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Reader Post: Talking Cubs fans off the ledge

Reader Post: Talking Cubs fans off the ledge
It's been a trying year for the Cubs and their fans, who must endure a 3rd straight losing season.  Long-time reader Michael Caldwell thinks it's not yet time for despair.  There has been some progress and let's face it...we knew what we were getting into with this rebuild.
Talking Cub fans off the ledge
byMichael Caldwell

It's been a while, but then I'm the kind of person who has to be inspired to write. Doing the daily deal like John and Adam do isn't who I am. It would interfere to much with my other passion, fishing, but a recent private conversation on Facebook with another contributor to this site has inspired me. It also gave me the title for this article, because "It's not time to jump off the ledge" is exactly what I told him.

Now I'm not going to whoa you with the latest greatest statistical analysis. I love that stuff, but this is more about plain old common sense. Any stats I throw out are basic ones just to make my point. Besides, y'all know the numbers as well as I do. You read them here daily, and I don't explain them as well as others do.

Yes, the Cubs are 12-24, but if the 2015 draft were held tomorrow, they'd have the second overall pick. One has to look at the bright side after all. Top prospect Javier Baez is struggling mightily in AAA, and while Kris Bryant is hardly struggling in AA, his K rate is alarmingly high. However, it's not all bad. There are some good things going on with this Cubs team.

Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are rebounding nicely from their horrible 2013 seasons, and it looks like Rizzo actually can his left-handed pitching as based on his splits. Furthermore, they're doing it in statistically significant sample sizes. In other words, they're not flukes.

Cubs starting pitching has been good. Their combined ERA, 3.66, is 12th out of a possible 30, and they're 13th out of 30 in WHIP. They've also issued the 4th fewest walks of any rotation this season. They have the 6th lowest SLGA out of 30, and the 9th lowest OPSA out of 30. They're solid 1 through 4. In fact, take Carlos Villanueva's starts out, and the Cubs 1 - 4 stacks up against anyone. Recently called up 5th starter Jake Arrieta shows promise of being more than a 5th starter. He could join Travis Wood, who is proving that 2013 wasn't a mirage, as part of a core to be joined eventually by Kyle Hendricks, CJ Edwards and Pierce Johnson, and there is more further down the line.

This year's buy low/sell high candidate, Jason Hammels, has done nothing but help his trade value. I only wish they'd put an option year in that contract to give him some time value. He's even pitched well enough with good enough stuff to merit extension talk. Although at his age, 32, it would have to be a short-term deal.

Jeff Samardzija, whom most of us would like to see extended, hasn't done a thing to hurt his trade value. I think his trade is inevitable, and I don't think it's a money or years issue. He is proving he is worth the money, and they won't mind paying it to someone they think is worth it. I think he's tired of losing, and I think he wants a NTC, which this FO is never going to give him. The bottom line is that he is at the height of his trade value, and if they can't extend him, they have to move him, but I bet they get some really good pieces back for him.

Then there is the guy whom most of  us wouldn't mind seeing traded, Edwin Jackson. He's actually having a decent enough year that some teams might kick the tires on him in July. We can only hope.

The bullpen, overall, hasn't been terrible. Their combined ERA, 3.91, is currently 20th out of a possible 30. They're also 20 out of 30 in WHIP. They're 12th out of 30 in SLGA and 15 out of 30 in OPSA. The really good news here is that some of the most reliable performers in that bullpen, Rondon, Grimm and Ramirez, are also some of the youngest, and for those that aren't performing, replacements aren't far away.

The rest of this team is what it is, but it's like last year, only some of the pieces are younger. We knew that coming in. So we shouldn't be surprised. I can hear Dennis Green screaming into a microphone, "THE CUBS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE," and so they are.

Mike Olt is one of those younger pieces. He has struggled overall, but there have been some good moments too.  I think it's time they play him everyday to find out if he can sink or swim. He might surprise us all. He might drown all together. He might do something in between. We need to know.Ryan Kalish is a pleasant surprise. He's not hitting with the power I'd hoped for, but after a rough start, he's contributing. Maybe the rust is starting to come off.What can I say about Javier Baez that you don't already know? .157/.250/.292 with 9 BB to 37 K over 24 games and 89 AB says it all. Right now he sucks, but we also know he is a notoriously slow starter. He has adjusted at every other level. I suspect he will adjust here as well, though maybe not to the degree he has in the past. The older 3A and 4A pitchers are eating him alive right now, but honestly, struggling like this could be the wake up call he needs to realize that talent alone isn't enough, and that he really does need to refine his mental approach. He isn't the first completely full of himself kid they've brought down to size, and he won't be the last.

