Despite noise from media and fans, front office needs to stay the course

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


Leave a comment
  • fb_avatar

    Well said John. But I wonder..... What would a "successful" next step look like in this rebuild? Last year we saw the total dismantle and retooling of the farm system. Several contracts were shed and some short term assets were flipped for longer term pieces.

    What should folks look for in this phase of the rebuild?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    That is an excellent question and a good idea for a follow up article!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    John can answer for himself, but from my perspective, the next phase should include having impact talent at each level of the minors. Right now, most of the impact talent is in the lower parts of the system. Lots can go wrong between now and when they could even theoretically be ready so there needs to be depth at all the levels.

    The system will get a strong boost from the draft this year and possibly even the major league team if they land Appel or Gray, who are said to be very nearly MLB ready.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tim McGinnis:

    Totally agree that having impact talent at every level is key.

    Last year's draft brought in a lot of guys who are currently playing well in A-ball, and that's great. This years's draft will hopefully be just as successful if not moreso. They'll get a taste in the AZL league and maybe even short-season ball.

    By this time next year, hopefully most of the AA roster is comprised of out current A ball players, while the new draftees are (hopefully) impressing in A ball.

    Along with adding prospects by trading short-term assets, we should be looking pretty strong in a few years.

    So, IMO, the answer to bocabobby's question is that this stage of the rebuild should still look A LOT like the last one.
    Like John said, stay the course.

  • John, I'm 52 and I've been watching the team since I was 8 years old, and this is really the first front office that has had the guts to take the organization down to the studs. I give them a lot of credit. I don't think many fans realize just how neglected player development has been, and how difficult it is to start from the beginning. They want to do it right, finally, and I can wait for the results that I think eventually will come. And as you said, more champagne (and seats) for us!

    Just caught a few minutes of Kap's TV show. When did Rick Telander become such a blowhard? ;)

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    Rick Tallander has always been a blowhard, I never liked him. He failed miserably as a host at The Score, the audience just did not care for him at all. He is as arrogant and full of himself as they come.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Behn Wilson:

    yet Boers AND bernstein are still on the air...

  • In reply to SKMD:

    Ha! Bernstein is such a smug prick.

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    You're background is similar to mine. I've been watching since I was about 6 or so, and I just missed the great teams of the late 60s early 70s.

    This is the first time we've had an organization that wanted to build from top to bottom since the Green administration -- unfortunately that was cut short by some clashes with profit-oriented ownership. Hoping that's not the case this time.

    I also think the Hendry/McPhail era had us going in the right direction but McPhail seemed unwilling to take the next step. Again, I hope that history doesn't repeat itself. I hope this time the FO wants to finish the deal -- and I think they will if ownership complies.

    I think you're absolutely right when you say that player development has been neglected and I think that is the #1 reason why the team hasn't been able to build sustained success.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to midwestlefty:

    This gets to the crux of the argument really well. There has really been no development to speak of. The closest we have come to consistently winning -- as John has pointed out before -- was when we traded for Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Essentially, we used the finances of the game to short-circuit the development issue -- by stealing two guys that the Pirates and Marlins developed.

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    I agree totally. I've never been more excited about our prospects.Never. I am thrilled with our FO. I still think this team is better than last year. The BP is terrible but the starting pitching has been excellent. I'm excited and hope Houtson doesn't take Gray.

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    I also caught Telander yesterday and watching him made me really angry. While I have no definitive proof of this in the form of links to old articles, I'm fairly certain that Telander and everyone else who covers sports in Chicago was lamenting the state of the Cubs for the last few years and all the bad free agent contracts. What are the Cubs supposed to do? Go back to spending more money on free agents who are getting paid for what they did instead of what they still can do? There are rarely free agents out there who are in their mid 20s who are perennial All-Stars, that just doesn't really happen. Much like Castro their teams have probably locked them up. And the Cubs are more than just one or two players away from competing.

  • As a long time fan I can say that our top prospects are the best
    we have had in I can't remember how many years. After the June
    draft it will only get better. It will be a very slow process to see
    who will be a part of our future and who will be trade bait.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's been a while since the Cubs have had guys that most have considered impact prospects. Not that it means they'll work out (it didn't with Patterson, Choi, etc.) but at least there is that possibility again.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And not just impact prospects but also people to teach them. The Cubs have NEVER had that. I'm sure we've all heard the stories about how at every level they were teaching a different approach to the same aspect of the game. Now they have The Cubs Way, which I'm sure jealous assholes will mock, but which at least sets forth a plan for the entire system from rookie ball to the majors.

  • Well said.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Thank you.

  • Depite caviats from Theo, you are assuming that the front office actually is committed to a course. I have no such delusion. They are as inept as their charges, and are apparently as far from being a winning team as what they put on the field.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    And this is based on what? 1 year and 20 games of taking over a team that was in shambles? They were supposed to transform a garbage roster into a winning team by April of 2013?

