Cubs fans are sick of hearing about how the St. Louis Cardinals are the model franchise. And the Chicago media will have trouble coming up with new angles on the Boston Red Sox blueprint.
These are the types of teams the Cubs would one day like to see in the mirror. But after a 96-loss season, no one knows when they will be a factor in October.
Major League Baseball wants a news blackout during the World Series that begins Wednesday night at Fenway Park. And Cubs executives are operating within a cone of silence while searching for their next manager.
So how did we get here? Let the Cubs explain in their own words.
“You’re kind of comparing it to the Tribune payrolls of the last couple years, which from our standpoint and from the team’s standpoint were just unsustainable.” — chairman Tom Ricketts at the beginning of spring training, Feb. 17.
“Our ability to leverage our market size into financial advantages is more difficult than I expected. I thought that would have been something that was easier for us to do — and do now. Instead, it’s something that is out of necessity probably several years away. But given the timeline we’re on, that’s not the worst thing in the world as long as we get there.” — president of baseball operations Theo Epstein near the end of camp.
“I’m 37 years old, so I have to think about it first and see what’s good for me and for the team and my family, too.” — Alfonso Soriano, asked about waiving his no-trade rights after the second Cactus League game, Feb. 24. (New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson had been hit by a pitch.)
“Was that an ‘Obvious Paper?’” — Jeff Samardzija, laughing, when asked about a column quoting Epstein saying the Cubs would trade veterans for prospects if they fell out of contention, March 1.
“I can turn it on. It’s a requirement of the job to do it. But it’s work, and I actively hate it as I do it. I can go into situations — like a cocktail party or things like that — where I need to schmooze, and I have to set my soul aside. It’s not something I can pull off on a daily basis. I loathe it. But it can be an important part of the job, and I need to challenge myself to be better at it and maybe not take myself so seriously. If they’re going to suffer this fool, then maybe I can suffer fools as well.” — Epstein, one morning in late March, on the perception he’s a shy person who hates being the face of the franchise.
“It’s fundamentally important to get us to the next level as an organization. We have a baseball plan and we have a business plan, and they’re timed to sync up with one another. They’re interdependent. And if we don’t get a Wrigley renovation done in a timely manner and done in the right way, then we can’t accomplish our business objectives. And that will certainly get in the way of us ultimately accomplishing our baseball objectives.” — Epstein, April 1.
“He’s the closer.” — manager Dale Sveum defending Carlos Marmol, April 3, after a quick hook on Opening Day.
“He’s no longer the closer.” — Sveum announcing Marmol would be replaced by Kyuji Fujikawa, April 7. (Fujikawa would be shut down in late May and need Tommy John surgery.)
“I don’t use timeframes anymore. I’m not sure what it means to have it done in 48 hours or not have it done in 48 hours. All I know is we’ve committed to working exclusively with the city to try to push this forward, working with the mayor’s office and the alderman to get to the solution that works for everyone.” — Ricketts, April 8.
“If this plan is approved, we will win the World Series.” — Ricketts, April 15.
“We got (to) make people aware that there are things that can be done if you don’t start performing.” — Sveum threatening to send core players Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro down to Triple-A Iowa, April 21.
“I’d be lying if you didn’t think about yourself through some of this stuff, too,” — Sveum responding to a question about his job security, April 22.
“He’s got our full support. We’re all in this together.” — general manager Jed Hoyer giving Sveum the vote of confidence, April 23.
“Those twits never lie.” — Sveum responding to a question about top prospect Albert Almora’s injury updates on Twitter, April 29.
“If we don’t have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, then we’ll have to take a look at moving. No question.” — Ricketts speaking at a City Club of Chicago Q&A event, May 1.
“Tom loves Wrigley Field, and he doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking about moving. He wakes up thinking about winning here. But winning does come first. We’re all committed to finding a way to make it work so that we can win and act like a big market here.” — Epstein, May 1.
“I just felt like I had to say something because it’s been all negative. And the stuff you learn playing is negativity only breeds negativity. You got to change the culture, change the cycle and maybe it’s an awakening for some people. ... Oh well, if they didn’t like it, then sorry.” — Matt Garza, explaining why he called out “fake” Cubs fans who do “nothing but talk smack” on Twitter, May 2.
“The front office here has basically seen me grow up. (Last) year at this time, I was in Triple-A, wondering when that call was going to come, and it’s just the hard work pays off. Five years ago, I was in a hospital waiting on my first treatment of cancer. It’s crazy how everything has come full circle. I’m just so grateful.” — Rizzo at the May 13 press conference announcing his seven-year, $41 million contract that could be worth some $70 million and run through 2021.
