To: Thomas S. Ricketts, owner, Chicago Cubs|
From: Frank Mullen III
Subj: Final Notice
This is to inform you that if the Chicago Cubs do not turn out a winning season in 2014, our heretofore sunny relationship may be terminated.
You will recall that this relationship began in 2009, when the Cubs finished the season with a .516 win-loss record. Cheers rang across the prairie. For the Cubs, this was the equivalent of winning the Intergalactic Pennant.
You and I, I fear, overreacted. You diversified your securities and banking holdings by purchasing the Cubs for $900 million. I dropped my allegiance to the New York Mets and began to champion the Cubs, writing newspaper columns lauding the team's nobility, traditions and bright future.
In the ensuing years, however, I have won more new fans for the Cubs than the Cubs have won games, period.
Cheerleaders, however, do not win games. Winning teams win games. And it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to write an honest sentence that includes the phrases "winning team" and "Chicago Cubs."
As I write, the Cubs' win-loss record is .286. Two-eighty-six may be a fine average at the Lucky Strike Lanes, but this is the National League, not a bowling league. I am similarly reminded of those 1980s-era IBM 286 computers that ran at the speed of molasses and were barely capable of accomplishing the simplest of tasks, not unlike the baseball team under discussion.
Sir, even the Cubs' most diehard fans are starting to complain that the team is going down the tubes. What a bunch of optimists. The Chicago Cubs are not "going down" the tubes; they have passed completely through the tubes, shot out the far end and landed face-down in a dark, moist area known as "The Pits."
The nickname "Lovable Losers" perversely understates the Cubs' accomplishments. In a sense, they are miracle workers. Last season, for instance, they improved their winning percentage over the previous year yet somehow managed to drop into last place in the Central Division. Of course, this was partly due to the fact the Houston Astros shifted to the American League, leaving no one in the Central Division for the Cubs to finish ahead of.
I hate to do this, sir, but I must now bring up the St. Louis Cardinals. With each passing year year, the win-loss margin by which the Cardinals outperform the Cubs grows wider. In 2009, that margin was a mere .46. By last season, this margin had quadrupled to a humiliating difference of .188.
Mr. Ricketts, I realize that you are a stockbroker, not a pitching coach, and that your knowledge of the finer points of baseball probably does not exceed mine. However, while you are sipping martinis in the owner's box, I am on the ground, dodging catcalls from snickering fans of the St. Louis Cardinals.
I've had enough. Be advised, then, that if you want my support to continue next year, the Cubs must turn out a winning season this year.
This is harsh, I know, but, in fairness, I am willing to negotiate a redefinition of the term "winning season." I propose this: if the win-loss gap between the Cubs and the Cardinals shrinks by just one-zillionth of a percentage point -- in other words, if the Cubs don't do as poorly compared to the Cardinals as they did last year -- I, and countless Cubs fans, will count 2014 as a "winning season."
You are on notice.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a retired Navy band leader.