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Billy Cub walked down Clark Street late Thursday afternoon holding a cooler, stopping for pictures outside McDonald’s and waving at the Chicago cops stationed outside Wrigley Field. It became the perfect end scene for “The Party of the Century.”
The unaffiliated rogue mascot made national headlines this month after punching some dude in a Wrigleyville bar. It was unclear if the same person was inside the bear suit, but don’t confuse Billy Cub with Clark the Cub, Official Mascot.
Team officials have described moving to the North Side and being amazed at how ANYTHING this franchise does can instantly go viral and become a huge story. Even when it has nothing to do with, you know, the actual team on the field. That shock to the system wears off quickly, like the sugar rush from CakeGate.
The Cubs packed for the next stop on their circus trip after a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that pretty much became background noise. Matt Garza and the Milwaukee Brewers – the team with the best record in baseball – will be waiting on Friday night at Miller Park (shaving-cream pies sold separately).
“I’m sure Garza’s going to be Garza,” Edwin Jackson said. “He hasn’t changed.”
Jackson (1-2, 5.02 ERA) lasted seven innings and gave up three runs, the kind of boring details that didn’t have the Internet buzzing. The day before, the Cubs celebrated Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary by having another ninth-inning meltdown filled with weird bounces, the lead-in to their annual charity gala at the Field Museum.
By Thursday morning, RedEye had found a Reddit posting with photos of the “Cake Boss” creation on a forklift at the downtown museum. The stadium replica had been sitting outside most of the day, and certain parts weren’t edible, but Deadspin picked it up and ran this headline: “The Cubs’ 400-Pound Wrigley Cake Is Sitting In A Dumpster Right Now.”
Around the same time, Bloomberg BusinessWeek released a study that put the Cubs at No. 122 out of the 122 professional teams it analyzed across the last five seasons for its “Smartest Spenders in Sports” rankings.
The Sammy Sosa snub continued to make headlines after the franchise’s all-time leader in home runs didn’t get an invitation to the centennial. In one sense, it’s not personal, because the Cubs have cleaned house since Sosa walked out in 2004, changing ownership and restructuring baseball operations.
But Slammin’ Sammy also didn’t make that many friends inside the clubhouse and behind the scenes. And Sosa hasn’t gone on the media tour Mark McGwire did before getting back in the game. So the cold war continues.
“That’s a decision that the Cubs have to make and I understand it,” commissioner Bud Selig said. “Every club handles it uniquely and differently.”
A rooftop spokesman declined to comment on the show Selig put on inside Wrigley Field’s media dining room on Wednesday afternoon. The baseball czar vowed to do whatever is “legally” possible – whatever that means – to help Cubs ownership fight the rooftop owners and jumpstart the $500 million neighborhood development.
Selig is a history buff with a great recall for names and years and details. But the commissioner got a little fuzzy with the 20-year revenue-sharing contract drafted in part by current Cubs executives and inherited by the Ricketts family in 2009.
Where does that leave the Cubs? With a 7-14 record that matches their 7-14 mark on April 25, 2013. And their 7-14 record on April 28, 2012. The differences must be subtle, like Billy Cub and Clark the Cub.
“We’re not going to give up,” Jackson said. “You just got to have that – not necessarily a panic – but just a sense of urgency to come out and not give in and keep battling.”
The Cubs also played hard for ex-manager Dale Sveum and lost 197 games in two seasons. A Michael Lewis book would have difficulty fitting in all the issues that have led into Year 3 of Theo Epstein’s rebuild.
“At the end of the day, what do you need? Victories. We all know that,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There’s not one guy in that room who doesn’t realize that. They’re professionals and every single one of them is trying to perform and give us the best result we can possibly get.
“We’re inching forward and we’re going to continue to stay on track. And we’re going to continue to stay positive. And we’re going to continue to do the things we need to do to hopefully move us out of a negative situation and keep it positive.
“That’s the only way we can overcome anything, quite frankly. It’s the only way.”
The Cubs managed only one unearned run in 6.2 innings against Mike Bolsinger, who earned his first big-league win amid the 7-18 start that has put Arizona general manager Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson’s staff on the hot seat.
Stay tuned: The star of The Garza Show would no doubt love to kick his old teammates while they’re down.
“It’s tough,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “We’re losing a lot of close games. It hurts sometimes, when you’re losing the games you (should) be winning. (But) we’re going to keep working hard and stay positive and things are supposed to change.”