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Thoughts on losing, rebuilding, draft picks, the slumping core, and evaluating Dale Sveum

Thoughts on losing, rebuilding, draft picks, the slumping core, and evaluating Dale Sveum

One of these days we'll be so busy talking about winning baseball and post-season expectations that we won't have time to worry about these kinds of things.  But with the season winding down, it seems frustrations of yet another losing season are taking it's toll.  Even the most optimistic of us are watching with more of an eye toward 2014 than the game to game season ending grind of 2013.

So I find my mind meandering at times to other subjects other than the wins and (mostly) losses on the field.

I find myself watching to see if Junior Lake can really be a long term factor or if his poor approach will catch up with him at some point.  I find myself looking forward to the days when Jake Arrieta starts or when the Cubs will call up more potential 2014 players in September.  I watch the minor leagues and see Tennessee and Daytona winning, not in a meaningless way with experienced organizational types, but with top level prospects, and I think to myself, "Soon, soon."

So Let's Root, Root, Root for....a Draft Pick?

There is also the MLB Draft to look forward to, the ultimate consolation prize of another lost season in terms of won-loss record.  And so I also deal with the paradox of rooting for my favorite team to win and yet hoping the Cubs land themselves another top 5 pick.  It's easy for me to reconcile this.  I am a writer, but I am also a fan of the team.  I do not root for them to lose.  I want them to win every game I watch. It's part of the enjoyment of being a fan -- but as a fan, I have no bearing on whether they win or lose.  My rooting interests have zero impact on when the Cubs draft, so why should I give up the day-to-day fun part of being a fan?  The draft pick will take care of itself.  It's completely out of my control.  I just hope that, when all is said and done, the baseball gods grant us another premium pick to add another elite level talent to the organization.

Do things to please the fans and eventually you'll be sitting with them

Doubts are starting to creep in with the rebuilding process but I don't see anything that isn't really going according to plan.  The farm system is brimming with talent.  Even the team on the field has been interesting to watch although most of that was in the first 2-3 months of the season.  The approach to focus on pitchers pound the lower part of the zone and supporting them with strong infield defense is a good one that has worked wonderfully at times.  Approaches at the plate are slowly, painfully improving and the extra base power is starting to emerge.

There's some concern, however, about the performances of core players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo -- and believe me, I share those concerns too.  As fans, we have every right to be worried, angry, frustrated, and ready to give up on the process.

The front office can't afford to react in the same way as the average fan.  They need to stick with the plan and a trusted process that they believe will be successful in time.  They have to say even-keeled.  We can't assume what we see of Rizzo and Castro right now is what we will see of them down the road any more than we should have believed what that the early 2012 Ryan Dempster had suddenly become an elite level starter at age 35 or that Scott Feldman's excellent start this season was much different than the Scott Feldman of years' past.  It's hard to keep long-term, big picture perspective when there are so many short term highs and lows, but that's exactly what good organizations do.

An example I mentioned before is this: What do you with a talented young 23 year old who plays a premium defensive position and is now in his 3rd season -- but just finished a year in which he batted .216/.274/.321 with 6 HRs?  Do you trade him?  Do you look for his replacement in the minors?  Or do you stay patient and trust your previous evaluations of the player?

That's exactly the decision the St. Louis Cardinals had to make in 2006 with a young catcher named Yadier Molina.  I think it's safe to say they're a good organization and they made the right decision.   Can we even doubt that if Molina was the Cubs catcher back then that we'd have some fans clamoring for a trade and an immediate replacement?  He didn't even have the track record or the pedigree that Castro has, yet the Cards stuck with him.  That's why they're good.   They believe in their process and what they do well.  They get it.

Now this is not to say that Castro and Molina will have the same fate, they are two different players -- but the thought process should be similar.  Good organizations don't jettison process over short-term results.  And while we may not quite be used to it yet, the Cubs are now a good organization.

Evaluating Sveum

And what of the manager's role in all this?  I think evaluating his in-game moves with an undermanned roster is often an exercise in hindsight.  It's not fair to judge Dale Sveum by how moves have or haven't worked out given the talent with which he has had to work.  To illustrate what I mean, I was at the game Sunday when the Cubs  brought Carlos Villanueva in to pitch. Solid choice at that stage in the game. Unfortunately, he quickly got into trouble that would have been even worse had it not been for a great defensive play by  Castro.  So... up comes lefty-hitting Jon Jay who, at this writing, is hitting .206/.300/.320 against LHPs.  You've got a struggling RHP on the mound, so bring in your top lefty reliever, right?

Wrong.

Jay hits a 3-run HR to put the game out of reach.

The wisdom of in-game decisions are often perceived in relation to it's consequence.  The problem inherent in that perception is that consequence isn't solely the result of the wisdom of those decisions.  It's also affected by the talent you have to execute your plan and, whether or not we like to admit it -- plain, old-fashioned luck.  Sometimes you make the "right" decision based on expected trends, but it just doesn't work.  It happens -- but it will happen a lot less when there is better talent on the field with which to execute those plans.

What Sveum should ultimately be evaluated on is the development of his young core.  When you are hired to manage a rebuilding team, the assumption is that your first job isn't to win 100 games or even 81 games, but to get the most out of your talent and help them reach a new level as ballplayers.

The jury is still out in that regard.  The road to a young player's success will have some bumps in the road.  With development comes growing pains and that is even more true at the MLB level.