    Talented, successful executives see in big pictures. Anybody can go spend money on the free agent market and hope it works out. Ask Jeffrey Loria. Or the current Angles owner. Or Cleveland. How is their free agency binge working out?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe Theo is on the right track, that said, my concern is the Ricketts snowballed him about money being available down the road only to sell the Cubs for huge profits. Another McCourt type of snow job.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I'm always a little concerned when it comes to very wealthy people when it comes to money. I don't think Ricketts is going to pull a least I hope not!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In for a penny, in for a pound.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    There was someone either on this blog or another Cubs blog trying to debunk this idea. Basically the Ricketts are going to need someone to buy the Cubs for $1.5 billion just to make a profit on their investment. I can't see that happening. Additionally look at all the buyers who were out there before...other than that one group (can't remember the name but the head of it was good friends with Selig) the groups who wanted to buy the Cubs seemed to be billionaires who wanted them to win...Anixeter, the guy who owns the Wolves, maybe Cuban. It's not like the Cubs would be hard up to find an amazing owner if Ricketts did sell.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    McCourts problem was largely due to his divorce, and frankly hius extremely greedy ex-wife.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Just look at the farm system...went from one of the worst to one of the best in no time at all. Why spend money on new spring training facilities and renovations if they aren't committed to winning? And the sharp decline in ticket sales-and the inherent loss of food, beverage and souvenier revenue that comes with that-have to be a wake-up call to win or else. I know people are still going to games but not as many as before. Even when the team was bad people went. Now it's different for whatever reason.

  • Great article john, as a die hard cubs fan it hurts me to say this but I hope the cubs become more like the cardinals. It seems like they get no respect in the off season but every year are in the hunt. Maybe because they don't overspend for free agency and let the free agent come to them.They also use smart trades but to do that you need a farm system. By looking at our AAA team we have no depth, that is from years of bad drafts.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Would love the Cubs organization to be like the Cards. THat was a team built around a couple of stars (Pujols, Molina), traded for another in Holliday using young players, and then filled the rest of their roster with role players and young guys from their system.

    Now it appears they'll be equipped to keep stocking the roster over the next several years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Personally, I hope the 2013 Cardinals become a lot like the 2013 Cubs. But I'm a spiteful man.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Well, that works for me too ;)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I have a baseball crush on the Cards and it really pains me to say that. Their team is so good with no real end in sight. They keep churning out versatile bench guys, power bullpen arms, good young starters, and all star position players. Logan Watkins has the feel of a St. Louis guy to me. Having good young, versatile bench guys is a great way to keep your team cost effective and have the most money available for free agents too! And speaking of bench guys, Julio Borbon was quite a nifty little pick up!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As a guy from central IL, I hate the Cards, but also respect them. Every year I look at their roster and think 'thats, at best, a .500 win team'. But somehow they find no-name MI, pitchers and bullpen arms, that put up solid numbers and win 88 - 90 games. And then they go out and find more players the next year. AND they keep their budget relatively low and don't overextend themselves. Its uncanny. And now they have the best system in baseball. I literally want to start watching their games to see how they do it - but I assume the first thing that will jump out at me is that they rarely beat themselves (poor base running errors, mental mistakes, hacking at bad pitches, etc.)

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Excellent comments. In 2011 Ryan Franklin started the year as the Cards closer. He didn't produce and the Cards plugged another arm into that role until they found someone who could do it. By the end of that season Franklin wasn't even with the team. This year Motte's been hurt, they tried Boggs without success and are now using Mujica.

  • Like I said in another thread, rebuilding and adding talent are not mutually exclusive. They absolutely need to get another run producing bat to add to this pathetic lineup. Hopefully Theo has an ace up his sleeve somewhere. And screw the saber metrics punch and judy talk a walk type in this case, this current team needs an power htting RBI bat for the middle of the lineup ASAP.

    A lot of the current negativity and frustation are a result of Sveum's idiotic and pointless comments about Castro and Rizzo last week. The organization I imagine wihes he never would hav emade those comments. It doesnt jive with pushing a rebuilding mode and have the manager rip on the two (3 if you count The Shark) core players when the rest of the lineup (and the bullpen) is filled out by mediocrity.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    I do think the Cubs added talent. They added Villanueva, Baker, Feldman, Jackson, Scheirholtz, etc.

    They added a lot of players and I believe they have a more talented product on the field than they did last year. We could say they should have gone after bigger names, and maybe that's true, but you can't say they didn't try to improve the team. There's a plan, it just hasn't worked so far outside of the starting pitching and the performance of Schierholtz.

    And goodm, successful teams add much of their talent from within (or use those players in trade). They don't build a temporary structure out of free agents first and then supplement it with young talent. They pretty much do the reverse of that.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Behn Wilson:

    I would love to see them add that type of bat...who do you suggest? Where should they get him? Who, specifically, was available that this front office missed on that would have an impact in this lineup?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Matt McNear:

    Nobody. And that's usually the problem with comments like his, no offense to him. Fans want this and want that with no idea of how to get it or if its even available. In this case its not. The question you asked is always my rebuttal and I have yet to receive an answer.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Shennanigans on nobody being available. Its the GMs job to find someone who is available. I dont have any inside information on players available so I didn't suggest any and act like an expert based on internet rumors like many do. Plus Ive been in the middle of my busy (Im a CPA) season at work so don't have a lot of time to get into depth and just throw an odd post in here and there.

