You know the saying. If you're a sports nerd, you've got it hanging on your wall in needlepoint.
Nice Guys Finish Last. Surrounded by little hearts and homey cottages and tiny frolicking deer.
It's relevant again because the Cubs, those Losers we've all come to Love because they're, well, Lovable, have gone over to the dark side. And that's a good thing if you're a Cubs fan who's damn sick and tired of everyone throwing That Date -- 1908 -- in your face.
1908: The last year the Cubs won a World Series, blah-blah-blah. That's 106 years ago to you and me, kids!
Since then it's been all Nice Guys and Lovable Losers and gosh, isn't it great to come out here and sit in the sunshine and drink beer, and watch the vines climb the outfield walls. And somehow that was enough. And at some point, "enough" became the dominant culture of the organization, which through active bumbling and simple inertia became an organization dedicated to the proposition that if there's a way to screw up, we'll find it. 'Cause, you know, who really cares as long as the Old Style's cold?
Well. Suddenly it looks as if someone actually does care -- and enough not to be Lovable Nice Guys about it.
Lovable Nice Guys, after all, would not have done what Theo Epstein did, which is fire an
eminently loyal solider (Rick Renteria) because someone better (Joe Maddon) was available. And to not-so-secretly court Maddon while Renteria was still under contract to the Cubs -- and maybe while Maddon was still under contract to the Tampa Bay Rays.
In baseball parlance, that's called tampering. It's also the kind of ruthless in-your-face move a Nice Guy would never dream of pulling.
“We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization," Epstein said while denying the Cubs tampered with Maddon, which might or might not be a bald-faced lie. "In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.”
That's called pragmatism, cold-eyed and stone-hearted. That's called doing whatever it takes to win. And while sleaze and expediency fairly drip from it, the simple reality is that major-league baseball is a cutthroat business, and the only way to thrive in it is to be willing enough (and, yes, bloodthirsty enough) to cut a few throats yourself.
Somewhere, Gordon Gekko is applauding. Mourn if you wish.