It started before Kris Bryant was called up. Fuck, it probably started the day Anthony Rizzo signed his extension. This was the day the Cubs told everyone they dreaded, but secretly couldn’t wait for.
They put it in the water for sure in 2014. Even then, the whispers were that the Cubs wouldn’t call up Bryant in 2014 or even until the middle of 2015. We need that extra year of control, y’see, because he’ll never sign an extension. He’s a Boras client after all! He won’t listen to reason! Our hands are tied!
Boras may be a total weirdo, and perhaps the most up-his-own-ass than any human in history, but he does his job well, And his job is to look out for his clients, not the teams. Neither Bryant nor Boras were under any obligation to help the Cubs out. Just pay him what he’s worth and that’s the end of the discussion.
And he’s worth a ton. Here’s a list of Cubs to win the Rookie Of The Year and MVP:
Bryant should have retired as the greatest Cub ever, because that’s the trajectory he was on. But since that farce of the held-back promotion in 2015, the Cubs kept whispering about that last year of control and it was all they could do. They kept whispering about it as Javy Baez came up and Rizzo became a star. Oh, we’ve only got so much time here! They’re all going to be free agents after 2021! There’s nothing we can do! The luxury tax! The luxury tax!
Ask the Dodgers what they think about the luxury tax.
Whisper it long enough and you can make the fans think a player is ungrateful. It worked here, even though Bryant only had great things to say about being in Chicago. The Cubs certainly didn’t do much to quell the rumbles among Cubs fans that Bryant was “soft” because of how injuries would wreck three consecutive seasons. Even though it sometimes seemed like the Cubs crack medical staff might be made up of chimps wearing stethoscopes.
But the Cubs were only happy for the fandom to turn on Bryant no matter how little because it would make all of this go down easier as they falsely turned their pockets out. With Bryant hurt, they were only too happy to make it be known that it was the core’s fault that 2018 and 2019 and 2020 ended with no playoff wins. Hey, we’d sign these guys but maybe they’re just not good enough! Which seems laughable as we watch teams with worse centers like the Giants or A’s compete for playoff spots. But the more they salted the Earth behind the core, the more the fans came to accept that it all had to change when it came time to actually pay them.
It’s horseshit, of course. The 2018 Cubs team won 95 games with Bryant hurt for half of the season, Yu Darvish making eight starts, and three bullpen arms. 95 games. That’s a lot of wins. How did the Ricketts family back them up in 2019? With Albert Almora starting in center even though it was long clear by then he was a pylon in the field and plate. With Jason Heyward, who had spent three seasons proving he was swinging a pool noodle at the plate. A bench that included Daniel Descalso and Tony Kemp. They couldn’t know that Bryant would get hurt again or Ben Zobrist would miss most of the season thanks to his wife’s creative therapy sessions, but they weren’t prepared for any outcome other than all their starts playing 150 games and balling out.
It gets worse. Their bullpen was so chockful of giblets and fuckups they had to import Craig Kimbrel midseason, which never works. Sure, Theo Epstein takes some blame for not developing any pitching, but he probably assumed the third-richest team in baseball would always make up for things with their unmatched checkbook in the NL Central. The bullpen spent the first half of the season putting their face through various wooden boards, the lack of bench or support from anyone else meant the offense went cold, and the Cubs missed out again.
And there was ownership and the front office, all too eager to point to the core’s failings. Maybe we shouldn’t sign these guys, huh?! Bunch of bums, don’t you think?!
Cubs ownership made it seem like having good players and a good team was so heavy to carry, such a sacrifice. We do it for the fans, of course, but there’s only so long we can do this! We’re just a simple family from Nebraska! We can’t pay these guys any longer, it’ll break us!
And now it’s over. Rizzo is gone to the Yankees, Bryant will go somewhere sometime today. It’s not the rebuild they’re after. It’s paying an MLB roster $60 million while Ricketts-ville fills up again after a pandemic that their shithead governor brother is helping to extend. That’s why the “prize” of the Rizzo deal is a 19-year-old lottery ticket. It’ll be the same for Bryant. It was the same for Darvish. They’ll sell “hope” for as long as they can, when really it’s just about paying nothing for the roster. Hey it worked before, don’t you remember?
They’ll show off their tribute videos on the website, and fans will eat it up, even though if these players meant so much to the team they could have just been signed to the money they deserved. They kept the whispers and rumblings out there long enough, and just loud enough, to fool most of the fanbase into getting excited about prospects again. Just you wait, 2025 is going to be awesome!
Tom Ricketts’ story about being a fan and meeting his wife in the bleachers has always been crap. Wanting to provide the fans a World Series was bullshit too. He just wanted to fill the park long enough to justify cashing in on it and the neighborhood around it for much longer. Boy, that $500 million they blew on renovations and projects around the park isn’t so fucking funny now, is it?
It’ll work. Cubs fans will continue to fill the park, go to the bars, get excited about homers in single-A backwaters because it will be all there is to do.
That’s why the Ricketts bought the team, after all.
My only solace is that they will now grin about getting to fulfill the real goal of spending nothing on the team while profiting madly from everything around it. He’ll think he’s won. Maybe he has. I still have the memory of 2016. It won’t be sullied. He can have the cash. I’ll take my memories and go. I still have more than he does. At least that’s what I tell myself.
Let’s Go White Sox.