    I trust Theo's judgement and hopefully I will be pleasantly surprised when he adds someone. I am scared he is satisfied with the likes of Dejesus and Schierholz who are nothing more than 4th outfielders to me. The current lineup is barely watchable.

    They did a good job of improving the starting pithing depth this offseason but the additions on offence were mediocre at best.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    Marcel Jenkins is right. You demonstrated this with your reply.

    If you think "saber metrics" prefer "punch and judy" hitters, you really need to educate yourself on sabremetrics.

  • fb_avatar

    I had no problems with anything until the report about Sveum tinkering with Rizzo's swing. (Tom's reports on Theo's frustration scare me for other reasons.)

    To me, the Rizzo decision just reeks of trying to fix something that wasn't broke -- and breaking it. It makes me question his decisions with Castro and other young players coming up. Since not screwing them up is critical to the rebuild, I think that decision -- at the very least -- needs to be discussed with him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The Rizzo tinkering would bother me too, but for now it's just speculation by Law and the people he talks to -- which probably weren't Cubs people.

  • I'm fine with the plan, and even fine with the manager, though my recent comments lately have been about how so many just seem to let Sveum off the hook so easily.

    He has made some bad (and good) decisions this year, like any manager, but I don't think it's right to say that the manager barely has a role in the games or that it's all the players fault.

    I also disagree with the quote about listening to the fans. What business doesn't listen to their customers? Sometimes, I'm not so sure the fans are wrong.

    People forget that the Cubs made "bad investments". Key word being bad. That is not necessarily a reflection on buying free agents in general. They just chose the wrong ones.

    Everyone also says the Cubs will be fine in 2014 or 2015. However, every other team in the league seems to be wanting to follow the same "plan".

    Progress isn't linear. Or is it? ;)

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Businesses listen, but they're not about to operate the workings of their company/corporation based on how people think they should. Business people know business and they'll listen to customer concerns, maybe even appease them with a product, but they're not going to change the course of the way they run operations, finances, the structure of their business, etc.

    I don't buy the argument that it wasn't the plan of the previous regime that was the problem and that it was the execution.

    The Cubs didn't make all bad investments. Soriano was very productive his first two seasons and nearly led them to the World Series. Mark DeRosa and Ted Lilly were also shrewd signings. Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee were good acquisitions. Of course, it was mixed in with the bad, such as Milton Bradley.

    Where the previous organization failed was putting a system in place to continuously restock the talent pipeline -- and that is precisely what this front office is trying to fix.

  • As always, I didn't direct this at anyone in particular. I think the readers here -- and some writers -- really get it.

    It's more of the frustrated vibe I get on Twitter and read in the mainstream media.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    No offense taken on my end. I like talking with intelligent Cub fans. You would have to dig deep to insult me. ;)

    I agree with the current strategy. I just think it's going to be a lot harder than everyone thinks. If we are competing in 14 and 15 that will be wonderful. Everyone else is getting better as well.

    I think some splashes would need to be made between now and then other than simply development. Good thing is the FO realizes that, it just seems the resources are still in flux for whatever known and unknown reasons.

    As for Sveum, I like the guy, but we are all armchair managers, and that's just the way it will always be. ;)

  • fb_avatar

    Looking at the Major League and Minor League performance in the first 3 weeks of the season, so far its a complete disaster start. Garza, Stewart, Fujikawa, and Baker are hurt; the few trading chips (marmol, soriano) are not doing much. Rizzo and Castro are not taking any steps forward yet. Nobody in the minors to get enthused about just yet. Brett Jackson, Vitters, Lake, are either hurt or not making strides. SP is improved, but still not nearly enough hitting to compete daily.

    Still believe in Theo, et al, but as a season ticket holder, there has to be some progress. We are still kicking the ball around the diamond. I still dont get why Dillon Maples, Reggie Golden, Paniagua, 3M cuban reliever are still in ext. spring training. Seems odd to me.

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    The results are disastrous, but I don't think that necessarily means there has been no progress.

    I think the philosophy is really getting through, especially at the lower levels. There have been better ABs, guys like Candelario and Contreras have really worked hard on their defense. It takes time to change the culture of an organization and the place where you'll see it first is at the bottom rungs.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Niren Desai:

    the AAA team might not be impressive, but our A-ball teams are playing pretty damn well. Let's not judge the "minors" on just the highest level.

    Baez might be struggling, but I'm sure there's plenty of current stars that slumped at the start of their high-A campaigns. It's still early enough in the season that a 3-5 game hot streak could totally turn around his stats.