I will say this about Baez. I won't be shocked if he is dealt before he ever has a chance to truly establish himself with the Cubs. This FO didn't draft him, and he's not their kind of player philosophically. The hope was always that he could learn to be, or that they could meet somewhere in the middle. I think we're going to find out this year if that hope comes true or not. If not, he'll have lost some value, but my guess is that there will be a few teams out there who will take the chance that they could get the best out of him. Let us hope it doesn't come to that.

Kris Bryant may be about to overtake Baez. It won't shock me if he makes it to Wrigley first, but that is a bit premature. Bryant is having a fine year. The only knock on him is the strikeouts, and some want to bring up Brett Jackson comparisons. Really? Brett Jackson never dominated a level the way Kris Bryant has and is, and furthermore, if Bryant had the kind of questions about his swing, coming out of college, that Jackson did, he wouldn't have been the #2 overall pick in the draft. The people making those comps need to get a grip.There is another thing I want to get off my chest. People need to lay off Grandpa Renteria. He's been around, but this is still his first gig in the top spot at this level. Like his young players, he is learning too. We need to give him and them some room to grow.In spite of the record, this team in not a disappointment to me. I made no bones in the comments section of various threads what I wanted and expected from this team. An improved record would be nice, but I don't want it to be so improved that they lose out on a protected pick in 2015. If Team Theo decides it's time to start writing checks this winter, I'd rather lose a second round pick than to lose a first round pick. I said I wanted to see Rizzo and Castro improve, and they have. I said, if we can't extend Samardzija, then I hope he at least doesn't have anything happen, health or performance wise, to diminish his trade value. He's been even better than that so far. The other things I said I wanted to see out this team are in limbo. Olt has yet to put his claim on an every day job, and the book is still out on Kalish.

As for the rest, I go back to the Dennis Green rant. THE CUBS ARE WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WERE. This roster wasn't intended to win. It's got to many players on it in major roles who would be in minor roles on a winning team. People need to remember that and step away from the ledge. Thanks for reading my contribution, and I look forward to your responses.

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  • fb_avatar

    It's gonna be 5 yrs not 3.

  • For those us on board with the rebuild I don't think there needs to be a lot of getting talked off the ledge, you're absolutely right that they are who we though they were.

    I just need to get talked off the ledge when it comes to Baez. Last year can't be dismissed, but either can a .151 batting after over 100 plate appearances with virtually no contact being made. Growing pains? Too much pressure? Sure. Could he just not be a player who can succeed against advanced pitching? I don't think that conclusion at all can be drawn and I'm definitely starting to worry. But not quite ready to jump.

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    In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    I think that bat speed alone will allow Baez to find a role on a major league team eventually. That and the fact that he can play SS allows him to play almost anywhere on the diamond. The question is can he refine the approach enough to be all that his physical tools allow him to be, and for him, it may literally mean the difference between the HOF and one of those great what might have been types. His challenge is to recognize what is being done to him, why it is being done and to adapt accordingly. That's all mental. In some ways, it's the same challenge Sammy Sosa faced.

    People aren't going to like it when I say this. I mean lets face it. Sosa was an asshole, but his success wasn't all the steroids either. He changed his approach a little bit from what it had been before 1998. He still struck out a lot, but he was willing to let them walk him a little more often. Granted, some of those were intentional walks and the old unintentional/intentional kind, but there was still a slight change in his approach, and that change probably helped him as much as the steroids.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Sosa walked because he was hitting so many dingers that pictures became leery, and he was smart enough to take what was being given. It still stemmed from the roids.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to salty:

    You mean the 'roids he was never caught with, and never tested positive for (other than the unconfirmed rumor that he's on the 'secret' list of 103)?

    Even if we allow that your assumption is correct, Sosa was still a dangerous player who put up multiple 30/30 seasons while leading all NL RF's in assists before the steroid rumors crept into the picture.

    I think the increased walk totals would have been a natural progression of his game either way, but perhaps were magnified a bit by the increased power numbers.

  • Great piece, although I don't necessarily agree on the Baez point, considering the previous regime also drafted Castro and he's still here. Granted they don't yet know what they have with Baez, but I think even if they can't turn him into their kind of player, it would kind of be crazy to trade someone who most experts agree is the best or one of the best prospects in the game.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Epstein traded Hanley Ramirez, the organizations top prosect. He had a ton of potential - the bat speed and pitch recognition (which Baez struggles with) but wasn't putting it all together. It is not out of the question and I don't think it would crazy to trade Baez for the right haul - Beckett was just 25 years old coming off his best season, and already with a World Series MVP.

