You won't see more orange at a deer-hunters convention than you saw at the Tigers' 5-3 victory over the Cubs. Hard to know what was more embarrassing for the Cubs: pitcher Travis Wood getting thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double with the game tied or Wrigley Field erupting with joy as Tigers closer Jose Valverde recorded the final out.
"That was awesome,'' Verlander said. "The ovation I got before the game got me fired up.''
The Cubs warned their fans rebuilding would require patience. They never mentioned earplugs.
No wonder President Theo Epstein finally showed signs lately of kick-starting this culture change.
Not to say Epstein eagerly wants to start unloading veterans for prospects but, reacting to pitcher Matt Garza's impulsive offer to "pitch on the freakin' moon,'' Epstein instinctively called NASA officials seeing what they might offer. Garza was reacting facetiously to the incessant trade speculation but he should be careful what he wishes for. If he thinks the ball carries on the North Side when the wind blows out, imagine how many home runs weightlessness produces.
Seriously, Epstein continues to send signals that the Cubs soon will become the most aggressive sellers in baseball — a development more promising than anything that unfolded on the field during the Tigers series.
Trading Ryan Dempster suddenly seems a matter of when, not if. Trading Garza before the deadline should be just as high of a priority if the Cubs truly want to stockpile prospects the way championship teams do. And if Epstein really wants to impress his former employer, the Red Sox, in Chicago for a three-game series beginning Friday, he will find a taker for hot-hitting Alfonso Soriano before they leave town.
What better way to end a week Epstein clearly blocked off as the unofficial start of Phase II of The Cubs Way.
On Tuesday, the Cubs replaced hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo with minor-league instructor James Rowson, citing philosophical differences they knew existed when Epstein took over. But it shows how low a priority the major league product is in the organization's rebuilding plan when it takes until June 12 to get around to firing Jaramillo, a respected man whose ideas were no longer welcome.
On Wednesday, Epstein had a long-awaited but impromptu meeting with Dempster in the grandstand. The Cubs splurge for new office space, but Epstein can't find a room to discuss something as important as Dempster's future? If that's the case, they really need to move on the stadium renovation soon before Epstein starts interviewing secretaries in the bleachers. More likely the very public powwow went exactly as Epstein had hoped as media outlets pounced on the image of a player for rent.
On Thursday, Epstein revealed another hint in an interview with WEEI-AM in Boston that echoed what he told Chicago reporters this week in regard to enduring tough times while keeping his priorities in mind.
"What I enjoy most when I think of pure baseball is developing from within," Epstein said.
By all means, Theo, get in touch with your inner baseball purist and develop away until Soriano is comparing exit interviews with Dempster and Garza. Develop a culture of accountability throughout the organization more apparent than it has been on a team where Starlin Castro never has been benched despite continued mental mistakes. Develop Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson and first-round draft pick Albert Amora and soon-to-be-signed Cuban Jorge Soler on a schedule that has 2015 circled on the calendar.
Just develop something that makes the Cubs unique for something other than a curse or futility, for a style I expected would be more obvious by now on manager Dale Sveum's team.
Nothing stands in Epstein's way — not ownership, not media pressure and certainly not a fan base that will not stop coming to the park if the Cubs start replacing big names with nobodies. Despite a 21-42 record, the Cubs still drew the largest crowd of the year Thursday — 42,292 tourists strong — that helped set a record for a weekday home series.
Many of those folks immediately left the city.
Now it's time for Epstein to get serious about sending a few more people out of town.