I still have my official Cubs 1984 bottle of champagne. It's still unopened. I'm patiently waiting for the right time.
As the proverb says,
"Good things come to those who wait."
Yet, I'm finding out early this season that this patience is not universal. This is fine with me -- as long as this impatience doesn't extend to our front office. Thankfully, I don't believe it does.
There is a saying in baseball when it comes to building a team,
"If you start listening to the fans, you'll soon be sitting with them."
Despite a transparency about rebuilding and tempered short-term expectations for an undermanned team, fans are already calling for the head of Dale Sveum and some even have their sights set on the front office members.
It seems we've already forgotten that Theo Epstein warned us very early that it wouldn't be a smooth ascent.
"Progress isn't linear."
What he meant by that is there isn't typically a steady increase in wins until you reach 95 and then win the World Series. Progress, whether it's baseball or anything else, doesn't travel along a 45 degree angle upward. There will be fits and starts. There will be bumps along the road. There will be dips and plateaus followed by an unexpected leap in performance.
Cubs fans and the local media remained surprisingly patient for the first year of rebuilding. Now suddenly, after 20 games in April, that patience has largely evaporated.
The Cubs front office has done it's best to acknowledge fan frustration. It isn't easy to trust process, especially given the team's history, and it's certainly understandable to want to see visible, tangible progress. We all want to see better baseball.
But they need to stay the course.
It's far too early to judge whether or not progress has been made. There are too many variables that can affect a team's performance -- especially when you're looking at such a small sample size. We may not see tangible results until later in the season -- maybe not even until next season.
This is not to say the Cubs shouldn't seek to improve their team at every possible turn, whether that be through the draft, international signings, trades, free agency, etc. They absolutely should. Assuming the renovation issues will be resolved, there's no reason a big market team can't flex their muscle and use their resources.
That being said, the focus needs to stay on the big picture.
The key to winning a championship is to give your team a chance to win year after year. It's easier to control the results of the larger sample size that is the regular season. The playoffs are much shorter in length and thus much more subject to variable factors such as luck. The best teams don't always win a short series. So the idea is to give your team the chance to make the playoffs every year rather than take short term approaches that open 2 to 3 year windows and 5 years of payroll hangover.
Unfortunately for fans who want to see results now, this requires a longer term approach. It means resisting the temptation to make big investments for short-term gains that will hurt the team later. That, in turn, means building an organization from top to bottom and creating a steady pipeline of talent that will keep the team competitive through injuries, poor performance, and the loss of players through age and, in certain situations, free agency. This is how teams like the Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, and yes...the St. Louis Cardinals have built their organizations. This is what Cubs fans should want their organization to be.
And that takes time.
The front office cannot allow frustration to change the direction of the plan they have for building a long term winner here in Chicago.
It won't be easy. There will be some fans that will make good on their threats to cancel season tickets. There will almost certainly be a lot of empty seats in September. But those fans will be back once the team starts winning.
And if they don't come back, then that'll just mean more champagne for the rest of us.
Filed under: Rebuilding