President Epstein year one: Are the Cubs better off than they were a year ago?

John Arguello contributed to this article

With the election upon us, let’s look back to this time last year.

The Cubs were looking for a new leader and to some surprise a new team president as well. They found their man last November in President Theo Epstein.

So the question we have to ask ourselves as Cubs fans is: Are we better off than we were a year ago? I don’t think there is much doubt the answer is yes. It can be debated a bit however.

All of President Epstein’s moves haven’t been wildly popular among his constituents. The painful rebuilding maybe necessary in the administration’s eyes, but not to all Cubs fans.

Some would argue the Cubs are a big market institution and don’t have to endure this agenda. Maybe Epstein and his VP Jed Hoyer could have thrown some money at the problem. Instead they are taking a more conservative route if you will.

They want to spend money on the team’s infrastructure and hope it leads to long term growth rather than a short-term fix. Some of this maybe rhetoric but this model has been proven to work in other parts of the baseball world.

And they're job creators.  They doubled the number of Assistant GMs -- Randy Bush and Shiraz Rehman, not to mention 5 different special assistants to the GM. Where once they had Tim Wilken basically do all the scouting, now they have Jason McLeod, Jaron Madison, Joe Boehringer...and they still have Wilken chipping in. They also created a new dedicated position by putting Brandon Hyde specifically in charge of player development. Additionally, there are plans to keep adding more scouts in the field. Now that's what I call growth in the employment sector.

Epstein inherited quite a mess from his predecessor. He shouldn't be judged so quickly on what has been a clean up job on such a grand scale. The previous administration left Epstein with huge debt and what could certainly be considered a system wide depression.

Epstein recently gave his state of the organization and claims they have made great gains since he took over. He says the long term assets have been increased by six times and hopes to double that number by next year.

This administration has always preached patience and claims progress won’t always be linear.

So what do you say, are the Cubs moving forward?

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  • Theo has done a good job of drafting, getting rid of "head" cases, and making trades for prospects.....

    Jury is still out on Dale.....but you can only do so much when you are putting players on the field that really Sucks.

    BTW, nice paste up job on the image above......if Theo won a World Series here, he could be Mayor of Chicago.......or should I dare to say...."President of the United States of America".

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Thanks Cubs Talk. Tom wrote most of the article but I like to have a little fun with photo shop once in awhile :)

  • Ticket prices are lower, more money is being spent on player development, Ricketts says any profits will be used to better the organization. Here's hoping it works.

  • Good points...I think it will work. At least as far as being a team capable of contending year after year. Nobody can guarantee a World Series title, but you can make a team that's good enough to win it year after year.

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    Hopefully in 4 years or less Theo will have as wonderful a victory celebration as Barack did in 2008 in Chicago. And hopefully tonight as well.

  • In reply to Louie101:

    Can you imagine the parade in this town if the Cubs win? They're going to have to shut the city down!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    the New York Media would not mention the Cubs World Series victory on the news.......they rather talk about their Jets.......

    I would send the Cubs parade to the South Side and circle Sox Park several times honking horns just to shove it up the nose of all 435 White Sox fans they have.

  • I think the Cubs are better under Theo/Jed. More quality personal
    have been added to the system. Between trades, June draft and
    international signings our farm system is much improved. I like
    their new hilosophy under Theo's leadership. Between the Winter
    meetings, FA signings, June draft and international signings I think
    the next 9 months will really show what can be done with good
    personal and leadership.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed on all counts, e!

  • Hey John or Tom....

    Who would you like to see the Cubs beat in a World Series?


    Red Sox?

    White Sox?




  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    it has to be the Tigers. After 105 years, a rematch is in order.

  • The front office is definitely better, with more defined roles and more help where help was desperately needed. They seem to have collected some very nice prospects (Soler, Almora, some of the drafted pitchers, Vizcaino) and they have instituted a system-wide philosophy.

    The major league team is arguably worse than when they took over, but that was the price to pay for some of the prospects as well as creating some space for youth to step in.