“Take a picture. Tell ‘em I’m here.” — Marmol standing in the Wrigley Field dugout and posing for beat writers after a fan eavesdropped on a meeting with his agents in a downtown apartment building and sent photos to a popular Cubs blog, May 15.
“Cueto should learn you don’t go after guys’ heads. Don’t wake a sleeping dog, and I think that’s kind of immature on his part and totally uncalled for. He’s lucky that retaliation isn’t in our vocabulary here. That’s kind of BS on his part. Just totally immature. If he has something to say about it, he knows where to find my locker and definitely I’ll find his. ... Hopefully he learns to grow the hell up.” — Garza after watching Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto throw one over the head of David DeJesus, May 26.
“There’s just a comfort level when you get to sleep in your own bed and drive 15 minutes to the park and come play. You got the smell of the steel mills in the background. It’s not the most beautiful scent in the world, but it smells like home.” — Samardzija after a complete-game victory over the White Sox on the South Side, May 27.
“They drink beer in it.” — Soriano laughing at his teammates celebrating a Crosstown Cup win, May 30.
“why would I quit? I'm making 2 mill in AAA like u would give that up by quitting.” — Ian Stewart ranting on Twitter, part of a bizarre late-night back-and-forth that got him suspended and released in June. #waychill
“He used to be good — I think he’s good — but he lost a little bit of his confidence and this game is all about confidence. You can have the talent. You can have the pitches. You can have the arm. But if you’re not confident, you’re not going anywhere. That’s his problem now.” — Soriano showing his frustration with Marmol after a brutal walk-off loss to the New York Mets, June 16.
“Apathy is sort of the worst thing you could ever have. (You) never want to show up a teammate, and you never want to call out a teammate. But at the same time, you want to show your competitiveness. You want guys to be fighting. So I think it is a fine line. I’m not sure where we are on that line right now.” — Hoyer, June 17.
“We’re the Chicago Cubs. There’s always something going on, something being talked about. So if you can’t deal with that, then you better go play somewhere else.” — Samardzija, June 18.
“The first rumor I remember to this day was me for Soriano to the Nationals and I was like: ‘All right! 40/40 guy! Yeah!’ Now it’s just, you know, whatever.” — Garza, June 27.
“Managers often times take heat for things that are beyond their control. We’ve given him an imperfect roster. That’s just the reality. (So) he’s often times put in situations where he’s got to choose between imperfect solutions. I’m sure he didn’t want to necessarily use Marmol in certain high-level situations. But there comes a point where other guys need rest or have already been used or he’s got to look a day ahead, and he has more information than you guys have. (So) I think it’s unfair with only partial information to jump to conclusions about Dale’s managerial abilities just based on using Marmol in a certain spot here and there. Dale’s steady at the helm of the ship and done a nice job.” — Epstein, June 30.
“It’s almost comical to see this happen every single night.” — Sveum after watching another bullpen meltdown in an 8-7 loss to the Oakland A’s, July 2.
“I like being a Cub. I want to get this team to October and win it here. Like I said before, it would be one hell of a party.” — Garza, July 8.
“I don’t want to be on this team if they don’t want me here. It’s kind of hard and selfish to think (that way). If they want me to stay here, I’m going to stay here. But if they don’t want me to, the door is open.” — Soriano, July 8.
“You can’t really sugarcoat it too much. They kicked my ass today.” — Samardzija after a 13-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, July 10.
“It’s a little soft for my taste. Soft is probably not the right word. Not as heavy metal as I like.” — Sveum on Pearl Jam before the band played Wrigley Field, July 19.
“Since I’ve been here, that’s the first kid that’s come up and really looked like a major leaguer.” — Sveum after watching Junior Lake’s debut, July 19.
“I’ll keep doing what I do. Just kind of stick with a nice time-old saying from ‘Finding Nemo’ — ‘Just keep swimming, guys.’” — Garza on the nonstop trade rumors, July 19.
“I’d say 100 percent he’s going to be pitching tomorrow.” — Sveum guaranteeing Garza would make his next start in a Cubs uniform, July 21.
“Shoulda said 99 percent.” — Sveum after the Cubs traded Garza to the Texas Rangers, July 22.
“I know he can get on a lot of people’s nerves. But I kind of understood him the best, and he knew I wasn’t going to play around with him. I wasn’t going to bullcrap him. I was going to tell him the truth, (and) he was going to take it like a man.” — Dioner Navarro, Garza’s personal catcher, reacting to the trade, July 22.
“I always said money is not the issue. You can buy anything with money. The most important thing is you have to be a human being. I got that kind of money just because the game gave it to me. I love the game, and I respect the game. I love what I do.” — Soriano, the $136 million man, after approving a trade to the Yankees, July 25.
“Sori was the epitome of bravado and machismo.” — Samardzija, July 26.
“Just trying to make it through the day, don't judge me.” — Kim DeJesus dealing with the trade-deadline madness by posting Twitter messages and Vine videos of Cubs wives drinking and cooking, July 31.
“Stay on my wife's Twitter!" — David DeJesus after being traded to the Washington Nationals, Aug. 19.
“Is this a great country or what?” — Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who will be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Aug. 13.
“See the ball and hit it — don’t think about it. This year it’s too many things to think about, (and) I’m not supposed to think (up there). Sometimes you have like a tough season, and you want to please everybody. But it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you — not everything. When you come to the home plate, you don’t have any idea, because you listen to too many things. (There are) six weeks left. Just be aggressive and be me.” — Castro after finding out he’d be batting eighth, Aug. 20.
“It’s more, to be honest, an ego thing. I’ve never hit second in my life. You think of your second hitter of the game as someone who gets guys over, bunts and slaps and whatnot. I think our lineup doesn’t call for me hitting second, personally. You see a lineup like the Cardinals and you see (Carlos) Beltran hitting second, and that’s because he has nowhere else to really hit. They don’t want him seventh or eighth. But I was there, and I tried to make the best of it. (Sveum) says it best: ‘It’s just a spot in the lineup.’ I just didn’t like it that much.” — Rizzo on moving back to the No. 3 spot, Aug. 26, near the end of a month in which he hit .190.
“The empty seats is something new to me. Most of my career, from ’84 on, it was a tough ticket and a sellout. So a little odd to see the bleachers that empty.” — Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg with some revisionist history after his Philadelphia Phillies beat the Cubs on Aug. 30 at Wrigley Field.
“Obviously, The Curse.” — South Korean reliever Chang-Yong Lim, through an interpreter, when asked what he knew about the Cubs when he signed, Sept. 4.
“I don’t have a problem with him. I’m sure he don’t have a problem with me. It’s something that happened, but it’s not really a big deal. It might be made more of a big deal than it really is, maybe blown out of proportion.” — Edwin Jackson after getting into a shouting match with Sveum inside Miller Park’s visiting dugout, Sept. 16.
“There’s no alarm bells to ring. But that’s a subject that gets addressed as a matter of process, as a matter of routine, after the season.” — Epstein when asked if the manager will be back next year, kicking off Sveum Watch on Sept. 17.
“About a 1.” — Samardzija, after yelling at third-base coach David Bell, when asked to rate these blow-ups on the Cubbie Occurrence Scale, Sept. 17.
“I would hope to think so, but I’ve been around the game long enough to understand how the whole process works.” — Sveum when asked if he’s safe for next year, Sept. 18.
“Dale’s done a really good job this year, especially with Starlin and I. Obviously, we didn’t live up to what we’re supposed to do.” — Rizzo, Sept. 18.
“That question’s borderline disrespectful.” — Epstein responding to the speculation about Yankees manager Joe Girardi, Sept. 20.
“I expected to be treated a little bit better than this, but they have decisions to make and when they want to go in a new direction, they can treat the players how they want. Unfortunately, we’re under their control. It’s not necessarily how I would have done it.” — Kevin Gregg ranting while misunderstanding how Pedro Strop would be used in certain closing situations. Gregg had to apologize to Sveum and Epstein and make the walk of shame up to the Wrigley Field press box and clarify his comments to reporters, Sept. 20.
“It was a sh---- year.” — Jackson, the $52 million pitcher, finishing his season at 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA, Sept. 28.
“It sucks because you’re in the present and you have no clue where the end of the tunnel is and how long it’s going to take. Who knows? It could be next year. It could be five years after that. There’s no telling. But it kind of makes you want to work harder, because everybody in the clubhouse wants to be that team that wins in Chicago.” — reliever James Russell, Sept. 29.
“Get a better f-----’ team!” — a fan driving past reporters on Sveum Watch outside Wrigley Field’s Gate K, Sept 30.
“Two weeks ago, I never would have imagined that this was going to happen.” — Sveum after getting fired, Sept. 30.
“We know what we’re doing.” — Epstein, Sept. 30.