QUINCY — Cooper Dinkheller is astute enough at 13 years old to understand professional baseball is a business and a majority of decisions are based on revenue and cost above loyalty and trust.
The reality of that hit home Friday. And it hurt.
In less than 24 hours, the Cubs’ front office traded away the cornerstones of their 2016 World Series championship team, waved off any hope of a pennant chase this season and invited the return of the “lovable losers” moniker moving forward.
Worse, they left young fans like Dinkeller disenchanted and discouraged.
“A lot came at me so quickly,” Dinkheller said. “It was so shocking.”
Had it been one or two mainstays traded, the sting might have been tempered.
But when a collection of players who have amassed 17 All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, two Rookies of the Year, one league MVP and one NLCS MVP all get dealt, the sting becomes numbing.
“Overwhelming,” Dinkheller said.
It began Thursday when a deal to send first baseman Anthony Rizzo to the New York Yankees was brokered, and the 10-year veteran walked out of Wrigley Field to the adoring cheers of Cubs faithful who gathered near the players’ entrance to wish him well.
“It was a mixture of shock and disappointment,” Dinkheller said of hearing Rizzo had been traded. “Knowing how much of a leader Rizzo is and how he was this generation’s ‘Mr. Cub,’ just seeing him go away was shocking and heartbreaking all in all.”
It got worse Friday.
Right-handed closer Craig Kimbrell was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
Second baseman Javier Baez was dealt to the New York Mets.
And lastly, third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant was sent to the San Francisco Giants.
Gone in a hurry were Dinkheller’s two favorite players — Rizzo and Bryant — and the player he hoped the Cubs would base their rebuilding plans around in Baez.
“Going into the deadline, I knew the Cubs were going to be sellers,” Dinkheller said. “I was expecting them to keep Rizzo and Baez. They were the first to go.
“It’s very disappointing seeing all those players I’ve loved my entire life just leave the Cubs. KB and Rizzo were the two I loved ever since I started watching.”
It’s tough to relate.
When the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 1982, I was the same age Dinkheller was when the Cubs won the title in 2016. Five years later, the Cardinals were back in the World Series with a lineup that included the players I loved from the moment they became Cardinals — Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith and Tommy Herr.
By 1990, when McGee was traded to the Oakland A’s, I had a better grasp of the dynamics of baseball and I didn’t live and die with the Cardinals as a 16-year-old the same way I did as an 8-year-old or even a 13-year-old.
Even so, seeing McGee shipped off hurt.
For Cubs fans, especially those embarking on a lifetime of fandom, this is astronomically worse.
It tests your resolve, your loyalty and your perspective, of which Dinkheller seems to have in check.
“I’m staying with the Cubs for my entire life,” Dinkheller said. “It’s hard losing all those players I grew up watching and seeing them go to a different team, but it seems like a cycle for the Cubs. They’ve gone through the lovable losers phase into a World Series championship.
“So I know there’s hope for the future with the prospects we’ve acquired.”
And he’ll root as hard for those players as he did Baez, Bryant and Rizzo because the name on the front of the jersey always means more than the name on the back.
“All in all, we’re always going to be rooting for the guys in the blue pinstripes,” Dinkheller said.
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