    As for the rest of his team, (and for the low-A team as well) so many players are playing well that the problem is almost that there aren't enough AB's to go around.

  • In reply to Niren Desai:

    The most disconcerting thing is Rizzo's and Castro's lack of development. I am 100 percent behind the rebuild plan. However, our two supposed building blocks may not be that at all. Castro's defense has regressed, and Rizzo is Adam Dunn circa 2013. Those are not cornerstones of a quality team. I fear we are still at step one.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Hawks12:

    If you think Castro's defense has regressed then so have 20 other starting SS in the game who have similar error totals. Most of them considered above average. Just like Starlin Castro. People need to come to 2013 and realize errors do not measure how good a player is defensively.

    Rizzo has been extremely unlucky on BABIP. Normalize it and he's hitting around. 260 which isfine for the power he produces.

    Calm down. They will be fine its 3 weeks in.

  • In reply to Hawks12:

    Castro I agree with, but Rizzo is young and has, what, like 1 full year of MLB experience (around 162 games)? Its hard to get development with about 1 year of experience. If he is hitting .160 in September, then we can ask some questions about his development - but even then its still early.

  • I'm pretty unhappy with Dale, but it's entirely due to his BS veiled threats to demote his two best position players if they don't improve. That was Quade-esq.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I agree, but some people are saying that is not what he meant to say and didn't single out those people. If true, I agree it was inappropriate and a sign of frustration.

  • Think about our farm system, the last great position player we developed was Billy Williams in 1961. (Sorry, Lou Brock doesn"t count since he was traded away).

  • In reply to kevie:

    Maybe we're due! ;)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to kevie:

    Mark Grace was pretty damn good.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    But the larger point still holds.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just think how good Gracie could've been had he not been playing all those day games with a hangover!

  • Does look strange, but there might other reasons why there doing
    this. They get paid to handle the prospects correctly.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think that (development) will ultimately be the biggest impact they have on this organization.

  • Good article and well-timed. I can't imagine the front office thought the rebuilding would go much different than this. Breaking a team down in Chicago is a harried business. I do also get why season ticket holder's patience is wearing thin, but I think there was no way to rebuild, given the state of the organization when they took over, without ticking off some of the fan base. Personally, I take the current losses in stride and daydream about what a lineup with Soler, Baez, Castro, Rizzo, etc. is going to be like. It's more fun that way.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:


    I think they expected this could happen. I also think they think it can turn around in a hurry with this very same roster (not that they'll win big, but just play better ball, like they did against the Reds).

    But yeah, while I think they'll take wins however and whenever they come, I think they're eye is a couple years down the road.

  • Yes, the future should be very bright. The next few months with the
    draft, international signings and July trades should add more
    great/good prospects to the farm system.

  • fb_avatar

    Tangentially related to the future: have you heard anything that would suggest Arodys Vizcaino will start to throw soon?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Haven't heard anything new.

  • He is a big part of our future and there should be no hurry.
    College and minor league managers have ruin many

  • I thinks this and next years' draft and international signing are very important. I think the Cubs could have two top of the rotation arms.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KGallo:

    Who do you see internationally as far as pitching goes? What makes you believe the Cubs have a shot at these guys? I am specifically wondering about Asia. I think the Cubs are pretty well represented in the DR......


  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I think the Cubs main target is going to be a SS named Gleyber Torres. He'll get the bulk of their pool money. As far as pitching goes, I believe their plan is to attack that with volume. So much projection involved with 16-17 year olds.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. I think there a ton of pitchers that can be grabbed in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. I also think they will pick low enough to grab Beede or Trade Turner next year

  • fb_avatar

    Amen Brother John!!!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Ha! Thanks.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, as a devout member of the choir, you already knew how I felt.

  • Great article, John! Thanks.

    I've been a Cubs fan since the early 60's and I have no doubt that the coming years will be the best of my lifetime.

    Watching the rebuild take place is exciting and I plan to enjoy every day of it.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    Thanks Richard. I have to agree with you there. I actually enjoy watching this being done, even if the results aren't there yet.

  • fb_avatar

    Frankly folks, we aren't going to the playoffs no matter what. So if it were possible to lose more games than the Astros and Marlins, I could live with it. I'd hate every moment of it, but to be able to gain maximum advantage under the CBA, it would be worth it.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I agree Michael. 100% but losing to Dusty chaps my hide

  • Overall, the only area that surprises me so far after 20 games is the shoddy defensive play. I expected the SP to perform better and surely none of us could have reasonably expected the offense to produce at a higher run production level than last year.

    I am still convinced that Starlin Castro is a player who will continually frustrate Cub fans. I hope I am wrong, but he could end up being the Cubs version of Garry Templeton.

    One interesting tidbit is the run differential is only 17 runs after 20 games and if the world were perfect and the Pythagorean method worked every time, they would be 8-12. Of course the game is not played on paper or according to prediction models, but it does offer a thin sliver of hope that the scales may balance if there is any cosmic justice.