If there is one team I have watched almost as much of the Cubs (and actually see them more often live), it's the Kane County Cougars.  I have watched player development there with great interest and one of my favorites has been Dan Vogelbach.  With Vogelbach, I've noted some changes in his approach -- his willingness to go with the  pitch and take the  ball the other way and to shorten up and even foul off pitcher's pitches with 2 strikes.  The process here is excellent, but the results, as always lag behind.  Vogelbach saw a signficant decrease in his power numbers at Kane County, yet the process in terms of good at-bats will help him down the road.  I really liked the Vogelbach power display at Boise, but that pull-happy approach wasn't going to work against better pitchers in the long term.  The power will always be there, but transforming that raw power into consistent, useful in-game power required a change in his approach.  That change in his approach, in turn, resulted in a step back in his power numbers...for now.

The difference is that Vogelbach got the opportunity to make this change at the A ball  level, which is much more forgiving, so the transition looks pretty smooth.  It isn't nearly as easy making changes at the MLB level against the best in the game.  So if the pitchers aren't going to be as forgiving and patient while the young Cubs core players try to adjust, then I'm willing to be...for now.  But ultimately we will need to see that one step back turn into two steps forward.

So if you're going to judge Sveum, judge him on that -- but give him and his players some time first.  If there was a year to take a step back, this was a good one.  You hope it means those two steps forward come at a meaningful time when the Cubs field a team that's talented enough to win and make Sveum look like a much smarter manager.

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  • fb_avatar

    "So Let's Root, Root, Root for....a Draft Pick?"

    If they don't draft fourth it's a shame.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    "So Let's Root, Root, Root for....a Draft Pick?"

    If they don't draft fourth it's a shame."

    For it's "Out With Castro" again

    In the old Blaaaame Gaaame.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Haha! You two should compose a song together.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    We'd be the best song-writing matchup since Rimsky met Korsakov ;}

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Haha! I was expecting Lennon-McCartney.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Dont forget John, Lennon and Sir Pauls relationship didnt end particulary well............

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Good point. We don't want that to happen again.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    It only ended crappily because of Yoko

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mutant beast:

    Well, at least it ended better than Martin and Lewis. John and Paul were polar opposites personality-wise, but there was admiration. They are/were geniuses, but I'll take Lennon. Dying young helps your legacy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And you got Lenin-Stalin

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Oh, I don't like their music at all. Stalin can't sing.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    No shame in that. Just a factor of circumstance :) The Cubs did what a responsible rebuilding team should do, they made a decision to unload veterans and look toward players who can help moving forward. The consequence is that they will lose more games, but they can't control how much the Astros or other teams lose.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    We all know they aren't going to lose more games than the Astros and Marlins and probably not the White Sox, but that 4th overall pick is still up for grabs, and if it falls to the Cubs, I don't have to tell you what that means. Not only does it mean the largest draft pool realistically, but it also means the team is in a prime position to pull a coup should any of the top three teams pass on any of the consensus top 3 players because they're to cheap to pay the asking price.

  • Play good ball, but hope for a top pick (for the last time)
    Stay with the long term plan, no high price veterans

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Would you get a high priced veteran if you thought they were one piece away?

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's exactly when you go out and get a high-priced veteran, or two. When you think that player will put you over the top, and when it fills a gaping hole.

    Tigers will one day rue the Prince Fielder contract, but for now, he is helping them over the top

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Hahaha,ditto with the Angels on Pujols. I will be watching with interest to see what moves Theo & Co. make shaping this roster in the off season.

  • fb_avatar

    Not sure how others feel, but I'm not worried about Rizzo. Yeah, he's slumped some, but his BABIP is low, and his defense is fine. Just a couple adjustments and some luck, and I feel he's back on track. He's actually drawn more walks this year than last year.

    Castro, on the other hand, you have to be concerned about his mental approach.

    It's always difficult to evaluate managers who are not dealt a full set of cards. Astros stink, is Bo Porter a bad manager? Who knows? You could argue he's gotten alot out of a very bad roster.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The good thing about Castro's mental approach is that he has the off-season to re-boot. And, getting to spring training, he'll be facing pitchers who are rusty at best. So, he ought to be able to find his stroke and rebuild his confidence before the beginning of the regular season.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I honestly think that team would have a hard time winning in the PCL sometimes.

  • Awesome Job John! It's almost exactly what I would've have written. except that I use a lot of foul language...

    The biggest issue I have with Sveum is his "manage via the media" approach. But other than "Beef", have we seen progress in any of the young players we hoped to be part of the core? That's the truly disturbing part to this season.

  • the losing doesnt bother me because I feel we are rebuilding the right way. spending money on multiple big money free agents to be average always upset me. I love how things are being done and the future of the team looks so bright.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Agree, hope we can pick up some low price not too old players

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    In the big picture, losing doesn't bother me at all. On a game to game basis, I do root for them to win.

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    John, I love this article. I'm so glad you wrote it. It needed to be said.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks. I think my brain needed to unload. I was due for a sprawling, meandering piece on my Cubs thoughts :)

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, I think some people around here needed to read that.

  • John I agree with your point on dale, as far as his moves within the game sometimes just doesn't work. He does not have the talent that other teams have, but what I don't like about dale is sometimes it seems like he is more worried about his job and image than taking some blame. He would say ''we are all in this together'' but the next day he say's the players need to figure it out on there own. In my opinion young players don't need to hear that, especially through the media. Sometimes dale just seems to up tight and the players take that with them on the field.

