If you believe the 2013 Cubs were built to stink -- spoiler alert: they were -- then you had to like Edwin Jackson’s miserable start in Monday’s home opener and Starlin Castro’s aggravating last out that was a wind shift from turning into a game-winning grand slam.
But here’s the thing: One home game -- a loss, natch -- in front of more than 40,000 fans, and manager Dale Sveum was wondering when some or all of those 40,000 would turn on the home team.
“You can only have so much patience,’’ Sveum said. “Obviously they were great to us through some hard times last year and understood the process of what’s going on in the organization. But there’s only so much you can take.’’
Yes. Well. Wrong. There will be a lot more to take. A. Lot.
Cubs fans this year will require just as much patience as last year, and here’s why:
The Cubs will be just as bad as last year. OK, maybe not 100 losses, but an easy 90, and the bigger point is, the Cubs were designed to be bad this year, same as last season.
What’s more, the patience forced upon Cubs fans this season will come in handy next year when --- ta-da! --- the Cubs figure to play badly, too.
We heard there was talk of a “Cubs Way,’’ but who knew it was modeled on Tom Ricketts’ negotiating success?
The Cubs don’t mean to play badly. It’s just what they do. It’s why they were brought together in the organization’s frenzied grab for young talent, drafted or acquired in trade. In life, everybody has something he does best, and lucky for Cubs fans that team President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer found a majority of guys who serve the Cubs’ baseball purposes long-term by playing baseball badly in the short-term.
I mean, have you seen third base? Have you seen the lineup? Have you seen the whole freakin’ roster?
And have you heard Epstein talk about the arms they’ve signed? It’s all about value. It’s not about Cy Youngs. It’s all about low risk. It’s all about hoping pitchers can manage a good half-season that allows Epstein and Hoyer to find a contender who will trade prospects.
Sometimes you waste $5 million on a post-surgical Scott Baker, who is helping Matt Garza redecorate the disabled list. Hey, at least something at Wrigley is getting renovated.
Sometimes you luck into a Paul Maholm, the poster child for this cycle: someone who wouldn’t be here when the Cubs think they’ll be good, but the kids he brought back in trade might be.
And then sometimes you’re forced to watch Epstein and Hoyer botch trades that retard the plan they designed and ought to know how to execute. I don’t have to tell a Cubs fans that bad can be contagious.
But wait. It’s not all suicidal. There are some things to watch that might stave off impatience, booing and pottymouth heckling:
Starlin Castro going the other way; Anthony Rizzo hitting lefties; Welington Castillo growing defensively behind the plate while delivering some big hits; Jeff Samardzija continuing to pitch the way he has the last 12 months instead of just throwing. Darwin Barney becoming some kind of offensive threat, any kind of offensive threat.
The rest is TBA. Prospects take time. But the plan is, once that pipeline reaches Wrigley, it will continue to gush and the Cubs will compete every year with home-grown talent, or at least talent trained in the on-base-centric approach at the plate and the pound-the-zone mentality on the mound.
There is a toxic waste dump of learned baseball thinking that Epstein and Hoyer must change. They want the change it organization-wide. Again, that takes time. Again, that requires patience. This year and next. Maybe in 2015, too, because this is the last organization you’d trust to stay on schedule, on the field and off it.
Which will the Cubs fix first: Wrigley Field or third base?