How exciting has this year been?
As a Cubs fan, one could argue I’ve never had anything to get excited about. That has been especially true the last two years, with two fifth-place finishes, atrocious defense (and pitching, and offense, and…), and even an unexpected “retirement.” Mikey Q’s Band of Bad Nicknames didn’t leave me hanging on every pitch, and I have paid as little attention to baseball as at any point in my life since puberty hit.
Of course, me “not paying attention” still means being commissioner of a fantasy baseball league, daily visiting Bleacher Nation and Bleed Cubbie Blue, and generally trying to be more knowledgeable than the “average fan,” because I simply MUST be smarter than everyone else, DAMN IT.
In these two years, I’ve traveled further down the rabbit hole of studying filmmaking, fallen in love with hockey, and written hundreds of pages for drafts of my first full length screenplay while preparing for a move to Los Angeles, where I’m totally going to make it big time, yo.
Then all this happened.
Pardon me, Cardinals fans, but I couldn’t bring myself to link the video of them celebrating making the postseason. Besides, the MLB website has literally 40+ pages of video links for their postseason highlights alone, so you have enough to make you happy; and don’t complain if they lose the World Series, because they’ve spent all of October getting the not-shitty end of the “anything can happen in a short series” stick, despite playing far superior competition. Rant over.
Anyway, that last night of the season. This was mere days after seeing Moneyball — which was great, by the way — so I figured I’d try to smoosh as much Cubs baseball into my night as possible.
Then I learned WGN wouldn’t be broadcasting their final game. I took my relatively minor annoyance — Hell, Ryan Dempster gave up approximately 800 runs that game, so I didn’t miss much — and turned my attention to the Red Sox-Orioles and Rays-Yankees games.
This guy might be my favorite player right now.
Wow. Just wow. Magic happened that night, and the “good” (read: lesser millionaires) guys beat the giants of the sport, sending the Rays, a team I enjoy watching far more than the now-dull Red Sox, to the playoffs. It doesn’t matter they lost to the Rangers in the division series; they brought back a fanatic from the brink of joining the ranks of the casual.
It wasn’t over when my posteason ponies lost, though. Given the Beantown Bunch’s, ahem, improbable September collapse, rumors began circulating the Cubs were courting Boston general manager Theo Epstein to bring Chicago into the 21st century by doing things like building through the minor league system. Hell, if that were the only qualifier, the Cubs haven’t even been operating in the 20th century.
I spent a week or two doing the “yeah, okay” skeptical face (SIDE NOTE: Why is the sixth Google image for “skeptical face” a picture of a nude girl taking a picture of herself in a mirror?), then things started to turn. There had been rumors swirling that Epstein would ride into town on his magic carpet (powered by that mystical force, logic), but once the team had officially asked permission to interview him, my excitement truly began.
I want to play the Indiana Jones theme over this.
Epstein’s hire was leaked to the press, and I rejoiced. Then, as if to personally destroy me, came nearly two weeks before the teams could “agree” to make it official, thanks to the not insignificant nudging of Papa Bud Selig. The compensation for bringing Epstein still has not been decided, due to much hemming and hawing from the Red Sox ownership, but now that Theo’s had his introductory press conference as the Chicago Cubs’ president of baseball operations, this deal can’t exactly go south.
My reasons for excitement are clear. Here is a guy who, in nine years running the Red Sox, made the playoffs six times and didn’t even come close to falling below .500 at any point. Without even taking into account the two World Series wins, if an NL Central team were to win 86-98 games a year, as Boston did under Epstein, they’d probably make the playoffs nine times out of 10.
The Cubs are far away from where the Red Sox were when Epstein took the reigns, but if he — plus Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, his two buddies from San Diego who will reportedly join him as GM and assistant GM, respectively — can have the kind of drafts he did in Boston, the Cubs can be competing in a couple years and I can hopefully know what it’s like to see my team consistently playing October baseball.
I can’t explain Mr. Epstein’s philosophies as well as he can, so here is a brief overview of his appearance on yesterday’s Chicago Tribune Live. It’s nice to see someone who’s energized and prepared ready to step in, instead of this.
It may be impossible to save the 2012 season, but this is the most excited I’ve ever been for a team I know will be utter dog shit. That said, though, please put together a winner soon, Theo. After all, “Baseball is better when you win.”