    Who am I kidding, this is the Cubs we are talking about.

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  • Why is no one talking about the tens of millions in cut from the payroll since Ricketts took over? That may explain why, according to recent reports, the Cubs are the most profitable team in baseball.

    I'm all for the rebuild from within, but why didnt they spend another 30 to 40 million per year for talent to hold us over until the kids are ready two or three years from now?

    I like Tom Ricketts. And I want to keep liking him, but he's pocketed the 30 to 40 mil cut from payroll the last two years. Hasn't he? In the meantime, I'm trying real hard to remain patient.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I take exception to the word "pocketed". You make it sound like Ricketts put these 30-40 mil in some tax-sheltered account in the Caymen Islands.

    If that is your insinuation, I do not believe it for a nanosecond. It was not like Ricketts wrote a check for 8-hundred and whatever million USD from some account and owns the Cubs. There is debt to be leveraged and loans to be paid off. It would not surprise me at all if the "noise" regarding the FOs inability to have a higher payroll is the result of some error in the business model - that the economy has not improved as expected, the time to get the Wrigley renovation started was underestimated, or some other aspect based on a (now wrong) economic or business projection. Recovery from that error could easily be manifested in a lower than expected and hoped-for payroll.

    If, once the Wrigley renovation is complete and the new TV deal signed, the payroll is still significantly lower than a large market team like the Cubs should have, then we can talk. But for now, let's cut Ricketts some slack.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I'm cutting him slack. But I'm sure the cubs would still be profitable with a $150M payroll. Because its being saved, Ricketts is in fact pocketing, i..e, keeping that money somewhere. Now maybe it's paying for the new spring training facility and part of the Wrigley renovation, but still. I'd just like to see our payroll up there with the big boys.

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    I'm with you Nondorf. Some bridge players to get us over the hump so that we don't have to watch horrible baseball for hundreds of games.

    Theo stated in an interview yesterday that the payroll is maxed out; they've spent all that they can on the players they have. They are not stashing money into a rainy day fund for when Soler and Almora ascends to claim the outfield at Wrigley. The mid market payroll is not a Theo strategy, it's a Ricketts necessity.

    If Ricketts didn't have the money to spend on a major market payroll then he shouldn't have bought a major market team. I like the front office he hired, but not the shallow pockets.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Would you know where I could find that interview?


  • In reply to baseballet:

    Thank you.

  • fb_avatar

    Great article John, and I'm glad to see people writing positive feelings about the team and the rebuild.

    I like your point that progress isn't "linear."
    Best proof is the 2012 Nationals. It was that franchise's first year above .500 in 10 or 11 years, and yet they won almost 100 games and had the best record in the league. Two seasons before that they won 69 games.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    So we know what the steps to success look like. In Washington, it was waves and waves of talent in two Zimmermans, Desmond, Harper, Strasburg and others. Once a team is poised to reap the benefits of a strong home-grown core, it adds a bunch of good players all at once. Werth, LaRoche, Gio... It's all about timing. We're not even close.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    All need are a Strasburg and Harper in the draft, easy enough blue print.

  • fb_avatar

    Well said, and I agree with almost all of what you say John, though I'd like to make a couple observations.

    Some of the impatience that is starting to show this year, I think, is because a few of the Cubs' 14 losses could have been prevented had a better and deeper bullpen been in place at the start of the season.

    Even without the benefit of hindsight, I think Theo and Jed had to know that the pen was shaky (though Kyuji Fujikawa seemed like a good bet in case Marmol faltered) - and this, I think, is something that should normally be addressed on the fly rather than as part of the rebuilding process due to the nature of relievers. That said, I'm sure Theo and Jed are eyeing Arodys Vizcaino as a future closer if he does pan out as a starter.

    Theo and Jed did a nice job putting together a starting rotation with depth, which is why that has been an area of strength even with the setbacks by Garza and Baker. But I think with the organization they are building that they should be able to put a good bullpen together in their sleep.

    I get that they didn't want to eat $10 million and cut Marmol loose, but from what I read they had permission to do so, and I think it was already clear by the end of spring training that he was not likely going to bring back much in a trade.

    The primary thing that is irking me so far about the new regime is that the song and dance about grinding at bats has been just that - and I'm certain that this organization will never become a consistent winner until this becomes part of The Cubs Way.

    I constantly hear that you can't change players who are set in their ways, but at the very least this approach needs to be emphasized more to the likes of Castro, who continues to chase pitches down and away because he has the ability to put it in play. As long as he continues to chase this pitch, however, his power is going to be limited and he's going to continue getting himself out on pitcher's pitches.

    I also think the time is right to work on Baez in this regard. Those four home runs in two days toward the end of spring training may be the worst thing that ever happened to him.