  • http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=436#comic

    This is you, John.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Haha!

  • Can we strangle fans that talk about "Curses"? irks me to no end. not on here but in general

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    The curse of the Cubs has always been the curse of bad ownership. Hopefully Ricketts ends that curse since it's within his control.

  • I remember last August when people were saying Castro needs an off season to reboot after he hit .264 in June, .235 in July, and .252 in August. He cleaned up on September call up hitting at hit .311 in September to salvage a halfway decent season. I'm not sure why people think an off season is going to fix Castro.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    No, he just forgot how to play baseball. He's doomed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You jest, but if he hits .250-.260 next season, it may be his last starting at short stop for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Maybe, but that's still a big if. When you take his entire history into context, odds are that he will not. I've just seen too many times where people give up on players. I can think of two off the top of my head right now on the Cubs in Jeff Samardzija and Welington Castillo. Samardzija was horrific just 3 years ago as a middle reliever. Castillo almost didn't make it out of A ball. Some people even left Travis Wood for dead after his poor start last year. Heck, some were already worried about Javier Baez earlier this year. The Orioles just gave up on the ultra talented Arrieta and Strop for a couple months of Scott Feldman, a career long 5th starter.

    The game is going to be filled with this kinds of ups and downs. The key is to keep perspective about it. Every good year doesn't forecast a breakthrough and every bad year doesn't forecast a collapse. It's part of the game.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Its not one bad year though. At some point its a trend. wRC+, wOBA, AVG, OBP, Slug% down for 2 straight seasons. His K rate has gone up 2 straight seasons. Not a lot of positive signs the past 2 years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hi John - wanted to try this question again. I know you don't expect Castro to struggle like this next year and that he has a track record as a pure hitter. But what will it take for your mind to change on the subject? How long a period of continued struggles will seriously concern Johhny Arguello?

  • In reply to Charlieboy:

    I think the question more is, what do you do with SS if Castro struggles again? What do you do? Play Donnie Murphy there? Bring up Baez early? What if Baez struggles? Do we start the Marco Hernandez/Carlos Penalver watch?

    What is there to gain by giving up on Castro now or sometime next season?

    But to answer your question, the point where I consider a change is if he struggles for the entire year and Baez comes up to the majors for about half a season (even if it's at 3B or 2B) and shows he can play AND you have a solution for 2B and 3B. At that point you consider a change in the offseason to move Baez back to SS and try to recoup some value for Castro. So to put it in players terms: If you get to the point where Bryant/Olt at 3B, Baez at SS, and Alcantara at 2B all look like they are going to be better than Castro in the next year or two, then you make a change. Otherwise...whats the point again?

    Would you have given up on the 2006 Yadier Molina? And if not what makes him different than Castro? And if you say defense, then what in his track record would have made him a better bet than Barney?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hi John - thanks for going on the record and I agree with you here. Give him another season but if he continues to struggle offensively (for example - a sub .700 OPS) with more middling defensive value for the position (is that fair to describe his 2013 defensive value to Cubs), then you have to consider a change.

    To answer your questions – with the benefit of hindsight I of course would not have given up on Molina in 2006. Your Molina example is great for telling a story but does nothing to guide future decisions on players as there are literally 100’s of examples of top prospects that have come up to the major leagues and struggled their first few years. Some of those guys turned it around and made their GM’s look like geniuses, others flamed out and made the GM’s that stuck with them too long look awful. You know this better than anyone John given your knowledge and history of the game. The Cubs had a similar decision 12 years ago with a top prospect at a premium position that put up slash lines of .250/ .280/ .390 in his 3rd season. They held on to him for 3 more seasons before dumping him for nothing and Hendry still killed to this day for decisions like that.

    For the record – I think Castro will turn it around and again be a high .200’s hitter but I don’t see a guy that will ever hit for much power, get on base at an above average clip or become an elite defender at short. I wish they had waited to extend him because they had the time to wait and the financial resources to see if this guy could perform at an even higher level. I hope I am wrong as I often am.

  • In reply to Charlieboy:

    It was kind of a silly question on my part because no one would admit they would have wanted Molina replaced :) But the point is that good organizations don't easily give up on young talent, especially those at premium positions. It's anecdotal and doesn't prove anything, but knowing what the Cards did just lends some perspective on how teams value such players even when they don't perform well and the potential reward for trusting their talent. Trading these kinds of players away just isn't what good organizations do. The risk is too great and the reward is anything but certain when you're talking about dealing for prospects. Similarly, trading Patterson in his 3rd year would have been incredibly short-sighted. The fact that it didn't work out didn't make that a poor decision at the time. And the fact that Hendry didn't trade him as his value was declining (he was also coming off a major knee injury, which raised further questions and lowered his trade value) isn't necessarily a bad thing. What could the Cubs have gotten for a sliding Patterson? It certainly would have been lesser talent, so why not keep him and see if the light bulb goes on rather than sell him at a discount for guys who probably wouldn't have been impact players anyway.

    Saying you should have traded Patterson or not trading Molina is just an exercise in hindsight, but the common thread (as it is will all top level talents less than 25 years old) is that they don't get traded. Not in the real world where such players have tremendous value. Show me a team that regularly gives up on those players and you will very likely be showing me a very ineffective organization. There's always a chance that such players don't pan out, but they are more likely to pan out when they have already have an MLB track record, yet have not reached their peak seasons.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ah ! the voice of reason. I do agree on Beef & Shark,and hope better days are ahead for Castro & Rizzo as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Touche' again, John.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Batting Average is what it's all about, yeah.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Baseball is not an easy game. Even if you hit .300 and a HOF'er you still failed 70% of the time. So it's easy for folks to jump on the band wagon and point to failures.

