Dodgers fans can follow Blake DeWitt to the Cubs at their peril
Dodgers fans who value teamwork and dedication, and there are a few left, are a little torn up over the forced exit of Blake DeWitt, so much so that they are considering becoming Cubs fans. Indeed, this would be a wise move. For the Cubs of Chicago would seem to be a franchise in full flower, almost spilling over with passion and promise.
“After all the water-boarding, then the sitting on the bench, then the April Fools’ joke in [ Joe] Torre’s office telling [DeWitt] he was being sent down again, then saying he was the team’s official second baseman, then the little do-si-dos with Belliard and the anointed Carroll, then this final blow of trading him ... I can’t take anymore,” writes Mary Lejeune. “A new Cub fan am I. Aren’t you a Cubs fan too?”
As a lifelong Cubs fan, Mary, all I can do is wish you buckets of best wishes and gobs of good luck, which have been accruing (with interest) since 1908, the last time the Cubs won a World Series.
Sure, to be a real Cubbie, Mr. DeWitt will have to quickly master a few Wrigley Field basics. Such as the art of botching a rundown or messing up a cutoff throw from right field. He’ll have to misplay the double-play flip from the shortstop and learn to overthrow first base in a way that carries all the way to Lake Michigan. Splish. Splash. Clunk.
Cubs fans don’t expect miracles, but DeWitt should have all this down by September. Or, mark my word, the Cubs are going to find someone who will.
From the front office to the field, this is a franchise that understands the power of critical thinking. Mary, did you know that in the early ‘60s, the Cubs experimented with a rotating group of eight managers, rather than one? It’s been dubbed the “College of Coaches,” and the professors ended up going a collective 64-90. Only one of the eight managers boasted a winning record.
If you think the Cubs can’t hit now, as far back as 1902 they managed a season total of six home runs. Pitching has occasionally been a problem as well. In 1979, they scored 22 runs against the Phillies — and still lost.
Think of your newly adopted team as World War II, except with more bombs.
In the 1940s, an opposing player hit three home runs in a single game off Cubs pitching. That’s not so unusual — especially for the Cubs — except the player was the opposing pitcher.
Any team can have a bad forever, but the Cubs have a gift for feckless play. They once had a pitcher so big he was nicknamed “Hippo.” Another pitcher, Mordecai Brown, had only three fingers on his throwing hand. He was pretty decent too. One had to wonder how good he might have been with only two fingers.
“How beautiful is youth, how bright it gleams,” wrote Longfellow, and he may well have been speaking of the 24-year-old DeWitt, who now has so much to look forward to in Chicago.
For instance, the Cubs have a brand spanking new owner, this Mr. Ricketts, who defended his savvy decision by saying he “likes a challenge.”
Mary, I’d like to offer you this: Climbing the Grandes Jorasses is a challenge. Global warming is a challenge. The Cubs are merely an apocalypse of hotheads and lousy contract decisions. Nothing that can’t be fixed.
But that may all be changing, with the boost that DeWitt offers and the acquisition of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Dodgers fans who give this hapless Chicago franchise just the kick start it requires. The world needs more Cubs fans the way it needs charity nuns and jungle doctors, folks willing to give up their own comforts and careers to save the less fortunate.
Of course, not since Eddie Collins or Jackie Robinson can I think of a single second baseman who ever led a team to the World Series. In fact, it may well be the most inconsequential position on the field, right after the diva who oversings the anthem.
Fortunately for DeWitt, Cubs fans have yet to realize this. They used to do handsprings over the play of Ryne Sandberg, a great chap and to this day a local deity. DeWitt seems to be cut of much the same cotton, though his defense needs a little work. A million ground balls from now, he could well develop into the heir to Ryno. Believe me, there is no greater royalty in Chicago than being “the next Ryno.” When he leads them to the World Series, women will shriek and men will shiver. And for the rest of his life, Mr. DeWitt will never have to buy another beer.
“So how do I start being a Cubs fan?” Lejeune asks. “I guess with the happy thought that DeWitt will be closer to home and family. Cheer up: It’s only a game.”
Dear Mary, sometimes it’s not even that.
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