If Naivete Is Bliss, Is Wrigley Field Heaven?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IOctober 13, 2009

Disclaimer: I am an enormous Cubs fan who still spends months dreaming about Opening Day at Wrigley Field. I love the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs have an incredible fan base, one that many teams would give their best player to have at any home game.  No matter the weather or the team's record, over the last 15 years the team has packed the house almost every single day.

But I have a beef with Cubs' Nation.

There are a lot of Cubs fans that love the game of baseball.

There are a lot of Cubs fans that love the idea of being Cubs fans and going to Wrigley Field.

There are a lot of meatheads that like to twist numbers and ideas into making it appear like, on paper, the Cubs have won each of the last four World Series.

Wonderful.  It's the mix of those three groups, with a great contribution from the corporate "here to be seen" fans, that make going to Cubs' home games a unique experience.  But the dynamic drives me crazy sometimes.

My mother falls into the first group of Cubs fans; she's one of those pie-in-the-sky, "It's Gonna Happen" fans that builds every player on the Cubs up to near-god status for four months a year and then swirls away in a downward spiral of depression every August and September (or, the last two years, October).

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I love her, but it's hard to watch.

The Cubs players are human beings. They aren't always perfect, and aren't always miserable, either.  There exists a middle ground called reality, where most non-steroid using players usually settle.

There are other friends of mine that fall into the second group described above, the Bandwagon Faithful as I like to call them.  When the team's rolling over the likes of Pittsburgh or Washington, they're wearing their hats on the train to work every day and are trying to find tickets every Saturday.

But when the Cardinals come to town and kill the parade or the Giants come in and drop two shutouts in a three-game series, and the cloud surrounding the silver lining appears, they're ready for some football or, dare I say it, watching the White Sox.

There are ups and downs in a 162 game season, and the team is going to win and lose games every year.  They're going to win some games they shouldn't, and lose some games they shouldn't as well.  That's just the nature of the marathon baseball season.

Then there are the fans that think an elementary level statistical analysis will cure all of the team's ills.  They think that, if the numbers indicate a player should perform a certain way, it's a great indicator of how the team should play.

There's a problem with putting numbers in a sterile environment (ie "on paper"): baseball is a game of context and the unexpected.

Take the 2008 team for example.  "On paper," they were the best team in the National League.  How'd that work out?

Look at some players on the 2009 roster.  If you take Carlos Zambrano's statistical line out of context, you would swear he won 18 games and was waiting for a phone call from the Cy Young nomination committee.

But then you step back and look at his stat sheet, and he won nine games.

Milton Bradley had an incredible year "on paper" in 2008 with the Texas Rangers. For a fantasy baseball team, he was a great player to have on the roster.  For the Chicago Cubs, it didn't turn out so well.

Now, there are some statistics that, when placed in a sterile environment, might tell you that Bradley earned his salary in 2009.  And yet the team sent him home before the season ended and didn't miss him for an instant.

To wear blinders and believe that a fantasy baseball team will win a World Series is ridiculous (no matter what the 2009 New York Yankees might lead you to believe).  To remove any player from the context of the team they're on is one way to lose perspective too quickly.

There needs to become a larger group in the fourth part of the Cubs' fan base.  Those fans that take statistics and appreciate the performances of players within their proper context.  They should take the season as it comes and drink their Budweiser watching the Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks between the end of the season and Spring Training.

I know this article will undoubtedly spark a healthy argument from some of my good friends on B/R (Matt Trueblood, Marco Radenkovic, Bob Warja, etc).  The great thing about Chicago baseball is that, at least on the North Side, we're used to having a spirited offseason debate from the beginning of October until March.

My hope is that Cubs fans can spend this winter not staring at what did, or didn't, happen this past season, or which Cubs over/under performed and who's being over/under paid.

Let's spend this winter placing our Cubs Faith into the new ownership group to hold the management group, specifically Jim Hendry, accountable for how the team performs.

No more "It's Gonna Happen" or "Wait Til Next Year."  And no more blaming the goat, Bartman, Leon Durham, or Alex S. Gonzalez for 101 years of failure.

How about doing something right?

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