    Anyway, the Cubs will probably benefit from another season at the bottom of the standings considerably more than they would a .500 season - which was probably still a best-case scenario anyway had more been done with the bullpen in the offseason. So I have plenty of patience left with regard to the overall product on the field. But when it comes to those grinding at bats Theo promised us, that needs to be addressed with more urgency in my opinion.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    It's difficult to learn plate discipline in the majors. I think it's been pretty obvious Castro has been making an effort, but he doesn't have the rep yet to get the close calls -- a part of baseball which I don't like, but unfortunately exists. I don't see Anthony Rizzo getting the benefit of the doubt either. The Cubs need those two to put up at least average walk rates and judging from their career numbers so far, neither are as far off from that as you might think.

    Where you should really see the change is in the players they will promote to the big leagues, particularly those in 2-3 years.

    As for the bullpen, I don't agree they didn't try to address that. They added Fujikawa and Marmol was coming off a strong second half and it didn't make sense to release him except in hindsight. It seemed that he had some value, even if it was just for a fading SP in Dan Haren. It stands to reason that if he would have continued his good run into the first couple months of 2013, that he could have brought back something worthwhile in return. And the other hard truth is, who do you put there instead? Rafael Dolis? Casey Coleman? Blake Parker? I don't blame them for trying to extract some kind of value for Marmol. It appears in hindsight that it may not have been a good move, but it was perfectly reasonable at the time. And believe me, the Cubs have gone through great lengths to try and trade Marmol since the trade deadline last year.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Good point about the borderline calls. Along with getting those calls, however - which is crucial - it's not just about drawing walks but working pitch counts. Usually when Castro walks, twice thus far this season I believe, the pitcher is just not locating. And along with that he may lay off a pitch he usually swings at. What I'd like to see, however, is more players fouling off pitcher's pitches until they get a good one to drive or if this doesn't happen take a walk (as opposing teams seem to do to the Cubs ad nauseum).

    I agree that an effort was made to trade Marmol and address the bullpen somewhat, and like I said, my hunch is that maybe they are waiting to load up on the pen until they are ready to win (that .500 thing again, where going all out to bring in a good relieve corps might have been counterproductive).

  • Excellent article as always John, and as people have said , this article needed to be done. What some of the frustration tells me is that a lot of people have no real understanding what rebuilding is. A lot of Cub fans got used to the Tribune/ Hendry philosophy of the patchwork idea. The idea was signing some relatively cheap free agents and also going with younger players. It can make you competitive but will not make you a champion or even perennial contender. The Cubs up until Epstein were more interested in being okay and keeping the fans happy rather than really having a sound plan to become a champion.

  • fb_avatar

    So it is physically impossible to rebuild the parent club, and the farm system at the same time? " The plan" looks more about saving money than anything else. Theo has said there will be no real money spent until the renovation, and TV revenues increase, and that's what this perennial losing is really all about. I remember when this all started, and the Cubs were suppose to be competitive by year 3 of the plan, which is now, an impossibility, at this point. I noticed the plan now points towards year 6 or 7, and all you people accept that from a major market team? I guess everybody expects to live forever.

  • In reply to Gary Tschosik:

    Gary, you can only spend your money once. If you spend it on fixing the parent club you then can't spend it on prospects, training facilities and player development. Also if you buy certain free agents you lose draft picks and even if you buy lesser free agents that don't cost you a draft pick they will improve the team's record and you will suffer in draft position. It is a tricky problem to solve. Of course you can't completely ignore the parent club as Houston has done. I think our current FO is doing a great job of balancing the spending to achieve our goal. That is to win a WS asap. John's previous articles have covered this very subject extremely well. They are a good read if you have the time.

    I remember the original plan was to get the Cubs to be a consistent playoff team in 4 to 5 years. Looks like they are on schedule to me. This is only year # 2.

  • In reply to Gary Tschosik:

    They maxed out their payroll and added several players this offseason. They did spend on the parent club.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    They maxed out their payroll and it only added up to a mid market total. The problem is that they play in a major market city. It certainly comes as a shock to me that 13 other teams can afford to spend more on payroll than the Cubs. Detroit is spending $46M more than Chicago this season? It's one thing if that were a strategy and they were holding some money back to spend on next year's team. But Theo says they're spending every available penny.

  • I am all in on the direction of the rebuild, but I also feel my heart sink every time the MLB club loses. Then when I read about Daytona losing 8-1 or TN losing 6-2, my heart sinks even further. We all want to see those Ws piling up; it's in our nature. This is tough, no doubt, but I honestly can't say I would be doing anything different than what Theo/Jed are doing. As my handle suggests, I about went into a mental institution when the '69 Cubs blew an eight game lead in September as the Mets (hate 'em to this day for that) got hot (and lucky) and the Cubs got tired. And it's been mostly agony ever since. We fans cannot let ourselves put pressure on these guys to win now if that jeopardizes our chances of becoming that Braves or Cardinals type organization. All that does is mix up the approach, and we all pretty much know that doesn't lead to October excitement year after year. It's kind of like trading your soul to the devil for something tempting in return.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Don't put too much on wins and losses at minor league level. It's about development down there. As an example, the team that won the Midwest League last year, the Wisconsin Rattlers, didn't have a single good prospect on that team.

