10 Stupid Things You Will Hear During the 2015 Season
Well-informed Cubs fans, consider this your warning.
You know that casual, Kerry Wood jersey-wearing Cubs fan who hasn’t really been paying attention the last five years? Yeah, that guy is coming back this season. Or you know the willfully ignorant local writers who sit in press conferences asking Theo Epstein tone deaf questions? They’re still around, and waiting for any bump in the road this year to point out how right they were all along.
A competitive Chicago Cubs season simply means more eyes will be watching, more voices will be heard, and more fingers will be pointed, probably at all the wrong times. Despite the words Epstein carefully chooses, some people will just hear that this is supposed to be The Year (or Next Year, as some like to say).
When the number of people watching something increases, the amount of baseball stupidity will also increase. That’s science.
So let’s prepare for 10 asinine things that will be said at some point this season, so that you don’t face palm in front of your uncle when he says #5.
1. Trade Baez
We all know the most impatient fans will see Javy Baez whiff three times in a Cactus League game and implore Epstein to include him in a package for a starting pitcher. Those at-bats and subsequent cries are going to happen, and maybe as soon as next weekend. Casual fans hate strikeouts (more on that shortly) and they’ll see Baez as the odd man out with Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, Tommy LaStella, and Arismendy Alcantara all capable of playing middle infield positions. Baez will undoubtedly have a shorter leash this season with the Cubs ready to compete, but Joe Maddon is preaching patience with his raw slugger. Take your cues from him.
2. How’s that Lester contract looking right now?
Pencil this in as a strong possibility for April 5. All eyes will be on Jon Lester, Wrigley Field, and the new look Cubs come Opening Night, and Lester best not struggle. What Len Kasper calls “an amplifier of emotions” will only get stronger with heightened expectations, and over emotional fans could see a line of 6.0 IP, 7H, 4ER, 5k, 3BB as a reason to write everything off. If you’re making plans to watch Game 1 of 162 in a local bar, brace yourself for the worst should Lester not have his best stuff that night.
3. Maddon is overrated
I like to think it will take a four or five game losing streak for this silliness to surface, but it might be something like bringing in a reliever who gives up a late inning home run. Maddon came to Chicago universally regarded as an elite manager and the perfect guy to lead this Cubs team. He’s (reasonably) a huge reason that fans should expect a competitive team, but it also means there will be a fraction of observers who forget he’s human and will jump on the first mistake he makes. There are certainly legitimate times to criticize a manager, but be careful with someone as intelligent as Maddon.
4. La Stella is a glue guy
Tommy La Stella is ripe to be the new Mark DeRosa, and not just because of the shared Italian heritage. With a lineup of high-ceiling, high-impact bats, it’s natural that La Stella will endear himself to the percentage of fans who are drawn to the less talented, grindy, Eckstein-y players. All indirect ways of saying “try-hard white guys.” He was brought to the Cubs for his ability to get on base, and could be a stark contrast to the free swinging (and much more talented) Baez. I’m already looking forward to the standing ovation he’ll receive when he returns to Wrigley Field as a member of another team.
5. This Bryant guy is supposed to be the savior?
Of course there’s a chance the soon-to-be Most Handsome Man in Baseball will struggle at the plate during his first look at major league pitching. It’s easy to forget that Kris Bryant struck out in his first five at bats in Boise, went 4-24 to start in Tennessee, and 7-32 in his first eight games at Iowa. There’s no reason to panic if he begins his major league career with, say, a 5-30 slump, which is completely within the realm of possibility. But that won’t keep some from jumping all over him (not like that, ladies), probably labeling the start to his career as “so Cub.”
6. Manny should be the hitting coach
I’m a little surprised this hasn’t been called for already; if it has I’ve not heard it. But if the Cubs hit a week long stretch in May where the offense sputters you can expect knee-jerk responses to fire John Mallee and insert Manny Ramirez as the full time hitting coach. This becomes overwhelmingly more likely if Baez starts the season well and Manny is given his due credit. People love to blame the hitting coach when a team isn’t scoring runs. It’s like the baseball version of wanting to start the backup quarterback.
7. This team strikes out too much
This is a common trademark of a fan who’s oversimplifying the game of baseball, especially in 2015. How a player makes an out isn’t nearly as important as how often he’s making those outs. If you look at the top 30 players last season in K%, you’ll see names like Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gomez, Chase Headley (that’s Headleeyy), and Ian Desmond. Strikeouts are not inherently bad. You may not like them, but simply striking out a lot isn’t a death sentence for a player or team as long as they’re getting on base and slugging at a decent clip.
8. The Cubs need to play more small ball
This is the cousin of #7, since “small ball” usually implies not striking out. But fans of this Yostian approach love giving away outs with sacrifice bunts, content to move a runner over rather than allowing for the chance of a big inning. Of course you can find isolated games as reason to support the idea that small ball equates to winning. But it doesn’t. That won’t stop some fans from clamoring for it though, so be ready whenever a runner doesn’t come around to score after a leadoff walk.
9. Why isn’t Alcantara leading off?
With his easy plus run and “Jose Reyes lite” label, it’s easy to fall in love with Alcantara’s skill set and versatility. And even though Dexter Fowler gets on base, he isn’t exactly a burner. A productive couple weeks from Alcantara will cause some to wonder why his speed doesn’t earn him a chance at the leadoff spot. This stat alone makes that a silly argument:
Alcantara has the chance to be a really solid and extremely valuable player. And a certain percentage of fans love the idea of a speedster reaching first and stealing second, putting himself in scoring position with no outs. But the old adage “you can’t steal first” remains a relevant baseball truth.
10. The Plan is Failing
This will be the funniest, most oblivious thing that could possibly be written at any point this season. And it would likely include many of the previous claims, culminating in a grand, sweeping declaration that Theo’s design isn’t working. We know who the most likely culprit will be, but even fans who have been skeptical of the rebuild will probably not have much patience for this season being one of transition. It will take something special within someone to dismiss the entire process at some point this year, but I believe in the idiocy of sports fans too strongly to not believe it will happen.
It is my hope and prayer that you now feel more prepared and know what to expect this season. We just heard that Opening Night sold out in two minutes, so the uninformed are coming. Like cargo shorts, backwards-hat wearing zombies, they are coming. May you be spared from their overreactions, and may you walk in the light of baseball truth.