Chicago Cubs fans have been patient for a long time and have been asked to wait a bit longer.
Theo Epstein's job as Cubs president of baseball operations is to bring a winning culture to a losing franchise, a process that won't happen overnight. However, it takes more than just one man for that goal to be reached.
The most paramount element to the Cubs' rebuilding process is support from the passionate, restless fanbase. Thus far, that support has been strong.
A plan is in place, currently in its beginning phase. The Cubs' major-league worst 31-50 record may be reason for frustration but is no true indicator to the organization's future. Cub fans have accepted that.
The diehards have turned their attention to the growth of Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt and Javier Baez. Largely, Cub fans have accepted that fan-favorites like Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza to be moved before the trade deadline in order to restock the farm system. It's a sacrifice needed to make in order to build a consistent contender in the future.
Even despite Rizzo's impressive numbers with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, fans were patient with his development, for the most part. It was understood that a process needed to take place in front of Epstein's watchful eyes. Cub fans embraced it. They filled Principal Park in Des Moines, checked the box scores each day and followed his every at-bat.
In acquiring Rizzo from the San Diego Padres over a high-priced free agent like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, the Cubs declared they were building for the future. Rizzo won't be a superstar in 2012, but the Cubs won't be a division champion yet, either. Their fans accepted that.
There hasn't been many reasons to buy a bleacher ticket at Wrigley Field. Despite the Cubs' struggles, their faithful fans have walked through the turnstiles in typical, impressive fashion.
The Cubs have averaged 37,522 fans and 91.2 percent capacity on the north side this season, good for fifth in the league. At the current pace, the organization host three million fans again.
Chicago fans have continued to hit the road to support their favorite team. When the Cubs play in a visiting venue, an average of 34,704 fans have gathered--tops in the league.
As fans have begun waiting till next year, the farm affiliates have benefited, too. Cub fans have packed the minor-league ballparks to catch a glimpse of the future Cubs. Four of the club's five minor-league teams have averaged in the top quarter of their league's attendance rankings.
The Cubs organization is in desperate need to build revenue in order to maintain its 98-year-old ballpark, among other reasons. Steady ticket sales have allowed the club's business operation to be a continued success.
The light at the end of the tunnel may be far down the road for the Cubs. Their rebuilding process is in stage one. That is widely understood.
Cub fans believe in Theo Epstein and the organization's new direction, which offers hope of something unseen since 1908. Despite the current team's struggling season, fan support remains high. They're willing to wait till next year.