    What you want to see players develop and improve, and we've seen quite a few players do that already, including Candelario, Alcantara, Contreras, Soler, etc.

  • fb_avatar

    The thing is, if you weren't born before 1970, you aren't old enough to really remember the last time the Cubs were completely stripped down and rebuilt, and even if you are old enough to remember it, you've seen so much losing that you may not have the patience for it, but a complete tear down and rebuild of the team was exactly what was needed.

    The really great organizations build through a strong farm system, and that strong farm system allows them to build from within and make trades for young veterans at the right time. Free agency is only a supplemental tool, unless you're the Yankees and Dodgers, and the Yankees are paying for it at the expense of their overall system, and the Dodgers will pay for it before to long.

    I hate losing. It sucks, but right now, especially given the constraints of the new CBA, it's better to lose big than to be just so-so. The Cubs might have spent their way to .500 the last two winters, but in doing so, they would've hurt themselves in the long run, and in a few years, we'd all be bitching about the bad contracts and still no closer to a World Series.

    What the Cubs are doing now is a much better way of doing things, and it's proven time and again to work. Cubs fans just need to patient. Things are going to get better. It just won't be this year.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    The new CBA did change the game and makes it harder to be average and still acquire the kind of amateur talent you need to rebuild the farm. I think this is the right way to do it -- and I think the Cubs probably knew they were going to lose big for a year or two.

  • Agreed with everyone, John - great article, great discussion.

    The argument has become crystal clear here. Many of us shrug, while the rest say, "good grief, they could have done a lot more." The fact is, I'm not so sure they could have. There is far too much to fix.

    This year, they decided to focus on the rotation. This work began last year with the acquisitions of Travis Wood and Arodys Vizcaino. Do they not care about the bullpen? Besides Fuji, they picked up Lim and Rivero for the future, and they are working hard with Dolis and Cabrera, who may just be getting stretched out as a starter in order to make him a better reliever. I'm actually starting to feel okay about our pitching, which is supposed to be our weakness - who can argue about the rotation right now? It's pretty strong. The bullpen will smooth itself out in time for a pennant run.

    The offense is what has been too big of a problem to fix. It was asked earlier - what does the next big step look like? I think it looks something like a clean slate.

    Soriano is gone, along with Garza and Marmol. Everybody likes a clean slate.

    Castro, Rizzo and Castillo are maturing. It doesn't look smooth yet, but by next year, or the year after, they may start realizing their full potential. It's a core, but it's only 3/8 of a lineup.

    The rest is just fielding a team of legitimate starters. Guys who can contribute with real offense. you can hide a Darwin Barney in a stronger lineup. So I think the other big step that we see will be the moment we are able to recognize another strong bat in this lineup, to make it an even half of a decent core. I think we'll see that bat next year. But how? And who?

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Exactly, Hack. There is indeed to much to fix. I 'm curious as to how the Cubs should have gone about it differently.

    Sign Zach Greinke? Sign Michael Bourn? Sign Josh Hamilton? Would they have salvaged the season? I doubt it. They haven't helped their own teams too much this year (though Greinke and Bourn have been injured).

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Signing any of those guys would have been extremely short -sighted and very tribune-esqe.

    You know they would have been bad moves because those were the ones all of the uninformed fans wanted and made noise about every waking second.

    Those words "do what the fans want and you'll be sitting with them" stuck with me because it perfectly describes last offseason.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Next year's argument begins with three names:

    Cano, Ellsbury, Choo.

    All just barely on the wrong side of 28. All played most of their days in hitter's parks. All lefty bats.

    I assume quickly that Cano never reaches free agency. Not with Jeter's career coming to an end.

    So you have two outfielders who can lead off. Overpriced in a poor market, no doubt. One is oft-injured. A free agent saves the farm from one trade.

    Will it be the right time? 5x15 for Choo? I might actually do that.

  • In reply to HackWilson09:

    Choo might be a good signing - his injury history raises his risk somewhat - but a good corner OF, with a bit of speed, 20-25 HR power, and good OBP skills.

    I would feel more comfy personally with 4 years, with maybe an option for year 5, but as our position player (particularly OF) depth is pretty good already in the minors - a FA pitcher or two makes more sense IMO.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm all in on the rebuild and realize that the front office is going about it in the right way. These things take time and the patience is already being tested, but isn't this exactly what we were expecting/hoping for? I'd rather watch close games that are at least entertaining and often come down to the wire, than a team that is constantly getting blown out. At least, it leaves me with the optimism that a few upgrades and we're just that much closer to respectability.
    I'm hoping that by August instead of seeing Gregg and Loe, we'll be watching Vizcaino and others getting a shot. Baby steps I know, but any chance we get to see possible future pieces of the puzzle, is a positive in my eyes. Losing games right now doesn't hurt us and is actually the key to gaining more high upside talent. Which is really all we're trying to accumulate at this stage of the rebuild process.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would have started the rebuild by signing young guys Like Darvish, and Jackson (whom I wanted signed 2 years ago). Then over paid on short term deals for Beltran, Youkilis, and Bourne, with DeJesus as the 4th outfielder. Then they could have stacked the pen with Villanueva, Russell, Marmol, and Wood. That's just some of what I would have done, but you get the idea. All that was needed was a Red Sox size payroll.
    I liked Hendry's approach, just not his judgement of what a player had between his ears. I know one thing, the feeling of 2004 was ten time better than what's going on now. I would trade 1 World Series now, even if I knew it meant a guaranteed 10 years of losing. I mean, how many thousands of fans die each year who lived their entire life without seeing the Cubs win it all? I know my Dad did.

