It’s Baseball Time Again!

Peter Targos

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After six months of being in hibernation, baseball is finally back and that puts a smile on every baseball fan’s face, even fans who know their team has as good of a chance of making the playoffs as Sochi does of hosting the Olympics again.

The Chicago Cubs fall into the category of “we have no shot to make the playoffs, let alone be .500.” Unfortunately, the Cubs have been this way for the last three years, and some fans are getting agitated over the slow rebuild. Supporters of the rebuild say people should have known this was coming, or that no general manager could make this organization a “consistent” winner in three years. I put the word consistent in quotation marks because that has been the goal since President Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer took over baseball operations back in October of 2011.

Fast forward three seasons later and the Cubs are still the same head banging and nauseating team they were back then. Patient at-bats, bunting, hitting with runners in scoring position, effort and smart baseball are things that still plague the Cubs.
Cubs logo Courtesy of Major League Baseball
I have struggled to grasp how abysmal the play of the team has been over the last two seasons and six games thus far. Losing was expected—players not knowing how to play fundamentally sound baseball and not trying hard was not. Over the last two seasons, we have seen the talented, yet irksome, shortstop Starlin Castro make numerous brain farts. We have also seen average players like Luis Valbuena run out of the batter’s box as if he had just hit a ball onto Sheffield Avenue.

Yet, despite these and other lapses occurring, there has been little accountability. The coddling of Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo needs to come to an end immediately. How can the Cubs ever get to the next step of their rebuild, and have sustained success, when a culture of losing and bone-headed baseball is tolerated? It cannot.

New manager Ricky Renteria is supposed to be a complete turnaround from his predecessor, Dale Sveum. A positive guy that has the smile of a salesman and the verbal skills of Rosetta stone, Renteria’s patience will be tested, and tested, and tested.

And tested some more.

Part of the Cubs culture is negativity. It is obvious that the players and managers, over the years, have supported that theory. Part of the reason Renteria was hired was to maintain a positive upbeat attitude, even if the team is bad. Renteria can still do this, but he also needs to make it clear that lollygagging and little league baseball plays will not be tolerated. Sveum was supposed to have been the guy to change that, but he failed more miserably than Rizzo did last year with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs are not a good team. They will most likely lose another 90 games this season, causing more fans to be annoyed and wondering if and when the team will be good. It is clear that owner Tom Ricketts’ checkbook is not as full as we once thought it was. Until the contemptuous disagreement between the Ricketts family rears its ugly head, the Cubs will be signing free agents like Jason Hammel.

So what does that mean? It means prospects like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Albert Almmora need to pan out. At least one of those players needs to be a star and make a difference. It means playing guys like Mike Olt and Junior Lake every day is a must. And finally, it means that a culture of accountability must be established now—not in two weeks, not in July or next year—now.

After the accountability and tone of the organization has been shifted, so should the win-loss results. Until then, more unbearable baseball will be coming. You’re up, Ricky.

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