- Gordon Edes, Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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To: Chicago Cubs Fans
From: Red Sox Nation
Dear fellow travelers,
OK, so we understand we might be getting off on the wrong foot here, just by referring to ourselves as a "Nation." I agree, it smacks of being smug, arrogant and conceited, the same qualities we ascribe to Yankees fans. It also ignores the reality that the Cubs have at least as many fans, if not more, scattered around the globe.
But, you know, after being beaten down by the Yankees for so long, we developed a bit of an "Alamo" mentality around here, united by our misery at losing year after year and vowing that it would take winning a World Series before we could die in peace. We actually worried that when the Sox did win, not only in 2004 but in 2007, an unintended consequence might be a spike in the undertaker business. But it seems that enough Sox fans have elected to stick around to see whether the Sox can do it again.
And we admit the newest members of RSN are spoiled. They've grown up thinking that a trip to the World Series is now pretty close to being a birthright, like a Kennedy running for office, instead of a rare harmonic convergence that happens about as often as Terry Francona drives through a rotary without being flipped off by one of his fellow motorists.
Being a Red Sox fan admittedly means being absorbed with our own issues, which these days tend to revolve around whether John Lackey is a complete bust, a basket case or a guy who has been pitching with a bad elbow, or whether Carl Crawford's contract contains a clause allowing him to take the first year off while reading the complete works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Our indifference to the plights of others manifests itself when we descend en masse upon a rival city, such as Baltimore, and turn its ballpark into an out-of-network version of Fenway, while becoming greatly annoyed when visiting fans try to return the favor on Yawkey Way. You can wear your blue Cubbie hats, but if you know anything about our history, we tend to overreact when we get mad. We wouldn't want to be dumping you in the harbor like we did that tea, so mind your manners.
But we also are vaguely aware of your suffering, maybe because you're in a league of your own. Even when we were enduring 86 years of not winning a World Series, at least we went. 1967. 1975. 1986. Your Cubs, however, haven't been back to the Series since 1945, and only then because the war had watered down the talent so bad that even the Cubs could have a good team.
And not winning since 1908? Yeah, we've heard the line, every team is entitled to a bad century, but c'mon. Are you guys even trying? People like to lump the Sox and Cubs together, but you're far worse off on the misery index. Since '45, the Cubs have had five seasons in which they won 90 games or more. That's the same number the Red Sox have had since Theo Epstein became general manager.
And you can't say we haven't tried to help. We sent you Dennis Eckersley; we sent you Nomar Garciaparra. Not our fault that Eck couldn't stay off Rush Street and Nomar couldn't stay out of the trainers' room. We also gave you Zim, and at least Don Zimmer nearly got you to the World Series in 1989.
But from afar, it seems that for every great player you've had -- Phil Cavarretta and Ernie Banks and Billy Williams and Ron Santo and Andre Dawson and Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace and Sammy Sosa -- you've had more guys like Carmen Fanzone, who made his mark not as a utility infielder but for playing jazz trumpet in some of Chicago's top night spots. Or Jose Cardenal, a pretty good outfielder (now Yankees coach) who once missed a game because his eyelids were stuck. And we won't even ask you about that "college of coaches" you had instead of a manager back in the '60s.
And we'll acknowledge that you've had more than your fair share of bad luck, like having two of the best young pitchers in the game in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior and them both breaking down in their primes.
Hey, we'll admit we thought you were going to win in 2003, just like we were. But you had Steve Bartman (and get off that poor kid's back, will you?), and we had Aaron Bleeping Boone. And we were sure, even as we couldn't get past Tampa Bay in the American League Championship Series in 2008, that at least you'd get there after posting the National League's best record that year. We're sorry that Manny Ramirez was in L.A. at the time and decided to get pregnant, or something, and single-handedly knocked you out of October.
This year, we've noticed, hasn't started off real well for you. And that guy you call Z, Carlos Zambrano, he reminds us of another pitcher who could be terrific but terrifying at the same time, Oil Can Boyd. Looks like this might not be the year, either, although that kid shortstop you have, Starlin Castro, is impressive. We hope our kid shortstop, Jose Iglesias, turns out to be half as good.
And you have a couple of other things working in your favor. You're no longer just another piece in a newspaper empire, which these days has become nearly an oxymoron. The new owner, Tom Ricketts, sounds like he actually is interested in winning. It took new ownership here to finally bring a championship, and these guys also saved Fenway. We hope your owner is just as diligent in the care and maintenance of Wrigley, and learns that giving huge contracts to an Alfonso Soriano isn't necessarily a good business practice.
So, yeah, we understand how you might be down in the mouth about the last century (U.S. presidents elected since 1908: 18; Cubs World Series championships: 0). Instead of one of your biggest fans, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, giving guitar tips to Theo, maybe he should be passing along tips from Theo to GM Jim Hendry (whom we like, incidentally).
But we have just one further piece of advice for you:
Cowboy up. It has happened for the Bears, the White Sox, the Bulls, the Blackhawks. One of these centuries, it will happen for you. We're speaking from experience.
An open letter -- and some gentle advice -- to long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans.