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Monday, March 24, 2014

The White Flag Spring Training: Padres 7, Cubs 1

On July 31, 1997, the White Sox executed their infamous White Flag Trade, which signaled their surrender of that season. Sending Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernández to the Giants, the Sox got a number of quality players that, three years later, helped them to a division pennant. But at the time it was viewed by Chisox fans as throwing in the towel at a time when the club was a scant 3.5 games back of Cleveland in the standings. That's pretty depressing, but there are times when you must recognize that "win now" is futile.

The Cubs are well past that. And as my friend Al Yellon has repeatedly observed, the Cubs persist in running minor leaguers out in spring training well past the point when other teams normally would have reassigned them to minor league camp. All true, yet I see a certain, limited, possibly delusional amount of method to Theo Epstein's madness: it strikes me that a couple of things are possible, and maybe both simultaneously:

It seems to me the second is much less likely than the first, given the Cubs are widely known to be in rebuilding mode, but if you are going to post a throw-in, why not give him some exposure? A risk worth taking, in other words.

If that was the point of today's outing for Hunter Cervenka or Neil Ramirez, it did both a brief glimmer of good, and therefore the team; but the frustrations of the 2014 Cubs are quite obvious. It strikes me likely they will lose 100 games, which will set a postwar record for that franchise of losing 90 games or more three years running for the first time. (The last time they had done that was 1928-1930.) It is genuinely disturbing that one of the game's marquee clubs should get beaten down so; but the world is different since Theo took over the club, as this Grantland piece ably demonstrates. While I remain a Dodger partisan in the National League, I am here with my wife to watch the Cubs, and root for them. We count the days until they return to competence.

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