    Would you take Matt Moore, Shelby Miller, Bumgardner or Mat Latos for Baez + a CJ Edwards?

    I am not suggesting any of those players are available, but a similar comp for the 2005 Hanley, Sanchez - Beckett, Lowell, Mota deal.

    I know you know, but even the best prospects are not guaranteed and trading for an already established TOR pitcher with plenty of years is not crazy.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    No, I wouldn't make any of those deals. Beckett was on another level at the time. Hanley also had character concerns that Baez doesn't. And they were also taking advantage of the small market team doing a sell off. There are more teams that are smart about handling their young assets and locking them up (Teheran) or keeping them and getting their prime years out of them before trading them (Price).

    If a 25 year old Josh Beckett type would actually become available, like maybe Jose Fernandez in a few seasons, sure I'll trade Javy. It just isn't going to happen though.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Baez doesn't have character concerns?

    To be clear, I was not saying that any of those trades would or could happen, I was drawing an analogy to show that trading your top prospect is not always "crazy."

    And I would say Matt Moore at 24 is all of what Beckett was.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Matt Moore has trouble throwing strikes. Beckett was one of the best pitchers in baseball by the time he was 21. Not even close to the same player. The parallel to Beckett right now would be Fernandez, Teheran, maybe Wacha.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Compare Matt Moore to Beckett at the same age? Not even close. Your right, Wacha or Fernandez would be better comps. Matt Moore cant throw strikes consistently-hes good WHEN he does, and now has long-term health concerns.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    difference is Boston was chasing a world series when that trade was made. cubs aren't trading top prospects while in re build mode

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Trading 21 year old prospects for 24 ML ace pitchers would be fit into re-build mode. At least I hope that is what is going on.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    The Red Sox had already, finally, won a World Series when that Hanley trade was made. I understand what you're saying but you have to think of the organizational psyche at the time. It's totally different than what the Cubs are facing right now.

    Epstein also didn't draft Jon Lester, but came on board just after he joined the organization. I can't remember if it was on Cubs Den or elsewhere but someone pointed out how Lester wasn't really that highly touted when he was drafted, but at some point after Theo took over, and implemented all of his plans, he developed into a different player.

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    In reply to JohnCC:

    The Hanley Ramirez trade is exactly what I had in mind when I wrote that paragraph. Ramirez really appeared to take a step back in AA in 2005, and they decided they were better off trading him. I could see the same thing happening with Baez.

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    In reply to JohnCC:

    If we're going to trade Baez, which I'm not against, the other side of the coin has to be someone in the Giancarlo Staton, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Fernandez, (healthy) Chris Sale tier. As I don't think any of them are going anywhere, I don't think flipping Baez is a good idea.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree Mike. That is what I was trying to say. Making Baez untouchable is silliness. I would trade him for Fernandez today...unfortunately I don't think Miami would.

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    In reply to jorel1114:

    Castro and Baez have different personalities though. Baez comes off to me as much more headstrong. Castro is more passive and seemingly more eager to please. I don't think the FO blamed Castro as much for his own struggles as they did Sveum.

    I know this FO wouldn't have drafted Baez had the choice been theirs to make. My guess is they would've taken George Springer. That said, Castro was signed as a 16yo out of the Dominican. He may well have been on their radar, but the Cubs just wanted him more.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    See I've been wondering if Baez is suffering the same fate Castro did last year, which is an organization attempting to change his approach at the plate in order to change him into their kind of player.

    It basically seems like Baez was told he still has some things to work on, so is that what we're seeing and why he's struggling?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jorel1114:

    I'm sure they're pushing him to be more selective at the plate, but then they should be.

  • I will share a sad story and hate me if you will.

    I have been a Cubs fan since 1984. However, after another year of the season being over IN THE FIRST MONTH, I had a thought I have never had, thought I would never had, and felt GUILTY for having..............

    I'm seriously considering finding a new team for the first time!

    I sometimes wondering if following a loser has had an effect on my own life at times. I am, I'm sick of it. Everyone talks about how "stupid" the Yankees are for their spending, yet year after year, they are in it, and we are not.

    I realized Sam Zell screwed things up big time and it's a mess to get fixed. But, still, I own a small sports team too, and I have to produce.