    So, I'd say 2 steps forward, one step back. But you do that enough times and suddenly you look around and see that you've built something worth keeping.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Thats a good summation. Coming from corporate America, I assure you, implementing this system-wide change in Philosophy and getting "buy-in" throughout was no small task.

    We needed so much help & structure w/i the front office because we were not focused on developing players. We would just go out and sign a FA. Which didn't work. I think they've established the foundation. Now we start with the building blocks. In 2-3 years the first of the "waves" arrive. Then we should have an organization that can sustain that success with depth at each position. Then when injury or contract issues force a change... it's literally, "next man up" and keep on winning....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Agreed. Went through something similar in a past life. Changing a corporate culture not easy.

  • Perfect picture for this article. Looks like he could be saying, "My fellow Americans,..."

    I'm completely stoked with the new regime's first year. They cleared so much off the books, more free agents can be signed that can be flipped for more prospects. Same process as last year, but exponentially so. And it was doubly impressive they cleared so much space because they had the previous regime's NTC's working against them with Dempster and Soriano both rejecting trades. Add that to a great draft, good prospects back in trades, and all I can say is - FOUR MORE YEARS!

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Thanks. It was exactly the kind of pic I was looking for :)

    4 more years indeed! It will take at least that long to right the ship.

  • Hey, long time reader, first time poster.

    Cubs definitely better than a year ago and on right path no doubt. But . . . . as someone who just had to cough up 10% downpayment on season tix this week, I'd like to see a little more balance between development path we're on and spending some (or a lot) of money now for some free agents who will make us competitive in 2013 and 2014 until the young guns arrive in a few years. I cannot endure another 90 loss season, let alone 100.

    Just like my man says, we can't he can't cut the deficit only with spending cuts, we need to balance it with some revenue increases.

    I know it's hard to do both, but if Theo's such a genius, he ought to be able to do both. No?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I think they're going to try and be competitive but I don't think they'll do it with the Josh Hamilton's and the Zach Greinke's and their big contracts that may tie them up later. I would like them succeed much as the A's did this year. With a couple of shrewd trades, bargain FAs, and a boost from their system. I think if they can at least show some improvement and even make a bit of a run, the revenue will take care of itself even if there are no stars on the team yet.

  • Just a thought on this Election Day.....

    When the Cubs won the WS in 1907 & 08...A Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, was President

    Modern times....

    1984 Season - Ronald Reagan
    1989 - George H. Bush
    1998 - Bill Clinton (D)
    2001, 03, 07 & 08 - George W Bush

    Seems the Cubs do better with a Republican as President.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    1935, 1938 F.D.Roosevelt (D)
    1945 Truman (D)
    ...Lest we forget

  • I like the different general psychology of grinding out at bats, defense, throwing strikes, and the new emphasis of the stats that measure it.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Me too. Could have added that to article (Epstein belongs in a strong defense!)

  • It's one thing to just go out and stockpile more and more talent, but one thing that gets overlooked IS all of those additional staff signings. Not only did they add more scouts to make sure they draft the right guys, there hiring more personnel to make sure these guys develop properly. You've seen countless prospects make it up here, but yet they either can't throw strikes or swing at too many balls. It's one thing to draft a guy who's got good stuff but it's another to make sure he develops into a pitcher and not just a thrower. It's one thing to draft a 5-tool talent or a guys who can rake, but it's another to make sure he can actually do it at a high level.

    That's something that I think was lacking in the previous regime, not enough development going on with these prospects. There's no organizational philosophy involved here, it's just go out and play if we like you we'll promote you. I mean in some cases they even rushed prospects up the ladder. Castro himself could've benefited with having another year in the minors. It's no wonder why Josh Vitters went from a .300 hitter and all-star potential to below average regular.

