Though it can’t remove the stain of infamy or his place in sports lore, the Cubs winning the World Series no doubt lifted a burden from Steve Bartman’s shoulders. Perhaps even his soul. Not that he’d been fairly forced to bear it, mind you, but the reality of the situation is that he’d become the poster child for the Cubs’ futility.
I can honestly say that I never blamed Bartman for that loss, but that’s really beside the point. Like “108 years” and “the goat,” the poor man’s name had become a taunt. Absent its humanity, it was thrown around by idiots as some sort of pejorative. Because of that, I’ve pretty much been inured to the whole thing as a psychological callous built up each time some fool rubbed me the wrong way.
So I have to cop to feeling a whole lot of not a whole lot when WGN broke the news that the Cubs had presented Bartman with a World Series ring.
“On behalf of the entire Chicago Cubs organization, we are honored to present a 2016 World Series Championship Ring to Mr. Steve Bartman,” read the statement from the Cubs. “We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization. After all he has sacrificed, we are proud to recognize Steve Bartman with this gift today.”
Bartman issued a statement of his own, which read, in part:
Moreover, I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved. To that end, I request the media please respect my privacy, and the privacy of my family. I will not participate in interviews or further public statements at this time.
Words alone cannot express my heartfelt thanks to the Ricketts family, Crane Kenney, Theo Epstein, and the entire Cubs organization for this extraordinary gift, and for providing the City of Chicago and Cubs fans everywhere an unforgettable World Championship in 2016. I am happy to be reunited with the Cubs family and positively moving forward with my life.
I can dig that and I’m genuinely happy for the man if this really does offer him a chance to heal from that single event and the despicable behavior of fans in the moments that followed. Hell, in the months that followed. And the years.
You know what, though? There is a weird little wrinkle to this story that struck me in the face the moment I saw the WGN report. Jon Strong, my colleague here at CI, had told me back in April about his hypothesis that the Cubs would be giving Bartman a ring. I thought he was being a little silly and more or less told him as much, but he wanted to try to dig into it a little further.
So CI reached out to a spokesman for Steve Bartman and were told in no uncertain terms that the idea of him getting a ring was a figment of the imagination. In fact, such speculation was characterized as being no better than tabloid stories that Bartman had left the country or had had reconstructive surgery and so on. So that was fun.
No word on whether Moises Alou threw a tantrum upon hearing the news.
Deep breath, back to work
As much as I like to see the Cubs when they’re rolling, I’ve got to admit that I was very happy with Monday’s dearth of baseball. I was scouring the web and writing up posts that would describe the big trade, which was actually pretty fun. But it was also nerve-wracking and kept me up until about 2 am, which always makes for a great morning.
So it was nice to have a little bit of a break yesterday and sort of take a deep breath and survey the landscape for what will be the rest of the season. And if that sounds like exactly what Theo Epstein said before the start of the second half, that’s probably because I pretty much stole it from him.
I’m not sure the members of the front office feel quite as relieved as I do, but I’m sure they’re feeling pretty darn amped up about the work they’ve done to really flesh out the roster. The Cubs have looked like a different team in a figurative sense over the last couple weeks and now they’ve got a very literal new look.
Alex Avila is a nice addition, but it’s Justin Wilson who will really increase Joe Maddon’s margin for error
“If you have multiple late-inning, high-leverage kind of dudes at the end of the game, then you don’t burn anybody’s candle out,” the manager said today from his charity golf outing.
“When you get another guy like Justin, what it permits you to do is rotate the stock a little bit and not burn anybody out.”
It’s kind of like when they got Aroldis Chapman, except without the attendant firestorm of emotion from fans and justification from the team. Also, the Cubs have already got themselves a lock-down closer in Wade Davis. So Wilson offers them a chance to to mix and match other late-inning pitchers based on matchups or usage or whatever. And with the starters rolling along, you have to feel great about the latter third of games.
Oh, and one more note about that. I know some folks out there are hyperventrilocating [sic] about the Cubs trading away “all their prospects” or whatever, but that’s got to stop. I understand that seeing so many prospects come up and make it has conditioned us to expect success from everyone, but the roster is not limitless. At some point, there is no longer room for a minor leaguer to come up and bump a young, established veteran from his role.
The Cubs are in a position where their best players are under contract for the next several years, so they need to use the assets they have to bring in other players who are better than the man currently holding their position. Besides, it’s a tremendous disservice to suppress prospects who’d otherwise be able to make a roster. Do you know how little these guys earn, particularly when they were early draft picks with big bonuses?
Anyway, I’ll climb down off my high horse now.
John Baker Day auctions
The official JBD has already come and gone, but the Cubs playing on the road forced the observation of the holiday back into August. There will be a lot of great items available on site, but I wanted to share a link to the online auctions for some of the bigger items that will be raising funds for Joe Maddon’s Hazleton Integration Project.
These will be running from now until John Baker Day, so you’ve got plenty of time.
Joe Maddon Wrigley Field Experience (4 tix in Cubs family section, 4 field passes, meet-and-greet with Maddon)
More news and notes
- Yoan Moncada (right knee contusion) and Willy Garcia (head contusion) were involved in a frightening collision last night.
- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has not minced words when it comes to his confidence in the Dodgers, writing the the addition of Yu Darvish all but ensures the World Series.
The #Dodgers are the new dream team of baseball, the Golden State Warriors in spikes.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 31, 2017
- The Cubs’ top 30 prospect list has been updated in light of the recent trade; there are 21 pitchers on it.
- The Rangers’ Jurickson Profar didn’t show up for his AAA game amid reports of his frustration at not being traded. So that’s good.