. The Cubs had been Chicago's tv darlings for decades.

The Cubs' management sprang to action. It hired manager Lou Piniella, and the Cubs cruised to two straight division crowns. Unfortunately, the Cubs extended their postseason losing streak to nine games and their postseason record in California to a very sad 0-7.

Without a serious ownership commitment to rebuilding as well as a full night-game schedule, I'm afraid this is what we have to look forward to: a division championship once or twice a decade. That's it. Forget World Series glory. It's up to you, Mr. Ricketts. You're The Man. Make it happen.

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