    Even after 1 year here you've already seen some progress with some of the prospects. Matt Sczcur practically doubled his walk rate and seen his D improve, Ha as well, Jr Lake is also working on that. The Cubs also held out Baez in EXST to make sure he was ready to play at that level. (no doubt JH would've just sent him in to start the season there). Not sure how much "The Cubs Way" will help out prospects higher up in the organization, but no doubt this will help the prospects in the lower minors. Hopefully we won't see as many flame out as we did in previous years.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    Great points. The work they've done with prospects already here has been tremendous. Can't wait to see what happens with another year when this stuff really begins to get ingrained.

  • What's been lost in all the talk about the 101 loss season is that after the trade deadline, we had only two major league starting pitchers, and the second one, Wood, was marginal. That won't happen again. I'm not expecting miracles in 2013, but no way will we lose 100 games again.

    I think Theo is bringing the Cubs, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. He's transformed the front office, the scouting, and instructional systems. Before Theo, we had the smallest front office staff in the majors. He's instituting a coordinated approach to teaching and coaching throughout the system. We're on the right road. I just hope I'll still be around to enjoy where it leads.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    The Cubs actually had spurts of good play before the deadline, especially the pitching. I don't think it'll be too long before we can enjoy this team again.

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    I think we're better off. I am surprised at how radical the surgery has been; I said during July that there was no way they could trade Garza, Maholm, AND Dempster, and clear out the rotation, but that's exactly what they did. It's all about the future.

    We must build a farm system for sustained success, and that's what we are doing. Look at the Cards and Braves; they are contenders every year, and both teams have an excess of young talent coming. Makes me sick!

  • In reply to Zonk:

    That is the key. Makes it so much easier when you can reach down to your AAA team and fill a hole rather than constantly having to trade or worse, go off the waiver wire. I think the Cubs will be better than we think by 2014 but to be that kind of team like the Cards or the Braves that have that steady pipeline, we're probably talking more like 2016 or so. Not to say they can't win before then, but I think that's the year we can point to as the Cubs having a team that sustain success year in and year out.

  • In spite of all the losses, and restructuring, the Cubs are one of the most financially flexible teams out there. Sure, they are paying Soriano $36 million the next two years, but they do not have anybody else signed for that kind of baggage. A 100 loss season could be on the horizon again without pitching help soon along with a 3B, but the future can be seen. Most of the infield is set, yet, the outfield will more than likely be seen at Kane County and Daytona. The pitching, that will be the key for the next two years until more help arrives from within. It will be an interesting winter as the Cubs try and collect more arms along with either Stanek, Appell, or Manaea with the second pick. Additionally, the Trinity will take flyers and risks in rule 5, the waiver wire, the draft, and through international scouting.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    Yes, we're thinking a lot about this week but really the goal is to continue to rebuild from here until about the trade deadline. When you think about all the assets they can pick up between now and then, it's not unrealistic that the Cubs could be a whole lot better by 2014.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    I agree, there are many ways, beside trades and FA, to pick
    up a pitcher. I hope with the 2nd pick in the Rule draft they
    can find a pitcher, or other position, to help they in the future.
    Lets hope that there 41th prospect is better than our 40th.
    The 40-man roster is going to work against them, but they
    will find a way to add young players.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I wouldn't count much on the Rule V draft.

  • 100 percent better on all counts. The jolt to the infrastructure will eventually pay off. The Cubs have financial flexibility, but the next time they are maxed out in that category, they will be enjoying sustained success. For the next few years, they'll keep the payroll down and strike when the iron is hot.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Yes. I'm looking forward to the day when we can go and splurge on a free agent as the final piece or two...not as means of rebuilding.

  • Cubs are moving forward. Theo / Jed (and Dale) have finally broken-up the 'no-trade clause' club and are open and honest about the need to gut the franchise and rebuild from the ground up. As previously stated by many, improvements to operations and infrastructure will yield immediate and long-term benefits. It will be great to see some actual talent emerge from our minor league systems.

  • Huge improvement in just a short years time. I imagine the task was greater than anyone expected when they got started too. Just the restaffing and reorganization would be a lot but they are rebuilding and refitting at all leveles at the same time. they still have a few carryover contracts they need to shed, and it will be interesting to see how they carry those moves out over the coming months.

