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That was just perfect. Watching Yoenis Cespedes absolutely dominate the Home Run Derby, what could have been better than that?
Baseball always twists the knife in Cubs fans.
Cespedes is the young power hitter from Cuba who was there for the taking for the Cubs last year. There was a bidding, well, it wasn't really a bidding war, but there was competitive bidding for the then 26-year-old free agent who was making the transition to professional baseball in America. And cheapskate Tom Ricketts lost.
There were reports that his minions submitted the second-highest contract proposal, to be fair. What's that you say? One of baseball's powerhouses must have stepped up and spent goofy money to secure the services of a raw but oh so promising hitter? Um, no. It was the team that always, always, ranks in the bottom 10 in baseball in total revenues. It was Billy Beane's Oakland Athletics, who signed Cespedes for four years and $36 million.
So a rebuilding yet ultra high-revenue team desperate for players of any kind but especially for a slugger to pound away at Wrigley let a prime prospect get away for Ricketts' loose change.
And of course when the Cubs screw something up like this, the player they didn't sign doesn't just go on to a solid, successful career, no. He has to go and blow away the field at the home run hitting contest that at this point is far more popular than the actual All-Star game.
I started to figure it out in 1984. It wasn't just that the Cubs lost the National League Championship Series, it was how they lost. They lost because they didn't have lights, meaning the last three games of the series were played in San Diego so that night games would at least be an option for TV. They lost because the absolutely ridiculous (in a bad way) Steve Garvey hit the biggest home run in his career. They lost because the normally sure-handed Leon Durham couldn't make an easy play and the normally stellar Ryne Sandberg couldn't make a tough one.
But it was the 2003-2006 stretch that really did it for me.
First there was the 2003 National League Championship Series. Maybe we'll break that down in a different column at some point. Maybe not. But the ultimately ridiculous loss to the Marlins was just the start. The next year, Cubs fans watched the Red Sox break their 80-plus year drought and win a Series. The year after that, Cubs fans watched the White Sox break an 80-plus year drought and win a Series. And the year after that, the Cardinals won their 10th World Series since the Cubs had last won one. Can you hear my teeth grinding?
Do they keep losing because, what, some other-worldly entity has cast some sort of spell on the team or just has it in for the Cubs? Um, no again (and don't even whisper the "c" word). They lose because of bad management. The Tribune Company started to care in the 2000s. The company finally started to figure out that while mediocre Cubs teams made a decent amount of money, good Cubs teams made nearly obscene amounts of money.
And so it was that not once but twice in the decade (the '03 team was followed by very good, in the regular season, '07 and '08 squads), quality teams were stitched together. But the Cubs could never procure the services of the special player who might have put them over the top.
That was what the Blackhawks did when they looked at their stable of young talent five years ago and said good but not good enough. And they went out and signed premier free agent Marian Hossa to finish things off. That worked out pretty well.
Cespedes is not the player who would have put the Cubs over the top. The team needs about five Cespedes's to turn this thing around. But they could have had him for peanuts and they let him get away to the A's. Instead the Cubs signed a different Cuban prospect, Jorge Soler. So far in his minor-league career, Soler has been suspended, benched and disabled. You cannot, possibly, make this stuff up.
Somewhere someone or thing is laughing uproariously. And it is not laughing with Cubs fans.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.
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