This is the part of the trade-deadline aftermath in which Cubs and White Sox fans are supposed to do what, exactly? Celebrate?
This is the part of the rebuilding process in which Cubs and Sox fans are supposed to feel what, exactly? Euphoria?
Let me take you back 10 years and the beginning of the Cubs’ first rebuild. I promise I won’t leave you there. The team finished 61-101 under manager Dale Sveum (remember him?), but new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had taught Cubs fans that to appreciate their suffering was for a greater good down the line. Those of us who asked why a big-market franchise owned by wealthy people couldn’t spend money to build a great team were sent to a corner, where we could share our hopeless ignorance without infecting others.
Rebuilding was the only way, we were told. Gather as many draft picks as possible and hope the sheer number of them would produce some stars. It worked — for a while. The Cubs won that elusive animal called a World Series, and everyone lived happily ever after. Other teams followed suit, tearing down their major-league house, accumulating high draft picks and making a run at a title. That includes the current Sox team, which isn’t running so much as crawling these days.
About that happily ever after stuff: A rebuilding plan doesn’t guarantee that.
Cubs fans, upset about a second teardown/rebuild/money grab, walked away from the trade deadline Tuesday wondering whom to be angry at and settling on everybody and everything. Before the deadline, they were angry at the idea of losing favorites Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. When the Cubs hung on to the two players, fans were angry about the possibility of getting nothing in return for Contreras when he becomes a free agent after this season. Mostly, they were angry with the Ricketts family, which is trying to pretend it owns a small-market team, and general manager Jed Hoyer, who has been given a budget based on Aldi coupons, not currency.
Meanwhile, Sox fans, already fuming about a seriously underperforming team and a manager who might be asleep at the wheel, were left to wonder how general manager Rick Hahn could have come away from the trade deadline with next to nothing. If this isn’t a team in need of an infusion of talent and passion, no team is.
Hovering over all of this were the Padres, a purported small-market team that is going for it like the Yankees might. They landed Juan Soto, the biggest prize on the market, as well as flamethrower Josh Hader and first baseman Josh Bell. They didn’t seem to mind a bit that they were giving up all sorts of young talent to try to win.
The Soto deal was especially galling for the Chicago market, but not necessarily because Cubs or Sox fans thought they were getting him. No, it was the idea of Soto and the Padres uniting that set teeth on edge.
The Cubs, who recently were valued at $4.43 billion by Sportico, are putting fans through another rebuild while the Padres ($1.84 billion) are putting their foot on the gas?
And the Sox, who are supposed to be at the height of their rebuild, sat still while remaining stuck around .500 with about a third of the season left?
Hahn said that the issue wasn’t money, that he never had a deal he wanted to bring to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf for approval, but his explanation means next to nothing. When you’ve learned to anticipate ‘‘no’’ for an answer, you know not to reach for the stars. Or to pay them.
The Cubs misread their fans, who have no appetite for another rebuild. Let me rephrase that: The Cubs didn’t bother to ask their fans if they would swallow another rebuild. They just did it. There’s a part of me that wonders whether team chairman Tom Ricketts had ordered Hoyer to keep Contreras and Happ because he was tired of the abuse he had taken for getting rid of Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant at the start of his money-saving rebuild. But I’m above saying that sort of thing out loud.
Let’s return to the start of the Cubs’ first rebuild and the widespread belief at the time that it was the only way to go. Spending big money was ridiculed, and building up a mountain of draft picks was praised. Epstein’s mantra of ‘‘sustained success’’ was held up like a Bible verse.
You know what sustained success looks like? It looks like the Dodgers, who are on their way to a 12th consecutive winning season. Every season, they spend like the World Series is tomorrow. The Cubs could do that but choose not to. It has nothing to do with believing that a rebuild is the smartest way to create a winner; it has everything to do with wanting to turn a massive profit. They got away with one rebuild. They’re doing it a second time and have been exposed for what they really are.
The Sox have gotten to that part of the rebuild process in which a team is supposed to go for it by adding talent — the way the Padres did. At the trade deadline, they nodded off like manager Tony La Russa appeared to do in the dugout the other night.
Nobody is more tired than Chicago baseball fans.