    I find it interesting that your Yadir Molina reference went over like a fart in Church. Folks knew something just happened but refused to recognize it. lol

    So the debate will go one with the doubter's finding way more things to point the finger at because like my HOF reference or your Yadir Molina post, a 70% failure rate gives you a whole lot of ammo.

    Then I come back to what you have wrote many times:

    "Do things to please the fans and eventually you'll be sitting with them."

    Fans are fickle. Even reading this blog you will find folks totally depressed or over the top with jubilee just based of a 3 game winning or losing streak. The FO has to be way above this and know without a doubt that their plan will produce long term results. And if they are right, no one will care about what happened at our low point in the rebuilding process.

    Year 2 down. I'm ready to see what year 3 brings.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Haha ;) Sometimes it's good to look back on a similar situation because you can see the before and after, as we can with Molina. We know the before with Castro, but the "after" could be Yadier Molina. Or maybe it's Yunel Escobar (hopefully not). But either way, unless you know he's going to be Escobar, then it's premature to make a big move.

    Fans are fickle. That is our nature and it's our right, but organizations do need to rise above that. The good ones do.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Molina was in his 2nd season when he struggled, and he was a dominant defensive player at that time. If Castro was having Elvis Andrus' season (bad at the plate, great on the field and on the bases) people wouldn't be giving him nearly as much grief.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Because Cubs fans aren't giving Darwin Barney any grief at all? Amazing at how tolerant they've been about his lack of offense because of his great defense!!

    One thing I have found is that when someone wants to believe something badly enough, they will put all kinds of nominal stipulations to try and make it seem like it's a completely different situation.

    If you are a Castro supporter, you could easily say he had the track record of 3 good offensive seasons behind him, whereas Molina did not. Castro's history says he will rebound -- Molina's did not.

    So really, it's all about how you choose to look at things. You can choose to look at one side and try to fit whatever facts support that belief, but if you want to be analytical about it, you have to consider both sides of the argument. Otherwise it's reaching to confirm bias. Never put belief before evidence because it will affect what evidence you choose to believe.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I found it both funny and confusing at the beginning of the season that people here were talking of Castro winning a Gold Glove this year. I didn't get it. His defensive mental lapses have been/are disgusting. Don't they teach baseball in the DR? His miscues aren't even on the Little League level.

  • In reply to giamby:

    And before you start up again, Kenny, this has NOTHING to do with race. I got your not-so-subtle implications earlier. They weren't directed at me, as I hadn't posted, but frankly, I was quite offended.

  • In reply to giamby:

    I apologize if you were able to find offense at what I wrote in response to totally different postings by totally different people, people who seem to have no other explanation for their biases, and only seek to confirm those biases.

  • John, taking a tangent off your point that it is easier to make adjustments lower in the minors, do you see any adjustments Bryant will need before he skips AA? Might be a nice way to focus on some of our best prospects in another story.

  • Huh, Castro leading off?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Omg! Svuem is insulting Castillo batting him 8! Aaaaah! The sky is falling! :)

  • You are right John, Sveum doesn't have much to work with and the trades although good in the long run depleted the team. I try to keep that in mind but some of his moves make me wonder about him. I have switched from cub watching to minor league watching and like you I follow Vogelbach. He adjusts and isn't afraid to change his approach or even make himself over physically. He's had a bad reputation defensively but he's improved considerably according to many. However when he makes it to the majors I wonder if it will be elsewhere.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    I think it's hard to evaluate Sveum in terms of game management right now, and probably a bit unfair. But like I said, he's ultimately going to be judged on how this core develops and on that end there is still work to do.

    As for Vogelbach, I think he has soft hands and has the potential to be a guy who digs balls out of the dirt and be good around the bag in general. His footwork isn't quite there and that skill isn't easy for a big man (which is why it's so hard to find a good left tackle in football too). But Vogelbach is all about his bat. If he hits, someone, somewhere -- maybe even the Cubs -- will find a place for him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I mentioned previously that I don't see too many Cub games (I am in NY and work too much...am at work right now) so I am not the best judge on Sveum. But the continual lineup shuffling for certain players (particularly Castro) does befuddle me....obviously Castro has not put up great numbers, but neither have other players who have stayed largely in the same lineup spot (Rizzo). And Castro isn't the only one moving around. Seems to me that players get comfort being in a particular lineup spot and it would be beneficial if Sveum kept his starters in particular spots, at least for a few games in a row.

  • fb_avatar

    Carrie Muskat ‏@CarrieMuskat 10m

    #Cubs lineup Castro ss, Riz 1b, Lake lf, Schierholtz rf, Murphy 3b, Bogusevic lf, Barney 2b, Castillo c, Arrieta p

    Seem ole Dale is at it again. Castro at the top with Rizzo in the 2 hole. Using CubsTalk/GoCubsGo form of managing with the patended "let's see how it works" approach to baseball.....

    LOL What a season.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Maybe Dale has resorted to pulling the names out of a hat...

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Honestly, I have no issue with this lineup other than Barney hitting in front of Castillo.

