So here you are, lamenting your team’s sub-.500 finish and beset on all sides by headlines proclaiming payroll cuts and philosophical changes. Out of the frying pan and into the fire sale you go, watching as your favorite players are flipped for prospects and your team’s prospects for playing winning baseball are flipped on their ear
Take heart, my friends, for I bring you tidings of great joy. I’ve been where you are, half-drowning in the morass and struggling for purchase while my team struggles and refuses to purchase. It’s not fun. In fact, it downright sucks. Boy, I’m not doing a very good job of lifting your spirits here, am I? Those big-time starting pitching prospects your team just grabbed in exchange for an all-world defensive whiz shortstop may turn into big league aces sometime in the next three years (or they might never learn how to throw strikes, or they might blow out their elbows — there really is no way of knowing with prospects)!
Okay, let’s get on to the uplifting part.
You can — no, you WILL — get through this. It’s going to take a little doing though and it’s not going to be easy. But with my foolproof survival guide, developed over the past handful of years following the Cubs, you too can soldier through your team’s rebuilding period with the panache and grace befitting a true fan. And since no survivalist is any good without an appropriate set of tools, I’ve laid a few out for you.
Unlike other sports in which draft picks are expected to come in and perform right away, baseball players need significantly more time to incubate. And while teams can and do improve the big league team via trades and free agency, the only way to truly establish success is to re-stock the farm as well. You will see your favorite players shipped off in return for guys you’ve never heard of, but that’s par for the course.
Imagine watching a guy excel in college before being drafted by your favorite team and eventually becoming their best pitcher. Then imagine him asking for low-level ace money, only to be rebuffed and then shipped out. That’s what a lot of Cubs fans, myself included, experienced with Jeff Samardzija (yeah, I know most of us knew him as a football player). I’m happy to say I was among those who supported the trade, but the knee-jerk reaction wasn’t necessarily the same.
Hindsight revealed that the Athletics would fail to capitalize on their big moves, Shark would struggle with the White Sox, and the Cubs would have a new starting shortstop. Not all moves are going to have that kind of impact, but you need to be willing to let the process take place. In order to do that you’ll need…
A short memory
In all likelihood, your team is going to stink for a while. And I mean bad. You’re going to have to develop a localized form of anterograde amnesia in order to tune in each night thinking you might see baseball worth watching. As an added bonus, you feel that much better every time you do celebrate a W.
When you’re facing the prospect of 90-100 losses, the protracted failure is enough to drive you crazy. The only way to combat that is to consume the season in bite-sized chunks. Not only will it mitigate the awful taste, but it’ll help you to build an immunity to the poison of losing. Also helpful in fending off all those bad feels is…
You can be a dumbass or a smartass, have a red ass or your head up your ass. You can assume and you can feel embarrassed. But you cannot half-ass your fandom. No, you’re going to need both cheeks to make it through the coming trials. It’s going to feel at times as though you’re Chip Diller, what with all the “Thank you, sir, may I have another,” but it’ll be worth it in the end. It’s not all about being dead serious though; you’ll also need…
A sense of humor
When the soundtrack to your team’s hype video is a flushing toilet, you’ve got two choices: be disgusted or make potty jokes. I understand that your sense of humor may be a bit more erudite than mine, but if it was good enough for Chaucer…
The Canterbury Tales weren’t written 140 characters at a time, but I can advocate for Twitter as an incredibly therapeutic medium. Sarcastic by nature, it can give both an outlet and a means by which to commiserate over the fortunes of [insert team name here]. Of course, where there’s fun there’s also flames, which is why you need to have…
This falls under the category of “He can’t do that to our pledges. Only we can do that to our pledges.” During the course of this rebuilding journey, you’re going to hear a lot about how bad/dumb/cheap/cursed your team is. Try as you may, you simply won’t be able to block it all out. All you can do is take it, own it, and see the previous tool. Of course, it helps if you have…
Trust in the plan
This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process to master, as you may want to start putting individual moves under the microscope. You’ll want to make snap judgments based on a single series, month, or season. I’m not saying you’ve got to agree with everything that’s going on at all times, but you have to be able to put faith in the people being paid to lead the way.
Of course, that’s assuming the people leading the way have both a) earned the right to be trusted, and b) laid out the plan with a fair degree of transparency. It’s impossible to get behind a leader who’s unwilling to share either his philosophy or his roadmap with you. Just be advised that shouting down a sound, well-articulated strategy is a good way to become a pariah.
The following tools are recommended but not necessarily required:
Beer or [insert vice here]
The best part about this is that it applies to both sides of the rebuild. Whether as self-medication or overdue celebration, a beer or five can help you through what’s coming. Then again, you don’t need to be inebriated to see the value of…
Nothing provides a light at the end of the tunnel like a toothsome unicorn of a prospect with a power profile matched only by his, well, profile. And while your team might not boast any mythical creatures of its own, it’s sure nice to be able to set your eyes (which likely aren’t as pretty as Bryant’s) on a representative of the future. And the easiest way to see that is with…
You’ve always been able to read about the future, but now you can actually watch it take shape. For a relatively nominal fee, you can have access to all of your team’s future stars. It’s not HD and the camera angles often leave a bit to be desired, but watching minor league baseball is like seeing the past and future at the same time. Though raw and unrefined, the essence of the game that level is just so pure. It can really center you and help you to realize why you love baseball in the first place.
So there you have it, folks: The Fan’s Ultimate Rebuild Survival Guide. Learn it, live it, love it. And if you like what you’ve read here, please remit payment to me at the address below:
Wait, they took out my info?!