The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
No matter your city, no matter your state, no matter your climate, spring is universally regarded as a season of renewal during which everyone gets a fresh start.
Unless, of course, you’re the Chicago Cubs.
And then it probably just means more of the same.
At least that was the case to start this week after the Cubs opened the 2014 season in Pittsburgh by failing to post a run for nearly 17 innings.
The drought got bad enough on Wednesday night that I was wondering which team would score first in 2014, the Cubs … or the Bears.
Ultimately, the Cubs beat the Bears to that punch, but the punchless North Siders have a lineup that could make fans punchy all spring. With that in mind, I’m going to take a few swings of my own at the Chicago sports scene and, who knows, I might even connect with a few.
The Waiting Game
Once upon a time, the Chicago Cubs fan’s common refrain of “Wait ‘Til Next Year” referred to winning the World Series. These days, however, it seems to refer to the Cubs simply acting like a big league ball club.
I understand, in theory, what the Cubs are trying to do by rebuilding the organization from the ground up and putting a major focus on the minor league system. But in Year 4 of the Ricketts Family’s ownership, I believe that the franchise’s major league roster should be better than it currently is.
Rebuilding and merely fielding a respectable team are not mutually exclusive. And after three years of losing big to get high draft picks, 2014 is a season during which I think the Cubs should be starting to show some tangible progress at the MLB level.
Maybe they will, but Tom Ricketts again provided scant resources to Theo Epstein during the offseason to help improve the major league roster and begin to justify the lofty ticket prices that the Cubs charge fans.
While we wait for the team’s prospects to (hopefully) mature, it would be nice to see a respectable team actually take the field at Wrigley, too.
The Numbers Game
With weather that’s often cold and wet – and wet and cold – April isn’t the best month to watch baseball outdoors in Chicago.
But still, after the White Sox made some interesting offseason moves by acquiring Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and Arizona outfielder Adam Eaton to improve after last season’s 99-loss debacle, they deserved a better crowd at U.S. Cellular Field than they got on Wednesday.
Especially after beat Minnesota on Opening Day.
Paid attendance for Game 2 inside the 40,615-seat ballpark was only 10,625, while the actual crowd was said to perhaps be just one-tenth of that. Small attendance figures are nothing new for the White Sox, of course, but after the team last year drew its fewest fans since 2002, it will be a storyline for this season.
The same goes for the North Side, where Cubs’ attendance has dropped for five straight seasons, and likely will again.
Getting in the Game
Jonathan Toews is banged up. Patrick Kane is banged up. Derrick Rose is, well, you know his drill. If only the Blackhawks and the Bulls were as healthy as they are good, this spring could be an awfully fun time in Chicago both on the ice and on the court.
Here’s to hoping that Toews and Kane come back strong for the playoffs, while Rose comes back strong whenever it is he comes back. When that does happen, hopefully the Bulls still have as much heart as they do right now.
Although a little (Kevin) Love wouldn’t hurt, either.