    Get Castro and Rizzo some at bats. and break up the back to back lefties of Rizzo and Schierholtz. Both struggle against lefties and it makes them easy late game matchups because the team doesn't have a viable RH platoon partner for either guy right now.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I really think he just pulls names out of a hat to get his lineups, because this makes absolutly no sense at all.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Patented? Because I said Bryant was too advanced for A ball and all he's doing is proving me right? Oh ok.

  • Great article and great points to be made. I have been a huge cub fan for 38 yrs. In my heart I believe Dale has got to be fired. When Dale was first hired he made some strong statements that got me excited. He talked about how bad the cubs were fundamentally, since he was with the Brewers, he got to see the cubs a lot. So I was so pumped to hear him say that we are going do things the right way! Now after watching almost 2 season of Dale ball, I am fed up. It is time for a change. People want to use excuse about the talent isn't there. I agree with that but I also want to se my manager put my team in a position to win and develop younger talent. That hasn't happened.
    Looking back to the cub vs cards game back in July at Wrigley Field on the Sunday night game. Dale put in Strop and he pitched 1 pitch and got out of it and then didn't run him back out there for the 8th. Also in a time when we can't score runs why do we not bunt more? Our line up isn't equipped to get 3 hits in a inning to score a run. The series against cards Dale neglected to bunt and we hit into 4-6-3 double plays. All we first heard about was Dale's Bunt Tournament at spring training. Where are the benefits from that? There are many more examples I could cite.
    Also the young talent has gone backwards. Rizzo, Castro, Vitters, Jackson, and Shark have all gone the wrong way. I was once excited and thought we were on verge of adding puzzle pieces and being ready to compete.

  • I'm for giving the punks a chance. Sveum is another matter. He has shown zipster. I like Lake but he is a loose cannon, Castro needs a spanking and no dinner. I think Rizzo will be okay

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Castro needs a spanking! That's a good line ever if one doesn't agree with that approach.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Wow, people telling Castro to "Grow Up !!!" -- while still wanting to spank him like a child.
    Some fans are as confused as the ballplayers are these days.

  • John very nice article. Sometimes as fans we over analyze and we think we know better. (OK all the time.) It is good that we have a smart FO and they are not listening to fans with knee jerk reactions. I trust that they will make the best decision. It may not work out, but it was the best thing to do at the time. I like to see the Cubs win. I enjoy that but when they lose, especially at this point of this season, I am happy thinking about the next draft pick. Got to be Happy. You will live longer and get to see more Cub WS championships.

  • In reply to John57:

    Thanks -- and that last line is what I call some real perspective! Nicely done!

  • Nice post. Obviously not apples to apples with Castro / Molina. Positional value is similar but what you expect offensively from each position is different.

    The big thing for me is that Molina wasn't supposed to be the face of the franchise. Plus they were winning (a World Series) - so not many people cared about Molina's numbers. His value was nearly completely dependent on his D. Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Carpenter, etc) were all established stars.

    Castro is under the spotlight with no supporting cast - yeah, Rizzo/Shark are there - but Castro has a bit of a track record. And the team is terrible...

  • Good point about being patient with Yadier Molina. Who would have thought way back then that he would be the offensive force he is today?

    It also helps that the Cards have great coaching, a really good batting approach of going with the pitch, putting the ball into play, hitting behind the runner and NOT swinging out of their shoes for the fences. Their whole team has basically bought into that philosophy.

    However, I wonder how long can we stay patient with Castro and Rizzo hitting woes? Do we give them another year or two? At what point do cut bait and move on?

    Believe me, I really really want this core of players like Castro Rizzo, Castillo, Barney to succeed mightily in the future, but the team trends are all pointing downward (on the hitting side) which doesn't give me a lot of hope for the future with the present cast of coaches and players we currently have.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Whatever that point is, it's not after one bad season when these guys are 3-4 years from reaching their prime years. And the Cardinal's coaching staff isn't magic. They don't turn bad players into good ones. Molina was basically just a good player that they didn't give up on after a bad season -- one in which he was 23.

    If the Cubs keep wiping the slate clean and rebuilding the team every couple of years, then it's going to be difficult to move forward. They'll essentially be the Royals or the old Pirates. The Cubs need these players to be part of the solution and are better off waiting to see if they can be that. If you start depending on every minor league prospect to pan out, then you'll very likely be disappointed and will constantly be trying to fill holes.

  • John I agree that its hard to judge Sveum game management at this point but I think we are getting a clear idea on how he handles young players and in my opinion he is horrible at it. I agree with some of the other readers in that I don't want him messing with the Baez Bryants Almoras etc.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    I don't know how the front office feels on that, but from my own point of view and without knowing the whole story, I'm a little concerned.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree very much with kansascub...the last thing we really need is Baez to come up, struggle as many players do when they first get to the majors, and then have Sveum talk trash about Baez's play in his post-game interviews.

    The more I think about it, the less I can find any reason to retain Sveum -- poor record, poor development of players, terrible interviews where he belittles players and nothing exceptionally redeeming otherwise.

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    Batting arguably the best hitter on your team this year 8th? I like Dale and always have but I've started to see some red flags this year. My biggest issue is I feel he plays favorites with players on the team. The second is I absolutely dislike his use of media outlets. Some things should just be said behind closed doors.

