It’s never too early for a Cubs fan to give up because it’s never too early for the Cubs to give up.
The Cubs were again built to stink in 2014, and boy, did the offense ever live down to that in the opener in Pittsburgh.
And here’s the thing: The more Anthony Rizzo stinks, the more Theo Epstein’s and Jed Hoyer’s credibility fractures.
Epstein and Hoyer have been part of two and three organizations that breathlessly went after Rizzo, breathlessly pumped him up, and breathlessly waited for him to deliver.
But he hasn’t delivered. Not much, anyway. Certainly not enough for a heart-of-the-order hitter. Waiting. Wait. Ing.
This isn’t just about Rizzo’s going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position in the opener, although that extends a lousy 2013 into 2014.
And this isn’t just about Rizzo’s joining Starlin Castro as part of a failing heart of the order, extending the shortstop’s own pathetic 2013 into a new season.
No, this is about a Cubs farm system everyone raves about. Epstein and Hoyer are selling hope. It’s all they have. It’s all the Cubs ever have. But this is a different type of hope: a farm system that will save the franchise from another century of embarrassment.
Epstein, Hoyer, and scouting director Jason McLeod were the guys who picked and developed Rizzo at two or more stops. They’re also the guys who picked and/or will develop Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, among others.
Everybody loves those guys. Every scouting service raves about the Cubs’ explosively great system. Depending where you shop, Baez ranks at the top or near it on every list that rates major-league prospects. Bryant ranks among the top 10 on most lists, as well, and Albert Almora shows up in the top 25.
Phenomenal stuff. I hope that’s right. I hope Epstein and Hoyer know what they’re doing even though they’ve never razed an organization and then raised a championship banner.
They can be judged only when they do it or when it’s over and they’ve all been fired. But there are markers along the way. Those markers speak to Epstein’s and Hoyer’s credibility because Cubs fans have to believe in something besides beer and halter tops.
Rizzo and Castro are a couple of those markers. Sure, it was only one game, Opening Day, but it was the first live ammo Rizzo and Castro faced since they declared themselves done with all the bad stuff of 2013.
Or maybe that should be ooooooops -- one O for each of their combined oh-for-7 on Monday.
Rizzo and Castro weren’t better than last season -- the season in which they enjoyed long-term contracts given by Epstein and Hoyer. So, it’s fair to wonder if Epstein and Hoyer are better than last season.
Can Cubs fans believe that Epstein’s and Hoyer’s young players who aren’t in the majors will be better than Epstein’s and Hoyer’s young players who are?
One thing I believe for sure: Being a Cubs fan ought to qualify as a condition for using medical marijuana.