    The Cubs get the benefit of being the "lovable losers" and I'm just getting sick of it, so this post is timely for me personally. I don't know what type of timeline I'm going to set, but it probably won't be more than a couple of years.

    Hate me if you will but I'm just fed up and I have put as much time and love into this team than most fans.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Some of us don't have the option. We were born Cubs fans and couldn't give them up if we wanted to. But we don't want to. Win or lose, good or bad, it's the Cubs I love. And love is all that matters.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    I am definitely in this boat.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    A BIG AMEN TO THAT!!!

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Bullshit, you will be a Cub fan until the day that you die! We've all felt like that a time or two. Actually, this is a great time to be a Cub fan. Die Hard my friend!

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    bye!

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Born & raised a Cubs fan here. Couldn't change if I wanted to.

    Despite living in KS for a decade or so, just down the road from the Royals, never saw a live game while living there.

    Have lived about halfway between Balt & DC for a decade, and never saw a live game for either team to this stage - although I am thinking about going to a DC game this July when the Cubs are in town. Have been getting my Summertime live BB fix by watching the local Orioles minor-league affiliate,......

    Later man - do what you gotta do.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to givejonadollar:

    I wasn't born into Cubsfandom. I grew up in Cardinals and Reds territory, as far away from Chicago as you can possibly get and still be in Illinois. The radio station in the town I grew up in just happened to carry Cubs games though, and in 1984, we got cable-tv. I was hooked. My heart will always be with the Cubs, but I will admit I've rooted for other teams from time to time, namely the Braves during their run. I also liked the Royals during the George Brett years, and I'm not anti-Reds. I too hate that "loveable losers" tag.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    It'll really suck for you when the Cubs win the World Series.

    But just like everyone else who steps off the ledge, I suspect you'll be looking for that nice, soft bandwagon to land on once they become contenders.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    i was thinking the same thing

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    You'll be sitting in the fan section when they turn things around. I'd be willing to bet that when the big day happens, Cubs fans and fallen away Cubs fans will be cheering as loudly together. Some things you just can't make go away by saying it's over.

  • fb_avatar

    GiveJona Dollar

    I love the real emotions that you are showing. I know you may want to give up and pick a team, and that is your right. But will you actually care as much as you do for the cubs.

    Btw, if you did actually give up, you wouldn't be reading this post or my comments.

    I feel your pain, but what is a few more years on 30?

  • In reply to Rushi Desai:

    Well said Rushi. People always get mad if you disagree with something they are passionate about, but I'm 35 years old and I have been a fan since 1984 when I was 5. I understand where some of the rude people above are coming from, but it's no matter.

    Anyone that calls me "fair weathered" is ill informed. We all have our moments where enough is enough. I'm getting dangerously close.

    They need to start winning and fostering a culture of winning. Lots of talk about doing it, but talking and doing are two different things.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Jon,
    You've been a commenter on this blog for quite some time. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if you are truly a fan, I don't think it's possible to give up on them. I'd venture to guess that 99% of the people here have had those, "that's it, I'm done with this crummy team." moments. But we all come back. I suggest a hiatis from them for a few weeks. Then see how you feel. If they had swept the Braves this weekend, you might also feel differently. I'm a year older than you, and totally get where you're coming from. I think we all do. But being a Cubs fan has had a lot of heartbreak for me, and yet that eternal optimism that someday it would happen is never far from all of the failure.

    I had a friend once tell me that it was the fans fault for the Cubs failures. He had just read that book The Secret, and felt that whenever the Cubs were on the brink, all the negative energy of everyone watching in the stadium and at home did them in. I laughed at his comments, but not for too long...

  • Wait, the Ricketts are trying to make a deal with the people on the ledge.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    LOL Aquinas wired! Unfortunately there is one person on the ledge who is holding out, so instead of moving ahead with their plans they are going to wait until 2018 for that one ledge dweller to change their mind!

  • Again a higher draft pick in 2015 is our only good thing to come out
    of this season.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Hardly, Castro and Rizzo taking steps forward are huge pluses, even if it doesn't immediately show up in the win column, and even if Baez is struggling, there are still a lot of good things going on in the farm system.

  • Trade Javy? Sigh. I really thought we were done with that.

