In the entirety of sports, there might not be anything less fun than the idea of rebuilding. Fans say it all the time: “We’re in rebuilding mode right now. Just wait four or five years, and we’ll be a perennial World Series contender.”
But what that really means is that the team is going against the very nature of sports. The idea is to win, and the reason for watching sports is you love to see your team win. So when your team trades away the name on the back of your favorite jersey and barely squeaks out 70 wins season after season it starts to get tough. Real tough.
Prospects are nice. The draft rolls around in June with much less fanfare than, say, the NBA or NFL drafts. It has over 40 rounds, but the only ones you’ll ever probably see are the first 1-3 picks. So you watch some grainy high school footage of their swing or pitching mechanics and then think of how awesome your team will be in the year two-thousand-whatever.
Just look at the Cubs. They have sucked for the better part of 100 years, but now every star is aligned, and every prospect is on the field playing at max potential, and it’s perfect. And they deserve it because they dealt with the massive disappointment of rebuilding that the rest of us Wild Card “hopefuls” have for a long time.
It’s hard to open the ticket site on your phone, look through the prices and say, “Yeah, I want to spend at least 50 bucks to watch my team probably play poorly because I know they don’t have the players they used to.” It makes it easier if the ballpark is pretty and the weather is nice but in some cases you can’t even get that.
And it’s probably hard for front offices too. They have to purposely anger the majority of their fan base, especially the casual fans who really aren’t as knowledgeable about the inner workings of a team. Then they have to watch the attendance clearly drop and fan interest decline and all parties that hold stake in the team financially start to put on pressure to win now. Win now is what everyone wants. Rebuilding teams want to win now, but winning is hard and you lose some to maybe get a small chance at winning some.
It works though. On occasion. Baseball is theoretically cyclical, where teams will rise and fall as the money in the league moves around and a little luck in the draft happens to fall to someone else. There are of course exceptions, the Mariners have sat at the bottom of the circle for a while now continuing to rebuild and then throw it all away, hire new staff and try again. Their GM just tried win now the last two years and now we have massive contracts on the books and he had a different job on a different US coast. Or you can be the Yankees and have such a large market that you can afford to spend all the time. And yet even they are starting to consider scrapping everything which is creating fissures in their front office.
Rebuilding is excruciating. It’s purposely losing for the chance not to lose in the future. It breaks you down and causes fans to think the owners just “don’t care” about the teams’ success. Some don’t, but most see the fact that winning brings more fans and more money. At the very least they prefer their team to win.
If your team is currently riding in to the upcoming trade deadline, and all you are hearing from sports media is that your team is going to trade all your favorite players, I’m truly sorry. It sucks and it’s really hard to deal with, but rebuilding is better than being stagnant. Finishing in the middle of the league every year and never making the playoffs is worse. Prospect watching might be all you have for the next four years. But hey, you might end up like being the Cubs some day.
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