In various parts of the world, there are simply too many of a certain plant or animal. For example, in some areas, there are too many monkeys (crazy, but so I’ve been told). Obviously, monkeys are a natural and important part of their respective ecosystems, but like any species, the wrong population balance can do more harm than good. For example, in Illinois/Wisconsin, there are too many white tail deer, and in St. Louis, there are too many white tail borings. It upsets the natural order of things, and needs to be corrected.
So, in the corners where there are too many monkeys, how did these people address their problem? They got creative.
Instead of chasing the monkeys down, which required great effort, or using more lethal means of eradication, humans created a special monkey trap that proved wildly effective. The concept of the trap was quite simple: set up a box in a monkey-dense part of town, fill it with bananas (their favorite treat), and cut holes in the side of the box for the monkeys to reach in. The catch, however, was that the holes were just big enough for a monkey to stick his paw into the box and grab a banana, but not large enough for him to remove his paw without letting the banana go.
The outcome? Loads of monkeys found themselves in captivity because they couldn’t just let go.
I swear I don’t scour the Earth for banana-based metaphors that apply to our existence as Cubs fans … but they are useful. Last winter, we talked about how and why the Cubs needed to add a different type of banana to their lineup, to avoid falling into the same offensive shortcomings that derailed the 2017, 2018, and 2019 seasons. Unfortunately, that never happened. And while the team may have won the division, the offense ranked in the bottom third of the league (91 wRC+, 21st), suffered from the same types of woe, and was a primary driver behind yet another winless playoff performance.
How about this winter, though?
The Cubs are heading into 2021 without key contributors like Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood, Jose Quintana, Jeremy Jeffress, Ryan Tepera, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Kipnis, and Albert Almora Jr. — to say nothing of Theo Epstein or Len Kasper. Meanwhile, Kris Bryant, Javy Báez, Anthony Rizzo may still be with us for the time being, but each is entering his final year of team control and a couple of those guys have been … eh hem … part of some stray trade rumors. Stepping further back, we’re well beyond the days of Jake Arrieta, Pedro Strop, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Miguel Montero, and even Joe Maddon wearing Cubbie blue, all of which marks the potential end to the most important era of Cubs baseball in our lifetime.
So how do we get through this? How can the NEXT Cubs era possibly top the one we’re apparently leaving right now? Well, might I suggest we drop the banana?
I know. It sucks. We had the dynasty. We had the attention. We had the adoration. We had the right team, the right president, the right manager, the right story. We had the right everything. But it’s over. And maybe it never even was exactly what we hoped it would be. All we’re doing at this point is sticking our hand in a box and holding onto something that won’t bring us joy. We need to let go and we need to move on.
What does that actually mean? Well, mostly I hope it’s an excuse for you to move beyond the mourning stage and look to the future. Len Kasper and Theo Epstein might be gone, but there could be good news on the potential replacement for the former, and Jed Hoyer is no slouch with respect to the latter. Meanwhile, the Cubs are not going to be able to keep the core intact, no, but you know what? They’ll probably extend one or two of the guys we love, and they might even get something useful in return for those who are traded.
And, who knows, we may yet be years away from enjoying the contributions of Miguel Amaya, Brennan Davis, Brailyn Marquez, and Ed Howard, but those guys are coming. And they’re legit. And in the meantime, Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, David Bote, and Victor Caratini still want and deserve your love.
Yu Darvish is still here. Kyle Hendricks isn’t going anywhere. David Ross is the freakin’ manager. Just enjoy it. And drop that banana. It may feel like it’ll bring you joy to hold on, but it’s only holding you back.