    I know, Javy Baez is terrible and never making it out of A ball and Emilio Bonifacio is the leadoff hitter we have all been searching for our whole lives. Its a month into the season. Isn't it far more likely that Javy is still awesome and Bonifacio is still just a bench guy?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to mjvz:

    Seriously! He's struggled with more polished hitting for the first time in his minor league career. Now, people like this Caldwell are mentioning trading Baez. Its insane. Just for the fact that before this season, no one would dare bring up the idea of trading him. But of course, now these people are just being prudent. This change in "die before trade" to "couldn't hurt to listen" is ridiculous. Funny how the article was about not jumping off a ledge, but you sure did jump to a crazy conclusion with such a small sample size for Baez.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    I'm neither for or against trading him right now. I'm looking at what this FO has done in the past, and trading him wouldn't be unprecedented for them if the right deal came along.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm not commenting on whether you were for or against trading him. I think its a bit premature to bring up the idea at all for trading him. But I understand the frustration. But as Caps mentioned below, Baez does have a promising walk rate, and he is struggling for the first time in his career this "late" in a season as he ever has.

    I think we are all on the same page that this front office can and will make any move that makes this team better. I was strictly commenting on the fact that the idea of trading Baez has never really been mentioned in any serious capacity before on this site.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    That fact that his walk rate is getting better may be the thing that distinguishes him from Hanley Ramirez. Rzmirez's regression in 2005 in that one area is probably what made him expendable, but keep in mind, no one is untouchable. There are some that it's going to take more to move than others.

  • Thanks Mike, for a very enjoyable read! I think Baez will straighten himself out soon.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Maybe not soon, but eventually. That's good enough for me.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to SFToby:

    Thank you, and I suspect he will bounce back to some degree as well.

  • fb_avatar

    Great piece. 100% agree.

    I think some people, due to his unique history, forger that this is Olt's rookie season.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    ...and that he's essentially a straight-from-AA-to-the-bigs rookie. His AAA "experience" was nullified by the fact that he couldn't see what was going on. As has been said before, this horrible start means that we've got nothing to lose by letting him play everyday and get comfortable out there. Despite what we consider to be a horrible start, he was leading all NL rookies in homers and RBI last I checked. It's not all bad.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Giffmo:

    Yeah, I simply don't think you can count last season when looking at Olt. Yes, he did play in over 100 games, but he wasn't at 100% physically by any means. Right now, he's playing catch up at the Major League level, and he is probably pressing.

  • I was going to get off thr ledge until I read the part saying that Baez sucks and that you wouldn't be surprised to see him traded sooner rather than later lol.

    But to his defense... Despite his struggles and his inability to cut down on his swing, he has a decent walk rate and his obp is about .100 points higher than his BA... At that rate, if his BA raises to .250, his obp would already be a solid .350.

  • fb_avatar

    I've watched 35+ at bats from Baez this year in Des Moines. My untrained eye's takeaway:

    1) He's not selective. He'll take a Fastball strike on the outside corner on a 1-0 count and then swing at another pitch two inches outside on the 1-1 count. He's getting LOTS of pitchers counts (1-2, 2-2, 0-2) and they're eating him up with offspeed stuff away late in counts. Even worse, it's killing his walks.

    2) He's not using all fields. His bat speed is fast enough to make adjustments late in a swing and poke balls to the gap in right, but he's looking for mistakes instead of going with the pitch. The result is lots of popups and really bad contact.

    3) His defense is suspect. I'm not sure how long the Cubs plan on keeping him at short, or why they even think he belongs there. Economists talk about the theory of "sunk costs," or a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Meaning, they have so much invested in him at SS, that their hubris is showing its wares. Castro is the SS for the next 6 years at least. Do they not realize the value that he might have in the outfield or 3B? I know this has been discussed on this blog. Yesterday alone, the dude misplayed 3 routine grounders and almost had 2 throwing errors if it weren't for Lars Anderson's glove work.

    In short, I think Cubs fans can forget about seeing him up with the big club this year until September at least unless he sorts this out.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Phil James:

    Okay, I should have clarified about the walks. Apparently he's walking at a 9.5% clip, much better than his career average. I was working off what I'm looking at in person, not the evidence. :)

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Wasn't Castro walking at a better rate last season?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jorel1114:

    No, Castro is actually on pace to have a career year in walks.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    No I mean his walk rate was up last year too wasn't it? I know he's doing even better this year, but I thought his walk totals going up were about the only positive thing to come out of last year. Maybe it was just PPA or something. I just saw John's post about his PPA going down this year even with his walks going up.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jorel1114:

    His walk rate last season was his worst of his career.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    there is no need to move him off ss at AAA. it won't happen

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I'd rather have Alcantara at SS and Baez at short. AA has a much better glove, quick release and about the same range.