    He let's reporters drag him into traps on a daily basis trying to get a negative reaction out of him(mostly about Castro) and he falls for it every time. I want to see a manager back all his players on the media and address issues behind closed doors.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I've been saying that since they hired him. Dale has been on castro since they hired him, saying he needs to change his hitting style and he's a hit seeker and saying his hits are empty calories.He backs rizzo and shark and tells the media how young rizzo is. When he said barney was swinging the bat good I knew something was up.

  • My grade for Dale : Complete total failure: F

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    It has been a very frustrating season-- but still a definite improvement from last year.....We now have a catcher and a good back-up catcher in Navarro. Hopefully Navarro is re-signed! Starting pitching has improved-- a year ago, it was the AAA Cubs as the starting corps after Dempster and Maholm were traded.

  • I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs went heavy on a free agent this year. I'm not talking about the 2007 spending spree but I could see them going after one guy that fits their model because this (I'm hoping) might be the last year they finish in the bottom 9 and their draft pick is protected regardless of what they do. My bet is that it will be a pitcher because it appears that their pitching has further to go than some of the hitters. If things keep at their current pace, we will see Bryant and Baez here in 2015. Alcantara could be here then as well. I see Soler and Almora late 2015/2016 guys. If Olt gets his head fixed, he's going to get the tryout next year and if he sticks, Bryant goes to the OF. Will everyone make it? Who knows. The one thing that we do know is that the Cubs have some pitching talent but they don't have a guy that projects next year as a solid #1 starter. I could see them going heavy on someone like that.

    People say what do you do with this guy if this guy comes up? I think that is a good problem to have. What happens if Lake turns out to be that guy that works out? What do you do with him? How do Soler and Almora fit in if Olt sticks pushing Bryant to the OF and then what do you do with Lake? Where does Baez play? What if Castro gets back to his old form? These are good questions to have. Better questions than we have had in the past.

    By the way, I too am not worried about Rizzo. If he has a better lineup around him, he will benefit but the important thing is that he is playing good defense. You mentioned Molina above. He stuck because he played good defense and then everything came together gradually. I see the same thing with Rizzo.

    Those thinking that Shark is the #1 and we don't need one need to hold on that opinion until Shark gets a little more consistent. If he develops into a #1 type great, then we will have a couple and you need 2 strong starters anyway if you are going to have a shot in the post-season.

  • In reply to joparks:

    Then we should be able to make the same argument for Barney if defense makes it worthwhile to stick with a player -- and I don't really think the Rizzo analogy fits because the value of defense at 1B is not the same as going with a defensive oriented player at catcher -- or any position up the middle for that matter.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I agree with you regarding your statement and for the most part, perhaps the Molina point doesn't fit Rizzo but my thought is that if he was hitting like he was and playing bad 1B, they would have sent him down again. A better comparison might be with the way the Red Sox valued David Ortiz. If you looked at his seasons in MN, there are some similarities and then Theo grabbed him in 03 in his 7th year for the Red Sox and things seemed to click. If you look at the first 3 years of Ortiz and compare the ages, Rizzo is actually ahead of pace. Ortiz didn't start showing signs until his 4th year and then after a down year had a decent 6th season when he was 27. Some guys take longer to grow into the role and the Cubs can afford patience here because the guy isn't a liability in the field.

    As for Barney, I don't know. It's not a secret that if he didn't have his glove, he wouldn't hit enough to be up here. Can you win with guys like that? You can. All the talk seems to be centered on the fact that he's replacable largely because there are guys who have a better bat than he has. However the Cubs have yet to make a commitment to him like they have with Rizzo and Castro which leads many to believe his position is in play as an option for either Baez or Alcantara.

  • In reply to joparks:

    So, should the Cubs allow time for both Rizzo and Castro to grow into their roles? It seems to me that they should. Right now it doesn't seem like the Cubs have much choice anyway.

    Barney is a different story for me. I would say that the defense alone isn't going to be enough to keep him here. He's actually had more value than Molina had at catcher in his first 3 years, but the Cubs do have potential impact players, particularly Baez, ready to step in and upgrade the position. I'm also more willing to live with elite defense/no bat at catcher than I am at 2B.

  • Great article, John. you may have been too kind to Dale, though Here is a question for anyone who wants to answer.

    Do you want Dale Sveum to be the Cubs manager when the next wave of prospects hit the big leagues? (i'm talking Baez, Bryant, Olt and Alcantara).

    I say NO.

  • In reply to djriz:

    Thanks. Maybe I was too kind and I am admittedly a little concerned about whether these players are progressing. But I think if you ask a manager to try and win with this roster, try to change players' approaches, then I think you need to allow him some growing pains too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really don't worry about the in game management (I agree that you can make a perfectly good decision, but if the player doesn't perform, you look bad), though he has made some questionable moves, What I really worry about more is the soft skills. I am not of fan of Managers airing grievances in the press. I prefer a leader who backs his players up in the public sphere.

    I just don't think he's right for a young team. We'll see.

  • Hey John, I just saw a tweet:

    Ben Badler ‏@BenBadler 17m
    Two AL teams have sent top evaluators to Japan to scout a player who might be the top pitcher signed this offseason: http://bit.ly/13FMKW9

    Have you written about him(Masahiro Tanaka) before? Do you think the Cubs will be heavily in on him? He's projected as a #2, better than Garza(per the article) and only 24. He seems like a perfect fit for them!

  • In reply to Rudy:

    I have not but will do so in the near future.

  • In reply to Rudy:

    Wow. His numbers are ridiculous!

