C’mon Cubs, Gimme Somethin’ to Believe In

I only lasted about 90 minutes, but the furor that erupted over the news that the Cubs might be in talks with the Washington Nationals about ace pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was enough to spark something in me that had long been dormant.

*Mandatory anecdote warning*

When I enrolled at Hanover College, I did so under the somewhat-misguided concept that a degree would be my ticket to a great job. Surely the lower debt load I’d be carrying upon graduation would more than make up for any connections and cachet I’d have gained by attending Notre Dame, or so I reasoned. I’ll never know for sure, but I often wonder about my decision.

I enjoyed my college experience though; I wanted a small school and knew that I wanted to study English. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t), so I took a variety of classes and fulfilled the liberal arts stereotype to the best of my ability. As a senior, I earned the Meese Literary Award for being the student most likely to succeed in the field of creative writing.

In hindsight, I believe my receipt of the award was due at least in some part to pity. Hey, this kid has tried really hard to act like he wants to be a writer, so let’s at least throw him a bone. Of course, I’m now a rich-and-famous rising star in the Cubs blogosphere, so I guess the portension of the MLA was accurate nonetheless.

But I didn’t just step out of the hallowed halls of Hanover and into a life of literary luxury. No, it took me a while to craft this lifestyle. After graduating, I spurned a management training program job with a well-known uniform and building services company to take a commission-only gig hawking life insurance, annuities, and investments.

The fruits of my labor in that field were only slightly more appetizing than durian, and I quickly realized that I wasn’t cut out for field sales. Overdrafts and late notices came regularly and ramen noodles were a staple in my diet. I was depressed and embarrassed; I was a burden on my roommates and I was jealous of those friends who had clearly made better decisions than me.

I eventually got out of that first job and began waiting tables. I can’t tell you how good it felt after that first shift to drive across the street to my bank, roll in to the drive-though ATM, and deposit $20 in cash. I had been so used to making those infrequent commission checks last for weeks that the simple act of having regular pay had me over the moon.

Sound familiar, Cubs fans? The whole Jordan Zimmermann situation last night was made possible because this group has been so starved for something, anything, to indicate that this team really is intent on being buyers. It was a big juicy burger when we’ve all been subsisting on dry noodles from the grocery store’s clearance endcap.

Don’t get me wrong, the prospects have been nice. But the fervor with which people have been discussing the need for and value of players like Russell Martin and Jon Lester illustrate just how much we’ve all missed being major players in the market. But nothing, nothing, stokes the hot stove like a trade.

Prospects are one thing, acquiring a big-time player another, but to combine those two in light of what the Cubs have suffered (willingly, I might add) through these last few years? Well, now you’ve got a recipe for combustion like something from the Anarchist’s Cookbook, a situation that could blow up like nitro in dynamite sticks.

That was clear in the fallout from the Zimmermann rumors, as the burgeoning mushroom cloud of information turned out to be little more than a fragile soap bubble, dissipating as quickly as it had swelled. But in its shifting, shimmering surface, we saw reflected our hope, along with our pain and fear.

The letdown, and the ensuing (misguided) backlash against those who had promulgated the possibility in the first place was indicative of the emotional state of many fans. They, we, desperately want this team to be better and we are disappointed when efforts that it’s making to do so fall short. When hopes are dashed, someone needs to be held responsible for getting them up in the first place.

But Zimmermann isn’t the first name to come up regarding the Cubs and trades. The respective outfields of both the Atlanta Braves and LA Dodgers have come up recently and Bryan O’Donnell wrote about several options in his recent Rundown. For the record, I’m all for acquiring a former Maddon player. After all, Corey can’t be the only Crawford people blame for a Chicago team’s loss.

In all seriousness though, last night showed both the good and bad of the Cubs’ return to prominence, or at least just relevance. The Joe Maddon hiring was the first step, but now (hot take warning) they’re going to seek to surround him with the types of players that can allow him to earn the first Manager of the Year votes for a Cubs skipper in 6 seasons.

Earlier, I questioned what might happen if the Cubs have an underwhelming offseason, a possibility that looms ever larger as they’re attached to more and more names. While I believe myself to be more pragmatic than most, which, incidentally, is how I was recently able to crack the top 50,000 in the hierarchy of Cubs bloggers (which is higher than my position on the Cubs season ticket wait list), I still need something to drive me forward.

I mean, Kris Bryant’s smile can only spur me on for so long before I am forced to seek out other optimism streams. Still, despite the general patience displayed across the board, last night showed me how quickly an oasis can turn into a sticky morass, a welcome sip of life-giving water into bitter poison.

We’ve got a long way to go before the Cubs get to Mesa and (hope) Spring(s) Training (eternal), but in the meantime I think we all want them to give us something to believe in. I’m sure Bret Michaels would agree.

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