You haven't won since when?
No, no, I have nothing against the Tigers. True, they were once bitter rivals of the Toronto Blue Jays. But hey, I always figured the other city is full of kids desperate to see their team win too. Something to do with sportsmanship or some such virtue.
Nor am I especially a fan of Chicago the place or Chicago sports teams although, again, I have no great animus against them. I just want to see the game played well, both technically and in the proper spirit. Which it often isn’t these days regardless of the sport you have in mind. But I digress.
The point is, I’m cheering for the Cubs because their glorious victory in 1908, back-to-back with 1907 after losing the 1906 series at the end of a modern-era-record .763 winning percentage, was… um… their last World Series win. That’s right. They haven’t won a title in over a century. They haven’t even won the NL championship in 71 years. The last time they played in a World Series, losing to the Tigers incidentally, was the same year World War II ended.
I bring it up not to make myself feel better about being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Though their inability to win a Stanley Cup since 1967 does seem a mere blip by comparison now that I come to think of it. Rather, it’s because of a question I have asked myself periodically about the Leafs, namely, would they win if I were their coach?
Now you laugh. But seriously, they’re a big-market team loaded with talent, looking really good on paper a lot of years. How do you make that sort of team lose so consistently that they become a joke? (You know, that photo of a skeleton in a Leafs jersey with a pennant. Ha ha ha.) Does it take some special ability, knowledge and force of character, so that if someone lacking hockey talent, ability or leadership were “in charge,” so to speak, the players would just go out and win on their own? I truly wonder.
It’s a disquieting thought, especially to management. But imagine that I had been blessed with temporary immortality and the irrevocable managership (managerhood?) of the Cubs back in 1909. For a hundred and seven years I’d have sat here on the bench saying things like “Pitch him high and tight, low and away” and “Get the bullpen up” when the starter walked three straight guys and “Slide, slide” when it was obvious the runner should slide, and making 16 consecutive strange signals whose basic message to the runner on first was “Steal if you think you can, but don’t be a doofus”. And a bunch of elite athletes would have gone out there and done the stuff they do like catching line drives and bunting to advance runners and hammering three-run home runs. Year after year.
Surely in one of those years, with me sitting on the bench looking wise and not interfering with them, they would have won a title. At least an NL title if not a World Series. It’s like the theory that a monkey throwing darts at a stock page would outperform most highly paid mutual fund managers. If you don’t know already, or guess from what your own savings are doing, I’m afraid I have to tell you that it’s pretty well attested that random choices would be an improvement. And by the same token, a monkey throwing darts at coaching options for the Leafs, or the Cubs, would have done better than their actual managers and coaches have.
Now I’m not saying I have the sports acumen, judgement or temperament of a monkey throwing darts. Not even. But I suspect I could do a better job of coaching a team than a lot of people who actually do it simply by knowing I’m less fit than a simian equipped with sharp objects and hence not actually coaching much. Give the occasional pep talk, utter banal advice like “Play the man, not the puck” and “Cover the pass, let the goalie handle the shot” and “Get in there and give it all you got” and watch passionately motivated professional athletes do what they love and do best, work things out in the huddle or the locker room and, once every 40 years or so, do it better than any of the other teams.
Anyway, I’m open to job offers. Because the way things are going with both teams, they’re going to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to people who consistently make those same athletes perform below .500, way below random, below anything fans can understand or stand.
If the Cubs win this year, and in fairness I should note they were 1st in the NL Central Division, had the best record in the NL and indeed in all of Major League Baseball in 2016, won the Division Series and may well go on to break one or even both their toxic streaks this year.
If so I’m still hoping the Leafs will call. I have my darts all packed.