    6'2", 205 lbs RHP

    2013: 20 starts, 158 IP - 1.20 era, 130 Strike Outs, 22 Walks

    He has had these kind of cartoon numbers since he was 18 years old.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=tanaka003mas

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    John, we debated on the other thread about Castro at short. I would love for him to figure it out and be a fixture there.

    But serious question: suppose that over the last year, the Cubs front office has seen more of Castro and have soured on him. They don't think he has the same offensive or defensive ceiling that they saw last year. (I'm not sure this is the case. If I had to make a bet, I'd bet no, but it's also consistent with their public statements and Tom's sources from this morning.)

    On the other hand, they've seen Baez play and are impressed with how quickly he responds to coaching and makes the changes they want to see. As a result, they think he will be both a better offensive and defensive catcher than Castro. (This is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. Though Callis *did* say he thought Baez was the better defensive shortstop in the same article that he said he thought Baez would move.)

    So, if they think that Baez will, flat out, be a better shortstop, does it still make sense to keep Castro there?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    *offensive and defensive shortstop

    Oops.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    When we're talking about the difference at SS, we're talking about the difference between a 4.5 and a 5, or maybe a 5 and a 5.5. It's not worth making a change over, which is what I'm sure Callis was implying when he said he liked Baez better at SS but that there would not be a move.

    And it's difficult to judge this piecemeal. Let's give the benefit of the doubt and call Castro a 4.5 and Baez a 5 at SS. What if you think Baez can be a 6 or 6.5 at 3B? I've even heard some (maybe Goldstein?) say that he is a potential Gold Glove at 3B -- so we're even talking a potential 7 or more. Meanwhile, what's Castro at, say second base? Hard to imagine he'll be a lot better because it's not like he doesn't have the range or arm to play SS. The tools aren't going to profile any better at 2B. He'll still likely be a 4.5 or maybe a 5. If that's the case, then you have no gain at all defensively and perhaps even a step backward. If Baez played SS like Lindor, then I strongly consider the switch, but he doesn't.

  • My biggest hope is that Castro just continues to improve defensively. SS has become such a weak hitting position that he should be above average just by playing good defense and hitting even just slightly better than he is now. Undue expectations (which I myself was guilty of) are leading to all this fan frustration, IMO. That being said, it's clear he'd benefit from making things simpler at the plate again.
    As for Rizzo, I am not concerned one iota. 11.1% walk rate, 18.5% K rate, a .194 ISO while getting screwed by a .251 BABIP?! Kid is going to be fine. Let's just imagine for a second that he was actually getting a lucky BABIP and his BA was .275 plus. Would anyone be concerned?

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    In reply to Denim Dan:

    I tend to think BABIP is somewhat misleading with Rizzo. He seems to be getting into trouble by getting pull happy. When he gets his pitch, he's hitting it hard (hence the high ISO), but when the pitcher doesn't make a mistake, he's trying to pull pitches he should go the other way with, and making outs. The extreme shifts are only exacerbating the problem.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I have noticed him hitting hard liners right into the teeth of the shift and that he hasn't gone towards left center as much as he did last year, but I still think he is making consistent, hard contact. A little dip in BABIP, fine, but .251 is pretty outrageous.

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    I doubt Sveum loses his job this winter, but if the young players of this team continue to struggle next season, I think he will be in big trouble. Wins and losses are not so big right now. It's hard to judge him on in game decisions when the overall talent level of the team is so low, but if the young core players of this team are not improving, then he is failing. However, since we are having this discussion, were Sveum to be removed as manager, who do you all think should replace him? Should they give Mike Maddux another go? Should they call Sandberg. I'm trying to imagine whom they might hire that would be available.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I have no clue who would be available, but I sure would like to know the REAL reason Maddux turned us down.

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    John,
    Excellent article as usual. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and even keeled approach.
    However I will take issue with this point, "I think evaluating his (Sveum's) in-game moves with an undermanned roster is often an exercise in hindsight." You then pointed out the example of bringing in Russell to face Jay. Now I don't think any knowledgeable fan felt that was the wrong move to make at that point, and if I were to criticize Sveum for that move, well then I simply don't know baseball. The switch simply didn't work out, that doesn't make it the wrong move.
    My criticism of Sveum was his stubbornness in his choice of closer (Marmol) in end of game situations, when it was apparent to even a casual fan that this likely wasn't going to turn out well.
    When you can perceive the nature of an event before it occurs (in this case another blown save) that is called foresight not hindsight. Too many times I read columns (not yours) that imply it's easy to second-guess a managers decisions, line-up, etc. But if you find yourself throwing things at your TV not after the fact but before, then you weren't second-guessing, you were first-guessing.
    Finally, to be upfront here, I simply don't like Dale Sveum as a manager. I have no idea who would be better, but I would like to see Dave McKay get an opportunity to manage if he wanted it.

  • In reply to Dafoxx:

    Thank you.

    With regard to Marmol, how much of that was Sveum and how much of that was the desire of the front office to create/salvage value from Marmol through use of him in the closer's role?

    And secondly, where were the other options? You may remember the Cubs used several other players in that role -- Russell, Fujikawa, Camp, even Rondon --- all of them failed to perform. He even went to Fujikawa pretty early in the season and if you remember, the plan was to keep him there. Then he got hurt and the Cubs still didn't turn to Marmol right away. They only did so after he briefly pitched well and nobody stepped up to take that closer's role. Then when Kevin Gregg came in and started outpitching every reliever, Sveum didn't take too long before he named him the closer.

