There were a handful of memorable moments in Tuesday’s game that doesn’t count but that counts, from Chris Sale’s sliders to CarGo and Tulo, to Manny Machado’s play at third, to Jose Fernandez’s sixth, to Prince Fielder’s three-bagger, all eclipsed by that extraordinary Mariano Rivera moment, but at one point I did think about the Chicago Cubs.
I thought about how the Cubs, one of baseball’s signature franchises, were given only one roster spot in this year’s All-Star Game, a pretty good 26-year-old starting pitcher who has matched his career high with six wins in 2013. I felt sort of bad for all the eight-year-old Cubs fans who got to stay up to watch the late innings, only to never see Travis Wood get into the game. You think I don’t remember Bert Campaneris’s huge walk in 1977?
But I don’t feel bad for all the 38-year-old Cubs fans who understand the importance of Albert Almora, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant.
And the significance of Scott Feldman, and to a lesser extent Carlos Marmol and Scott Hairston, and to a far greater extent, soon enough, Matt Garza.
It’s a pretty great time to be a hardcore fan of the 42-51 Chicago Cubs, whose lone All-Star representative, Travis Wood, has been lined up coming out of the Break to start the club’s fifth game of the putative second half.
The 2013 Cubs season reminds me a little bit of the 2007 Texas Rangers.
The 2007 Rangers, who went into the All-Star Break with a 38-50 record (and sent one player to the All-Star Game, Michael Young, the lone AL position player not to play, not that our seven-year-old daughter noticed).
The 2007 season was a blast.
Trades for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, David Murphy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Engel Beltre, and Max Ramirez. A draft pick bounty spent on kids like Blake Beavan, Julio Borbon, Tommy Hunter, Neil Ramirez, and Michael Main, and little did we know that none of them would develop like 17th-rounder Mitch Moreland, or the previous year’s 25th-rounder Derek Holland, who signed a few weeks before the 2007 draft as a draft-and-follow. That summer was also marked by the continued resurgence of the organization in Latin America, highlighted that July by the signing of 16-year-old Venezuelan lefthander Martin Perez.
The five-year plan — and the five-step plan — were coming into focus.
But here’s the thing.
The thing is, even if 2013 — injury-riddled, offense-addled 2013 — has been less satisfying, so far, than 2009, 2010, 2011, or (the final two brutal weeks notwithstanding) 2012, or even 2007 in its own way, this decimated, flawed, Andrused Rangers club is on pace to win 92 games — and that’s without considering the likelihood of greater health in the second half than the first, and maybe a reinforcement or two from the outside as well.
That’s a win total the Cubs have reached once in the last 24 seasons.
It’s a great time to be a Cubs fan. They hold what appears to be, at least at the moment, the biggest trade chip in the league, a starting pitcher who doesn’t really fit their window going forward, which makes him a fairly obvious asset to flip. They boast one of the league’s top farm systems, and within two weeks it’s going to be measurably stronger. Things are looking up in Chicago, as they were here in 2007, one of the most energizing baseball summers we’ve had in North Texas — certainly leading up to that season.
Know what? The Chicago Cubs want to be the Texas Rangers.
Put another way: They’d gladly take the 2013 season the Rangers are having, and would consider it a triumph of their own five-step plan.
It would be fun to be in a position to field overbids for the next two months of Matt Garza’s career, two months that would be meaningless if he were to remain a Cub. And to keep up with what’s going on in Knoxville and Daytona Beach and Geneva, Illinois, where there are players to dream on everywhere you look, like there were here six years ago.
It’s more fun to be a playoff contender.
One more day off.
One more stupid day off until the Good Old Days kick back into gear.