  • Every time I hear one of my fellow Cubs fan scream for the head of Theo/Sevum I smile inwardly and remember some of the similar levels of screaming and moning about the management of the Nationals right after they moved to DC.

    Their front office also inherited an BAD team, that had been underfunded for decades, that couldn't develop what little talent they did manage to find in the draft to ML caliber players, and couldn't hold on to them once they hit FA eligibility.

    They spent about 4-5 years pretty much stinking up the place (DC) right after they moved from Canada while they built up their Farm system, and systematically drafted good players. Their current roster built from their own draft includes Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond (actually drafted their last year in Montreal), Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Steven Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen & supersub Steve Lombardozzi. They used their farm system to trade for Gio Gonzales and Denard Span in the last two seasons.

    Their only significant FA signings have been Werth & LaRoche.

    That's where I think Theo & Co. are taking us in 2-3 more years. Give them time,... we've already been waiting 100+ years - what's 2-3 more?

  • fb_avatar

    If we are looking long-term, it's probably not too soon to think about trading assets. One name I haven't heard but I think we should trade is Carlos Villanueva.

    Last year, we turned a 3-month investment in Paul Maholm into a top-100 prospect. With Carlos under contract for next year, if he continues to pitch really well, we should be able to repeat that trick, particularly since his contract increasingly looks like a bargain (like Maholm's).

    I don't think we are going to contend next year either, so we may as well cash in on our good fortune there.

    Travis Wood, on the other hand, is under team control through 2016, and is younger. If HE keeps it up, we keep him. We should be thinking about contention in the 2015-16 timeframe, when Wood will still be around.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Agreed - if Villanueva continues to pitch like he has through mid June, and if (as we suspect) the Cubs are seriously out of contention,.... if the right offer comes up - the Cubs would be stupid to NOT filp him for a good prospect or two to a contender.

    As a plus for Villanueva - he would get a chance to play for a playoff team and a shot at a division or better title.

    Also agreed - trading Wood makes far less sense. Good young lefties are hard to find and he's young enough and under team control long enough that he might continue to have an impact once this team IS ready to contend in a couple of years.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Zonk:

    I agree with this completely. Villaneuva and Schierholtz are looking like our best chance of getting value at the trade deadline. (Excepting Garza for the moment for obvious reasons.) Also agree with holding on to Wood due to what he's accomplished so far and the years of control.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    So, I don't necessarily disagree, but at what point do we catch a little lightning in a bottle and keep it? Villanueva is something like 28, and I have to think Schierholtz is similar in age -- those guys could keep contributing for a few years.

    Is it safe to assume here that your thoughts on trading these guys is because you don't trust the consistency to keep up?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mosconml:

    It's because they're short-term assets based on the contract and if a team is willing to give up a Vizcaino-esque arm, with 6 years of team control, to use one of them for a run this year and next year, it makes sense for the Cubs to take the longer term asset.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Also Villanueva historically hasn't pitched like this for a full year. It might be that he's turned a corner, but he reminds me a lot of Julian Tavarez, who could be a good starter, but never for a full season. If someone comes along and wants to give good value for him, I think you do it. He would be higher risk to keep.

  • I think that the FO had a good winter consistant with the rebuild. My disappointment is the play of Castro and Rizzo, who look as though they merely showed up. The younger the major leaguer the more important it is to get off to a good start. Our two young stars play like they missed ST.

  • I don't know about anyone else, but I literally can't wait until the big league club reaches the point of continuous success and I can stop obsessing over the minors (as its currently the only 'bright spot'). Instead of having excitement about whether or not Baez took a walk and Soler hit a bomb - I can look forward to reading the game recaps, while looking forward to impact talent coming up every May / August. I assume this has been the experience for Braves / Cardinal fans for the last 25 and 10 years, respectively.

  • Hmmm, I agree with going long term but that Champagne? Almost thirty years old now. I would not look forward to drinking it. However, that would make one hell of a shower! Yes!

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Oh, I'm not going to drink it! I'm going to douse anyone within 5 feet of me when the Cubs win!

    I'm drinking a scotch or two. And it's going to be the good stuff.

  • John if we ever get there, that bottle will be very special.

Leave a comment