    I don't remember it as stubbornness at all.

  • Fans: Hey Dale, use these blocks to build us a winning team.

    Dale: Hey, these aren't blocks, they're turds!

    Fans: We don't care, build us a winning team!

    (Later)

    Dale: Well, I did the best I could with what I had.

    Fans: Hey, that's not a team that a pile of sh$%! Fire Dale! Fire Dale! Fire Dale!

  • In reply to sodakcubs:

    LOL!

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    In reply to sodakcubs:

    Really!
    Shark, Castro, Rizzo, Barney, Castillo, Garza, Russell, DeJesus, Navarro, Schierholtz, Soriano, Woods, all pieces of shit in your book.
    Now take a look at how many games the Cubs blew early in the season, due to poor use of the bullpen. Take a look at how many one run games the Cubs have lost, where maybe a hit and run, or a smart sacrifice puts them in a position to steal a run or a win.
    No, you want to be glib. To prove what? That those of us who think Sveum should go are all ignorant fans?
    I said before I don't like Sveum as a manager, mainly because I don't think he is a manager. I have not seen any discernible strategy demonstrated on his part other than juggle the line-up on a daily basis. I know he hasn't had the "best" players, but I see no evidence of improvement in his players, if anything I see regression.
    And those guys playing for the Cubs do not deserve to be called pieces of shit, by you or anyone else.

  • OK, one thing that I think is pretty safe to say at this point is that Castro and Rizzo are no long "just in slumps". This is a season long thing that will require adjusting. There are too many AB's to just call this a slump at this point.

    The question really comes down to, can the front office and coaching staff instill the proper adjustments (or perhaps returns to previous form, in Castro's case) to get these guys to be potential All-Stars again?

    Another, sort of unrelated side note. We've talked some about the "process" this year. If you get the right process in place, the odds are that good things will happen over time. Dale doesn't seem to have any sort of process. His line-ups look randomly drawn and he has had relief pitching adventures all year. I just struggle to see a strategy with this guy.

  • I think an infusion of talent, something g we are expecting in the next couple of years, is what Rizzo and Castro need. I think they put too much pressure on themselves to perform in such a weak lineup. In Castro's case is has gotten to his head a bit and made him afraid to fail. Makes him swing at bad pitches and take fastballs he would normally mash. He needs to find a way to put the past behind him and take things one pitch at a time.

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    You may be right, it could have been the front office's desire to create or salvage value for Marmol, but it clearly wasn't working. The meltdown against the Mets was the final straw, couldn't use Gregg four days in a row so use Marmol instead in a 3-0 game and stay with him until he gives up 4 runs to lose the game. That is an example of the type of stubbornness I'm referring to. Do you really believe another manager would have stayed with Marmol in that circumstance?

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    Let's "assume" that it's Baez that gets moved to 3B. Both he and Alcantara come up and we see an infield from left to right of Baez, Castro, Alcantara and Rizzo. Bryant is pushed to LF and then we have Almora in CF and Soler in RF.

    I would love to see this lineup in Wrigley. But here's the big question. Do we want a guy like Dale Sveum to manage these young guys knowing his history of favoritism? I am really beginning to think Dale was just hired as a set up guy. Just hold down the fort until the studs are ready to race.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winnah!

    When Sveum was hired I considered it to be a move to keep the bench warm until a team capable of getting to postseason play on a consistent basis was constructed. At that point mgmt would bring in a coach with postseason success on his CV to run the team.

  • We all expect improvement in the players shouldn't we expect improvement in the manager. I guess I'm an idiot for expecting Sveum to do the job he was hired to do which is to help the young players become better.

  • It's obvious that the book on Rizzo is hard stuff in and breaking stuff low and away. It's like we've been watching the same at bat for him over and over all season. We've seen and heard all the talk about mechanics, but when are we going to see adjustments? With all the video Dale and the players watch, I would think we would see Rizzo crowding the plate or moving up in the box against breaking ball pitchers, or moving off the plate a little against the power pitchers. The great hitters all talk about the adjustments they would make game to game, and even pitch to pitch. Shouldn't the Cubs do this too?

  • Lol! 3-0 and 3-1 counts with 2 on, 1 out and first base open and they pitch to Baez. Serves them right! When are teams going to stop doing that in the Southern League?

  • I disagree with the article a bit.

    Sveum has made a LOT of boneheaded in game decisions this year. I was going to post about this earlier, then just watched former Cub Scott Hairston nail a 3 run bomb..........off............wait for it..........a left hander.

    Any manager with sense would put a righty in the game in that situation.

    He does this a lot, and should very much be evaluated on these bone headed decisions he keeps making.

  • John, to reiterate your position on Castro, I just simply think it's way too early to even discuss moving him. The key, in my own mind, is 3rd base. Who is that ultimately going to be? Bryant, perhaps - but not everyone believes he can stick there. Olt, perhaps, but how confident are we about that? Baez? Yeah, to me that is the best outlook right now. Then, if that were to become the case, who is going to be our shortstop? We simply have got to get power/rbi production at 3rd and the corner outfield if Rizzo is going to get up to snuff, for example, and to lighten the load on the pitching staff, imo. Baez, Bryant, and Soler at least project to fulfill that need and I don't see any other way (at this time anyway), so right now I'm hanging on to Castro until this 3rd base situation gets worked out.

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