    It's refreshing to have obvious amounts of competence at all levels, and to see them operate using state of the art technologies and analytics is almost unbelievable for a cubs fan used to the old novelty act routines we had to put up with for decades. So in spite of all the detractors waiting for the first mistep to say they're not the saviors after all, things are moving in the right direction, and the changes have been moving fairly rapidly even if the goal may still be some ways off. Enjoy the ride, I don't think we've seen this kind of management on board since at least the Dallas Green days, maybe this time they'll get to carry things through to win a championship or two.

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    My brother works at a car dealership and Billy Williams came in today, I'll just post my brother's email, it was kind of neat and nice to hear as a Cubs fan...

    "I was talking to Billy Williams today.. he was in Volvo.. he's okay, I guess must be annoying to have everyone try to talk to you ,when your just bringing yer car in for a oil change..waiting in the lobby ..gotta be nice to all these idiots who have to say hi as if you know them... listening to people talk to him like they are old friends
    I knew he was there and wasn't planning on saying anything,just leaving him alone, but when I was turning in my paperwork to the cashier, mike P after humping his leg the whole time I was talking to cashier ..introduced me to him i just said hi Mr Williams nice to meet you. he said thank you nice to meet you.. and i was gonna leave but Mike gave him the yea jim's a big cub fan.. . awkward pause here I gotta say something else....didn't want to sound like the village idiot telling him how i watched him when i was a kid story's.. so I asked how do you like the new Cubs management are they as good as they say?
    He gave me a long in depth answer ..saying basically .. they can't guarantee a world series , no one can, but he loves what he has seen so far because they are teaching everybody to be consistent from the a ball coaches AND TRAINERS... all the way up to the top... if a kid is in A ball he is being taught to run the bases the same way as AAA or the majors ..
    he and his coaches will find it very hard to move up if they aren't getting it right.
    He said be patient , and it may take longer than they say on TV ,it could be a few more years before we are truly a competitive team to have a honest chance to win the series..

    Finally he said but the good news is when we get there, we should be a competitive organization that every spring you can look at and say they have as a chance as anybody to win it all .. and that is about all you can ask for is a legitimate chance ...

    I said that's great thanks alot for talking with me, and said no thanks for talking with me,nice to meet you , you work here right.. I will talk to you again sometime.

    kinda cool"

    Nice to hear.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Very cool, JW. Thanks for sharing that.

  • I read that the Angels might have wanted the Cubs to include cash along with Marmol for Haren. Could that have been the deal-breaker?

  • MLBTRADE said that a few GM's all concluded that Haren's health was the issue, not money.

    Haren is damage goods.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    My guess is it's a combination of health and finances.

  • Yes, it may have been. Haren was already set to make 15M and Marmol almost 10M, so it came down to whether the Cubs wanted to pay probably 20M or more in one year for the pleasure of having Dan Haren. They probably figured they could have him (or a similar pitcher) for 2 years for that amount and use Marmol to pick up pieces somewhere else.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly! I can't believe the Cubs would have even considered adding cash to any proposed deal. If anything, the Angels should have offered cash to offset the salary difference.

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    Is he going to blame Hendry four years from now if things don't work out?

  • Without question the Cubs are moving forward. According to BP, 6 of the Cubs' current top 10 prospects were acquired by this front office. That's a big turnaround in a hurry. Had they followed the Jim Hendry 'good money after bad' approach to building the big league club, they don't have Soler, they don't have Vizcaino, and they don't have Villenueva or Underwood. On top of that, the 2012 big league club might have been just strong enough to finish a few games below the .500 mark, with a much smaller pool to spend on amateur talent going forward. Stay the course, Epstoyer.

  • Are the Cubs better than last year assuming that last year was last season yea they have not lost a game yet.

    Reality wise Cubs have done good prospects but pitching is the greater need once that's met we are on our way

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