A guy shouldn’t always start a column with a question, but this is key. Who likes the Yankees?
Front-runners, tourists, New Yorkers.
Bah, humbug to all of them.
Sadly, that’s the kind of mood a fellow finds himself in when he sees the Yankees, once again, atop the American League East, while the Cubs and White Sox muddle about in their respective divisions, both with losing records.
Going into Monday, the Yankees, irritatingly, had the best record in baseball at 49-17.
True, there’s always a Chicago-New York snarky thing. The second city and all that. But this is more about just trying to be all that you can be, the old slogan that pretty much fits everybody and everything.
Are Chicago’s baseball teams trying to be all they can be?
Certainly not when you compare them to the Yankees, whom, we’ll acknowledge once more, we don’t like. Why don’t we? Many reasons, the late George Steinbrenner and the lucky trade for Babe Ruth 102 years ago being but two.
It’s true the Yankees have more money than Fort Knox and reside in the largest city in the United States. But Chicago is pretty big, and there is money here, too. Just ask Jerry Reinsdorf and the Ricketts family.
But the Cubs were 16 games below .500 and 12 games out of first in the National League Central heading into Monday. The Sox were 31-33 and five games out of first in the AL Central.
The Cubs are rebuilding, and the Sox are, well, I’m not really sure.
The point is, whatever both teams are doing, there is no reason to be also-rans, mere observers, while doing it.
Consider those Yankees. They have not had a losing season in 30 years. Even their rebuilds have some integrity.
In the last half-century, the Yankees have finished first in their division 20 times and won seven World Series. They haven’t had great postseason success recently, but they always try to get somewhere.
The Cubs, on the other hand, have had only 16 winning seasons in 50 years and have won their division only eight times. Of course, they did get that World Series title in 2016, their only one in the last 113 years.
But what has happened since 2016?
Somehow a potential dynasty turned into a Ming vase on a concrete floor. Since 2016, the Cubs are 4-9 in postseason play, 1-4 in their lone NL Championship Series, 0-3 in wild-card rounds.
The Sox, remember, won the World Series in 2005. Could that be almost a generation ago? It could. After that 2005 championship, there has been a dreaded rebuild or two (or three?) and not much else.
In the last half-century, counting this partial year, the Sox have but 21 winning seasons. They’ve had seven losing seasons in the last decade. It’s like they go one step forward, 10 steps back.
It feels painful to be a Chicago baseball fan, I guess is what I’m saying. And seeing the Yankees always up there makes it worse.
The Cubs, wrote New York Times columnist Tyler Kepner, are full of ‘‘placeholders.’’ He refined his observation to this memorable metaphor: The Cubs are ‘‘a roster of mobile trailers keeping up day-to-day operations at a construction site.’’
Excellent! But what is the hole they are digging? That is the question.
Nor is it just the big-city/big-revenue Yankees (or annoyingly successful Dodgers: 14 winning seasons in the last 15) whose effort makes our Chicago teams seem like such losers.
Ponder the Cardinals.
St. Louis proper is close to falling below 300,000 in population. That’s not a whole lot bigger than Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Yet the Cardinals carry on as if they’re a massive juggernaut. They’ve had 37 winning seasons in the last 50, and they’ve played in seven World Series in that time, winning three. Most notably, they haven’t had a losing season in 15 years. Naturally, they’re right there atop the NL Central.
There are rebuilds, and we all know how that works. Just hold your nose while your team tanks, and — voila! — in a few years you’ll have a winner. Maybe.
But it’s the teams that don’t sink into the unwatchable muck while reloading for the future that have a different philosophy than the Cubs or Sox.
Call it management swagger. Owners with attitude.
Call it a New York state of mind.