‘Wrigley wants wins’

By Jacob Bressler

It has been a wacky season on the corner of Clark and Addison, and I’m not talking about the new seats behind home plate or the elevated kosher hot dog prices. I’m not even referring to the current jam the Cubbies are in, as they battle four other teams for the coveted National League wild card and a shot at The Series.

There has been a new tone this year at Wrigley Field. For the first time in memory, Cubs fans are expecting this team to win every day and will accept nothing less than stellar play out of their boys of summer. No longer is a record of merely 12 games above .500 acceptable in mid-September, especially with a team of this caliber.

Expectations coming into this season were unparallel by Cubs standards. So-called experts were predicting the Cubs would end the curse and win their first title since 1908. Injuries, off years, and a St. Louis juggernaut have threatened to derail a regular season that was supposed to be an afterthought to October glory.

Fans bought into the expectations. I cannot remember a season where there have been so many boos directed at Cubs players in the friendly confines.

The boos are actually a signal that Cubs fans are starting to turn away from their lovable losers persona that was the butt of jokes around the baseball world. The Cub faithful enjoyed the 2003 season beyond comprehension, and don’t want to return to the days when it was fun just to go to Wrigley, watch a losing team, and drink a beer in the sun. This mentality is a giant step in the right direction.

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    However, some Cub players have not thrived under this new pressure.

    It seems to have visibly affected certain players on the team during the course of the season, including Corey Patterson and Sammy Sosa.

    Patterson, who has played better since becoming the team’s leadoff hitter after the Nomar trade, struggled at the beginning of summer and was jeered by fans. He complained in the media and even had to be protected in the press by veteran Moises Alou.

    Still, no player has been victimized by this new attitude more than Sosa. It can be said that Sosa has been playing his heart out this year; it’s just that he has not produced in the fashion that some Cubs fans are accustomed to.

    I don’t have to tell you that Sosa is the only player in major league history to have three seasons of 60 or more home runs, or that his run from 1998-2002 was one of the best five-year offensive periods in the history of major league baseball. Even during this stretch though, some fans had their doubts as to whether or not Sosa was a clutch player.

    Sammy’s production has dropped considerably in the 2004 campaign. Previous Sosa bashers have now been joined by previous Sosa backers in ridiculing the slugger.

    Sammy was hitting .255 with 29 homers and 66 RBI’s in 105 games as of Monday. He had fanned a whopping 117 times in 404 at-bats.

    His numbers have not been tolerated by fans, nor should they be from a player making $16 million this year.

    Sosa was largely responsible for making it trendy to cheer for the Cubs in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

    But this season he clearly has been pressing and his confidence has been shaken by the verbal assaults. Cubs players were coddled for so long by fans that they didn’t know how to react when the boos started raining down on Wrigley.

    Nonetheless, the players are professionals and should be able to handle adversity and perform even with a little ribbing from their loyal following. The Cubs have to understand that the fans that jumped on the bandwagon after the 1998 home run chase – the ones that started Auggie Ojeda chants and cheered Kyle Farnsworth because he wore tight pants – are not the same fans that fill Wrigley today.

    These fans are different.

    2003 taught them a valuable lesson – it is more fun to win than to lose.

    Jacob Bressler is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].