By Joe Christensen
I got an e-mail last month after teasing my wife for supporting the Corporate Cubs over the down-home Brewers. It came from my cousin, Josh Evans, whose research has found its way into Jayson Stark’s column in the past. Josh is a lifelong Cubs fan. I had been sitting on this e-mail, waiting for the right time to post it. With the Cubs facing elimination tonight against Arizona, this might actually make you feel some compassion for the lovable losers whose last World Series title came in 1908:
The Red Sox were a feel-good story in 2004, largely because of the “We’ll cheer for whoever embarrasses the Yankees” storyline. … But now they’ve turned into Yankees Light, with an even more annoying fan base, if that’s possible. The Red Sox and Yankees contending every year just completely reeks of inevitability with their payrolls, while the Cubs always have that, “What’s going to go wrong this year?” mystique that the Sox had until three years ago.
As for your point about being homegrown, it’s not like the Cubs have built a team entirely through free agency. The bullpen has a few mid-range free agents (Eyre, Howry, Dempster), and so does the bench (Jones, Floyd), but if you look at the five guys on the roster who are or will be making eight figures, only two of them were free agents: Soriano and Lilly.
Zambrano was a product of the farm system, and Lee and Ramirez were acquired through trades. And not trades like the Yankees do where they are they only team who could possibly afford the player’s contract (see Bobby Abreu). Lee was acquired for Hee Seop Choi in what the Marlins thought would be a reasonably equal trade. Funny how that turned out. Made up for the Cubs trading them Dontrelle Willis a couple years earlier. And Ramirez came over in one of the most amusing trades I’ve seen, where the Pirates basically told the Cubs, “We’ll give you Kenny Lofton if you’ll take Ramirez’s contract.”
I don’t think people generally resent a team spending big money to keep players they acquired honestly (i.e. farm system or legitimate trades); it’s when they start buying the best players from all the other teams that fans get annoyed. And as I said earlier, this is the first year that the Cubs have done that. The Yankees have done that for years.
I’ll be pulling for the Cubs tonight simply because all four of these series are 2-0, and I don’t want them to end. Last night was spectacular, with two games dripping with suspense. The sight of Joba and Jeter swatting those pesky bugs known as Canadian Soldiers — priceless.