Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Apocalypse When?


My story as a Cubs fan has been detailed all over this blog, and in other places, so I'm not going to bother retelling it now. But what you should know about me is this: I am a life-long Cubs fan who has, at times, been passionately driven by nothing more than a Cubs World Series victory.

The key phrase in that last sentence is "at times." Last season I felt barely involved in the Cubs, despite writing about them every single day, and this year is no different. So they're floating at around 10 games under .500. So Aramis Ramirez can't bat Ryan Theriot's weight, and Derrek Lee is looking his age. So Alfono Soriano has the defensive range of a lead box. So Carlos Zambrano is pitching out of the bullpen.

Okay -- fine. That last one still makes me sick to my stomach.

And yet, I don't feel too upset by any of this. I'm not losing sleep over the Cubs' woes. I don't feel angry. God, I can't believe I'm saying this, but I mostly don't care.

In my 30 years, I've lived with a long-lasting, pervasive belief that the Cubs will win the World Series someday. I still believe that. I belive it will happen soon -- before I am 40 for sure. Then again, when I was 20 years old, wouldn't I have been shocked to know the Cubs'd still be titleless a decade later?

It will happen; only it's not going to happen soon. Just look at the facts -- the Cubs have tried to buy their way into contention for a few years now, kind of like the Yankees. Except the Yankees have a history of burying bad, big contracts with new bad, big contracts. When Player X stops producing 4 years into his 8 year contract, the Yankees just go out and buy Player Y and keep on winning. The Cubs can't do that.

Not to mention the continued questionable production of the farm system. Geo Soto may or may not grow into the stud we saw back in 2008. (Things are looking good.) Starlin Castro may or may not be a shortstop slightly better than Shawon Duston was. Same with Josh Vitters.

Despite being owned by a rich Cubs fan (who, you'd think, would be super competitive and extremely hungry for a title), the Cubs are being run by the same people, in the same way as they have been for the past few decades. That model doesn't work. Jim Hendry doesn't have the skills necessary to be a game-changing GM, which is unfortunate for the Cubs since he's been in a position of authority for more than a decade now. A decade!

We have seen in the past that teams turn around their fortunes on a shockingly regular basis. It's entirely possible that the 2011 Cubs will be much, much better than their '10 counterparts. But for that to happen, the Cubs will need to do the following:

Purge.

(What, you thought there'd be more? That's all they need!)

Seriously. Fire Jim Hendry. Let Lou Piniella ride off into the sunset. Dispense with their talented, expensive, over-30 players. Roll the dice on some younger guys with a ton of potential. But, most important of all, the Cubs need to get a guy in the front office who is a fearless, hungry, baseball genius.

I'm talking about somebody who, first and foremost, seeks any advantage to win. That means rolling the dice on picking up undervalued players whose significant skill-sets are only obvious when considering little-known statistics. That means ridding the team of anybody who is even remotely cancerous. That means being unafraid to mouth back at the media, to shout down angry fans, to awe us all.

These guys are rare, but they are essential. When I look at Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella, what I don’t see are Type A personalities with an overwhelming passion to win. Maybe they used to be, back in the day, but not anymore.

Ironically, then, I will not be passionate about the Cubs until the Cubs are passionate about winning. The window has closed on Jim and Lou. It’s time to let somebody else have a shot. Until then, it’s a whole bunch of insignificant thunder.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award