An Open Letter to the Sun-Times Neil Hayes
Dear Mr. Hayes,
The Sun-Times has recently hired you as their dot-com columnist, and they describe you as an "award-winning" journalist. I have read a couple of your articles so far, and it is true that, syntatically, you do know how to put a sentence together. I see you have written books and obviously your latest Chicago sports beat is not your first rodeo.
Your logical clarity can serve, like today, to fail you. Mr. Hayes, today's article very clearly shows that you know absolutely nothing about one of the biggest teams on your new beat, the only team on your beat that matters to me, and us, the Chicago National League Ball Club, aka "The Cubs".
Perhaps your intent was to ingratiate yourself to the new Mr. Moneybags in Charge, one Mr. Tom Ricketts. That is the only possible intention you may have had that has any chance of success. I do not hold a Journalism degree, although I have had graduate-level coursework in effective written communications. Maybe part of your problem today was trying to kill two birds with one stone. One thesis you advanced today is that Mr. Ricketts and his family are committed to Cubs success, merely by their inent to spend 9-tenths of a billion dollars to buy them from the Tribune.
Frankly, I am not qualified to judge the validity of this particular thesis. Certainly, 900 million dollars can symbolize a lot of commitment. Of course, back in 1981, we (who were alive and cognizant then) thought that 21 million dollars symbolized a lot of commitment from the Tribune Corporation. That august body then proceeded to use the Cubs as a profit center and cheap form of programming for the next 27 years. Personally, this Ricketts buy tells me absolutely NOTHING about their will to win a World Series. In a recessionary economy, the smart money gravitates towards the blue chips, and in the sports world, chips don't come bluer than Cubs Blue. Ricketts may or may not truly want to win, I really don't know, so I'll shut the hell up about it for now.
Your second point, Mr. Hayes, was that the Cubs, as a competitive enterprise, would be better off buying a true "fifth-starter" than overspending for Jake Peavy, and this is the notion that tells me, a nearly forty-year fan of the team, that you know absolutely SQUAT about the Cubs.
As stated in your article, we HAVE fifth starters, by the names of Marshall, Samardjia, and Garrett Olson, recently of Baltimore. Briefly, why in God's name would we want to bring in a Braden Looper-esque figure for a few million when any of the above three gentlemen would do the same job?
You have missed the point, you did not obviously watch this team the past two years, and you must not understand what makes a baseball team WIN, in particular a team that not only has to overcome the same 29 obstacles that every other MLB team has to overcome, but also the crushing expectations of its fanbase, media, and karma itself in reversing over 100 years of failure!!
The Cubs did not lose the 2007 and 2008 NLDS because they were untalented. They were talented enough to win their division both years. They did not lose because they ran into two "teams of destiny" - both teams proceeded to lose the NLCS. They did not lose because of poor field management, or bad luck, or even outside intervention (yeah, you, Bartman!)
Basically, not to put a fine point on it, they choked. The Cubs stopped doing nearly everything good that they did to get to this point. Fielders kicked balls around, clutch hitters flailed at pitches, hurlers lost command of the plate. They did not execute, and during the proceedings, when someone needed to step up and rise above the fray, nobody could, and after all was said and done, when someone needed to step up, take blame, and vow things would change, nobody did. In other words, nobody LED!
The leaders of the 2007-8 Cubs were: Kerry Lee Wood, a former phenom turned closer with more surgeries than Kathy Griffin; and Derrek Leon Lee, a ultra-quiet guy who plays the least active position on the diamond, and whose best days have long since passed. The Cubs managed to win 182 games in two years without a staff Ace - a human lightning rod through which all pressures flow, and from who expectations of execution trickle down to the lesser beings on the staff.
We do pay Carlos Zambrano to be that Man, yes. But he cannot, as long as his emotions get the better of him. We pay Ryan Dempster to be the ultimate Second Banana - he's funny, caring, and talented. Ted Lilly has the talent and the cold-blooded demeanor to be a stopper, and many times the past two years, he has. But just as you would never want to follow Lilly over a hill under heavy enemy gunfire, nor would you want to take a swing at your manager, let's just say that if Lilly was in charge of a platoon in Afghanistan, he might be voted "most like to be court-martialed". Rich Harden, the fourth Musketeer, is like the perfect spring day - beautiful, but not to be counted on.
Jake Peavy is not being touted to be just another arm, not just another gear in the transmission. He is being pursued not for his innings-eating or any other fifth-starter type task. He is going to be asked to win nearly 20 games, stop losing streaks, get Zambrano to think with his BIG head rather than the other one, keep Lilly from eating children, pull Dempster away from the Xbox and maybe push Harden into becoming the 20-game winner everyone seems to think he can be.
Can Peavy do all that? I don't know, but he has a better chance than anyone else available out there, and unless we get ALL these guys to take that next step, the Cubs aren't going to win any World Series. That's the only goal that matters these days, and your article today does not appear to lead towards that end. Any Jake Peavy trade will be costly and a tremendous risk. We all understand that, and we do not expect that he will come here for merely our spare parts. But there is a very tight window of winning, and only over-compensation will allow the Cubs to break the 101-year-inertia of Cubdom.
Anybody who does not realize this doesn't realize the true notion of this team, and I am afraid that you do not. I encourage you to read our blog, and some of the others we link to, if you want to take a true gauge as to the State of the Cub Fan. Good enough isn't good enough anymore here, big guy. I hope you accept my opinion, and approach the Cubs with a higher level of expectation when you write about them for now on.
Rob Letterly, Mendota, IL