Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hope is Snake Oil: The 2014 Chicago Cubs

Spring training is winding to a close.  The baseball season started last weekend as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened play to a crowd of dozens of puzzled Australians who were not told that baseball is about throwing things at people's heads and delivering Shakespearean vengeance soliloquies about swimming pools.  

But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What swims he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Gibson the King, McGwire and Mattingly,
Puig and Kershaw, Montero and Trammel-
Be in their flowing pools freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;

The rest of baseballdom continues in its lolling Spring Training doldrums as prospects in high digit uniforms anonymously plug away against pitchers that have not yet destroyed their arm ligaments.  This includes the 2014 Chicago Cubs, where anonymous players and futility will continue over the course of 162 meaningless games, most of them losses, by design.

The 2014 Cubs are a postapocalyptic shanty town of a baseball team.  There are few players that we can expect to see contribute to the Hypothetical Future Cubs that wins more than 80 games, and any that show any semblance of value will be shipped out and sold for scraps: younger players referred to as "lottery tickets" by baseball bloggers, players to be named later, and the fan favorite Cash Considerations.  Only Anthony Rizzo, Welington Castillo, and (for some reason) Starlin Castro will be on the oil tanker when the Cubs ditch the rest of the team and are pursued by the motorcycle-riding, mohawked chap enthusiasts that make up the rest of NL Central in this overwrought Mad Max: The Road Warrior analogy.

I'm one Road Warrior shy of having each dude be a representative of an NL Central opponent, but
we can all agree that the jovial fat guy with the jaunty cap is a murderous Bernie Brewer

The Cubs will continue to lose, and fans are all aware that this is part of the master plan devised by the Cubs Brains Trust.  We're all waiting for Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Jorge Soler to be ready for the majors, and, in the meantime, the Cubs are going to play terrible baseball to allow them to draft the next Kris Bryants and Albert Almoras.  Nothing the Cubs do this season matters.  Ownership has magnanimously deigned to increase ticket prices, which according to some estimates are the third highest in baseball.  And you can't even drown your sorrows in Old Style anymore, which will no longer be sold in the ballpark for absurd prices.  This makes no sense because paying north of seven dollars for an Old Style is the exact beer equivalent of paying actual American currency to watch whatever it is Starlin Castro does when he flails futilely at baseballs or throws them at cracker jack vendors he has temporarily confused with Anthony Rizzo because they are both wearing hats.

The Cubs are selling hope and that is all well and good.  Major League baseball rewards managers approaching their teams the way the Russian army approached the advancing forces of Napoleon.  Free agents are harder to come by, draft slot money is enforced draconically, and the lawless dollar showers in the international market have been limited to the benefit of parsimonious owners.  But it's a false hope.  There is no guarantee that Bryant, Almora, Soler, and Baez will anchor the Hypothetical Future Winning Cubs-- the analytics movement has been clamping down on nonsense hokum like curses and clutch hitting and "Mickey Mantle" (a fictional baseball player invented in 1987 by Billy Crystal and Bob Costas), but I have no doubt that we can count on Four Separate Misfortunes to prevent any of them from being useful players as the Cubs will remain mired in purgatory for the rest of our short, miserable lives.
Felix Pie found himself in the Wrigleyville Mystery Spot, also known as Baltimore

It is tough to root for the Cubs this season.  College sports, for all the hypocrisy, exploitation, money-grubbing, and general sanctimonious bullshit they nourish, at least do not have a framework that rewards losing.  At the depths of Northwestern's futility, when it seemed unlikely for them to win a Big Ten game unless they convinced a team to forfeit by constructing a counterfeit Dyche Stadium dozens of miles away surrounded by a Potemkin Evanston, at least they'd give it their all.  The Cubs are intentionally terrible, and their awfulness will likely not lead to a World Series.  Yet, me and thousands of other dupes will continue to watch because baseball is as good of a waste of time as mankind has invented, and the Cubs have really sharp uniforms.  Here are some reasons why we can manage to suck it up and deal with Cubs baseball this year:

-Someone named "Rick Renteria" has been named the new manager, and I'm sure he will do all sorts of exciting managery things like point to his left arm and scowl.  The one hit I got for a google search for "rick renteria ejected" leads to an mlb.com article about how he got tossed as Padres first base coach for "engaging in a discussion" with an umpire.  This is pretty uninspired, and I'd prefer that any manager is at the very least a 7-Piniella Scale lunatic who is willing to use his bulbous belly as an umpire-seeking missile (in case you were wondering, Dale Sveum was a 4-Piniella manager for having neck veins that flared up like a Jurassic Park Dilophosaurus.  Mike Quade's Piniella reading is unavailable-- umpires could not figure out how angry he was because he has no eyebrows).

-Carlos Villanueva is still on the team and last year he had a spectacular curl mustache.  Maybe this year, he'll grow some nineteenth century presidential muttonchops.

-Jeff Samardzija still looks like a musketeer, and will probably blame his poor outings on the machinations of Cardinal Richelieu.  My prediction is that the Cubs will trade him before the deadline and then he ends up pitching a crucial playoff game against the Hypothetical Future Cubs, only this time he has gotten a sensible haircut and shave just when it would have had finally made sense for him to be sporting Early Modern Vengeance Facial Hair specifically to confound me.  

-There are 162 games in a baseball season and regular players will earn north of 500 plate appearances.  At some point, it is probable that Starlin Castro will earn a walk or Darwin Barney will hit a baseball with his bat.  No guarantees, though, fans.

-Len Casper will attempt to pretend that a shitty Cubs player is turning things around, while in his heart, he knows the sample size is small, the statistic is misleading, and a Ricketts is holding a binder full of spreadsheets hostage at Cubs headquarters.

-Why the watch the goddamn Cubs any year?

-Fuck it dude, let's go bowling.  

Cubs fans, we're stuck rooting for this team until the Terror Squirrel takes us to hell

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