Conventional wisdom: Cubs have darkened skies over weekend’s annual fan event
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You probably heard your old man say it a time or 20 through the decades. Or your uncle, your grandma or even yourself. The sentiment stretched from Clark and Addison to the farthest reaches of Cubdom:
If the Cubs ever win a World Series, I’ll die happy. One championship is all I need.
Yeah, well, about that: If 2016 taught us that the impossible could happen, the years since then have revealed that Cubs fans aren’t really any different from other fan bases.
Give us one parade, and we want another.
Regress at all, and the bloom comes right off the rose.
Hit like stiffs in 2018 and go down in a wild-card heap, and nobody’s happy. At all. Stuff those 95 wins in a sack, mister.
Another Cubs Convention opens Friday, and the forecast isn’t calling for warm-and-fuzzies. There’s a dark cloud overhead. Just consider the various topics on the minds of fans who’ll be attending.
Let’s see, there’s the sweet, wafting aroma of a new season and spring training right around the corner. That pretty much covers the positive stuff.
Other than that, in no particular order: The Cubs didn’t dig deep into their coffers to try to land a blockbuster free agent. Team president Theo Epstein is on a cold streak. Manager Joe Maddon, in the final year of his contract, is a lame duck. The Cubs’ NL Central rivals keep getting stronger.
Oh, but there’s more. Will Yu Darvish’s arm survive the months to come, or will his 2018 offseason signing go down as a colossal mistake? Are Kris Bryant’s shoulder and Brandon Morrow’s elbow to be trusted? And speaking of trust, we’ve barely begun discussing the heart and mind of Addison Russell.
And Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and family won’t even be available this weekend for their traditional panel discussion with fans? Sorry, but that’s not a good look. There’s too much — no matter how unpleasant — to weigh in on.
At Maddon’s annual “Thanksmas” dinner Thursday, before he served dinner to, and broke bread with, more than 100 homeless Chicagoans, he downplayed the issue of his contract.
“I’m pretty self-confident,” he said, “and I feel good about what we’ve done and where we’re going in the future.”
Bigger picture, Maddon disputed that fans are less giddy — and a lot more jaded — in 2019 than they were, say, two Cubs Conventions ago.
“I really don’t understand why anybody would be jaded about this group,” he said. “If you’re a Cub fan, and having gone through what you’ve gone through for so many years, I think you’d kind of like this group right now. I’m talking from ownership right down to the players and everybody among the group. It’s a well-rounded organization — a lot of good young players, a lot of good people and a very successful group on the field.
“So it’s hard to imagine what else you could possibly want. We want the championship as much as anyone else does, but you’ve got to be somewhat pleased with what’s happened over the last four years, I would think.”
Of course, there’s a lot of truth in that. No one is suggesting a World Series title, two other trips to the NLCS and a wild-card appearance amounts to anything less than the most glorious Cubs stretch since the early 1900s.
But Cubs fans were changed by 2016. The days of them being just happy to be here are over. “Wait ’til next year” isn’t really a thing anymore.
The skies above Cubdom aren’t nearly as bright as they were last year, let alone coming off the World Series win. A weekend filled with smiles and selfies won’t change that reality.