Believe At Your Own Risk

Believe. That is what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are asking us to do.

Believe that they have the magic potion to do what no one else has been able to do for 105 years.

In 1908, Henry Ford introduced the first Model T. Orville Wright made the first 1-hour airplane flight. Albert Einstein presented his quantum theory of light. And the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. As a world, we’ve come a long way since 1908. The Cubs? Not so much.

I have been on this earth for 52 years, a little over half a century. During that time the Cubs have not even made it to the World Series, let alone won the damned thing. They came close to getting there three times in that span, until other forces intervened. A black cat in 1969. A ground ball through Leon Durham’s legs in 1984. Bartman in 2003. I’ve suffered a lot, along with all of the other die-hard Cub fans out there. For all of us, next year can’t come soon enough.

So when two baseball princes come riding in on their white stallions and ask me to believe, I want to do so. There’s a part of me that wants nothing more than to jump on that bandwagon and whoop and holler. It’s the same part that brings me to Wrigley Field on Opening Day every season.

But there’s that other part of me that has been there at season’s end, which makes me skeptical and wondering whether these Ivy League cowboys are nothing more than sweet-talking charlatans who will bring nothing more than another epidemic of Cubbie blues.

History tells me that seeing is believing. In the two years of the Hoystein regime, I’ve witnessed 197 losses. That burns the eyes. Theocracy is a new brand of Cubs religion where we, the faithful, are implored not to judge by what we see at the place where we worship, the temple at Clark and Addison. Not yet anyways.

So where do we look? We look down below. No, not hell. Cubs fans have been down that road before. A system as broke as the Cubs’ can only be salvaged if it is torn down and rebuilt, from the ground up. That is, in a nutshell, Theocracy. That means we look in places like Des Moines, Iowa. Daytona, Florida. Kodak, Tennessee. Geneva, Illinois. These are the places of fields of dreams, or so they preach. Ignore names like Barney and Valbuena. Instead, focus on names like Baez, Bryant, Soler and Almora. They are our future, which, if all goes according to this new Cubs bible, is one hell of a lot better than our present.

Looking at it this way, there’s little doubt that the foundation is growing stronger. The seeds of success have been planted. Now we just have to wait for them to fully bloom. The questions are: How long? And is it enough? Should we believe that brighter days are on the horizon? There’s no clear answer for how long, which is reason enough to put long-suffering Cubs fans in a state of concern if not alarm. But I suppose if you’ve endured this much pain and agony, two, three, four or five years more of it isn’t going to make you cry “Uncle!”

But it is the second part of this equation that should be driving fear into the already aching hearts of all die-hards. Believing that prospects are going to save the Cubs from themselves is an age-old Cubs’ tradition that goes back long before Ronnie Wickers squawked his first “Woo!” Remember Corey Patterson and Felix Pie? Both “five-tool” “can’t miss” prospects. Both, it turns out, could miss. Pop flies. Cut-off men. Fast balls down the middle of the plate. They missed them.

Want more? I’m going to give them to you anyway. How about Kevin Orie? Brooks Kieschnick? Luis Montanez? Hee Seop Choi? Mark Prior? It hurts, doesn’t it? The longer you’ve been a Cubs fan the more painful it is. Does the name Don Young ring a bell? Matt Alexander? Joe “Tarzan” Wallis? Scot Thompson? Ty Griffin? Earl Cunningham? Lance Dickson?

I’m sorry, I know it stings. Every one of them was supposed to be THE ONE. The one that would lead us to that elusive ring. Instead, the only place they led us was back to that place called hell.
I wish I could forget all of these failed prospects of Cubs days gone by. But I can’t. Their names are indelibly scarred into my psyche.

Can’t miss when applied to Cubs’ prospects is one of the great misnomers of all time. And there’s the rub about the bill of goods that this man named Jed and the handsome Bostonian Theo are selling us. Maybe what they’re shooting at will turn out to be black gold. But history tells us that it’s nothing more than fool’s gold.

So a word to the wise: Believe at your own risk. Because there’s no insurance policy against futility.