Trouble in Chi-Town? A Response

The beauty of a blog run by two people is that you get two different perspectives on the issues that matter. Sometimes, those perspectives stand in stark contrast. Take, for example, the last time Brett and I went to Progressive Field, where my beloved Detroit Tigers defeated his beloved Cleveland Indians. We bring our own baggage to the ways we view the game of baseball and the teams that play it.

Which brings us to Brett’s (mostly good-natured) vendetta against the Chicago Cubs.

I get it, man. That Game 7 loss was brutal for Cleveland fans, and a little animosity is to be expected. The Cubs are World Series Champions, and the Indians are left wondering what could have been if the Ohio skies had held off for ten more minutes.

Brett recently posted an article discussing the reasons why the Cubs looked unprepared to defend their title, pointing to dysfunctions within their organization. His points are valid, but I believe his overall conclusion is a bit overstated. The Cubs title defense is not in any jeopardy yet, and the issues Brett raised shouldn’t trouble them in the long run.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts’ association with the Trump campaign and subsequent administration is not the greatest story for the Cubs PR department, given the way Trump has polarized public opinion. He was associated with the position of Deputy Secretary in the Commerce Department; he has since withdrawn his name from contention.

Personal political beliefs aside, Ricketts has every right to support whichever political candidate he wants. It would be a conflict of interest should he take an active role in the administration, but he has backed away from any position in the Trump administration. His political beliefs won’t affect the Cubs’ title chances. If you want a comparison, look at Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Kraft has publicly voiced his approval of Trump, and it hasn’t seemed to harm the Patriots’ success one bit.

Another potential issue of concern is the organizational disagreement over Jason Heyward. Heyward struggled in 2016, posting a slash line of .230/.306/.325. Over the offseason he completely re-tooled his swing to improve his offensive potential. The Cubs’ front office has been supportive of Heyward, and the early result of the season show at least some improvement. Yes, he has lacked extra-base power, but hitting in a potent Cubs lineup gives manager Joe Maddon leeway to keep Heyward towards the bottom of the lineup as a second leadoff man to set the tables for the top of the order.

With the size of baseball organizations, there will inevitably be disagreements over each and every player. The key to avoiding debilitating mismanagement is strong leadership at the top, and the Cubs are in better shape than any other team in that regard. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was recently named the World’s Greatest Leader by Fortune.

Finally, we come to John Lackey’s insensitive comments about Eric Thames insinuating that the Brewers’ slugging first baseman is using steroids. The comments were completely out of line; no player should every accuse another of being a cheat merely because they piped a fastball right down the middle.

Lackey’s comments are indefensible, but I don’t believe they will affect the Cubs’ title chances in the long run. Brett is right that the spotlight is on the Cubs this season, and both players and team officials have to take a bit of care in what they say and how they represent their team. While the Lackey incident did create some bad publicity, I’ll respond with a phrase that we’ve said so often recently: it’s only April. Relax.

Is there trouble in Chi-Town? For answers, look to the action on the baseball diamond. And while the Cubs haven’t been outstanding to start the season, they have a talent-laden roster, and a whole lot of baseball left to play.

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