  • I'd be on the ledge if I was a Phillies fan. just signs m Byrd and aj Burnett to bad deals. no minor league system. Ruben amaro has turned that org into a dumpster fire.

  • Based on what he is doing this year, it would be a mistake for the Cubs to even think of calling Baez up in September.

    He just isn't ready yet. He is young for AAA, and playing against guys who are 3-5 years older is obviously showing in his lack of adjustments. Based on that adjustment period and age factor, he realistically, needs to stay at AAA until sometime late 2015 (at the earliest).

    This isn't the timeline most fans hoped for him, but it might be the best thing for his career in the long run. Its all about the development process.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    September is a long time away and late 2015 is even later. Last year Baez flipped the switch twice , once at Daytona and once at Tenn. I don't think it is impossible for that to happen again this year. You can't pick a time now for him to be promoted. You just wait for flipping the switch to happen and when it does he can be promoted.

  • In reply to John57:

    Sure I agree if he "flips the switch" later this season or next--then its a whole new situation.

    But I'm basing it on what I am seeing right now, and he hasn't flipped any switches so far at AAA!

  • I've been a CubFan for 60+ years, and right now I'm in a lot of pain. Like a slow building headache that will not go away...,and is getting worse.

    To watch them play, it like watchin' a sky diver fall to the ground because his shoot won't open. Flickers of hope, then SPLAT.

    Take away Rizzo, Ok + Castro, and on Offense you have a parade of losers. (Casto isn't getting better like most people think, he's been rejuvenated by RR, but that's fading too. I see wild swings and misses just like last year, more and more.)

    I look at Shierholtz, picked up, has a decent first half, slowly but surely loses his enthusiasm and confidence in the second half, starts out flat this year, and he's done. And he's our next best player.
    Castillo, same thing. Here's a guy that we really need to be at least solid. One big hit all year that I can remember.

    Starters carrot is, "if I do well, its only to get traded and out-of-town".

    Relievers, takin' turns givin up the big runs that lose games for the starters. Good game, good game, quick kerosene(lose the game after a good starters effort, usually by walking the first guy). Then a rebuild of confidence stretch..,till it happens again.

    Lastly, the BIG CARROT...,the Core Four. Four Guys we have that Everybody Else wants and will come aboard and right the GoodShip Cubbies for Years.

    Soler.., Mr. Hurt.
    Almora..,Mr. What-Happened
    Baez.., Mr. Swing for the Homer, I'm So
    Good
    Bryant..,Mr. Last Hope

    Hey, don't jump off that ledge, I just found this bottle of False Hope to keep you goin, don't jump off that ledge...,OOOOPS---Too Late!!!

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    If there is anything that can be learned from Baez struggling, or Soler and Almora battling injuries, its that depth in the minor leagues is even more critical for this team to be successful.

    If you are looking for help through free agency, you are in for a rude awakening. Quality free agents were at a premium last year, and this off-season will be even worse. The only reputable outfielder who would be close to fit the Theo/Hoyer model is Melky Cabrera. Starting pitching may be an area that can be improved with buy low candidates, but there are no Robinson Canos this off season for hitters. Given that fact, the "wall-jumpers" will only increase when we move closer through this season, and into the off season.

  • When I discovered Cubs Den and became a regular reader here in about September 2011, there were a lot of comments about when this FO would start adding instead of subtracting, a lot of talk about Theo spending when the time is right to add some vets. Back then a lot of people here were looking to 2014, certainly by 2015. We were so happy to have Theo and we all just couldn't wait to let him do his thing. But the timeline for success kept getting pushed back, incrementally, almost unnoticeably. And there wasn't been much squawking about how long its taken and how long it looks like we'll still have to wait. The wait gets longer and longer. Now its just wait till 2016. Or is it 2017?

    So the impatience grows and frustration starts to take over. I know exactly where givejonadollar is coming from. It's easy to get fed up, especially since Theo initially promised he'd work on two fronts, both fronts, both the MLB team and the farm system. He promised more than he's delivered.

    A few months ago, John had a great piece cataloguing what a great job Theo's done in turning around the farm system and acquiring potentially a lot of long term assets -- emphasis on potentially -- in relatively short order. And he has done a great job. But still.

    So many people -- too many really -- are so thrilled and applaud Theo for developing a top five farm system. Top five? That means there are four better, right. And even if we were the No. 1 farm system, well there are no trophies or parades for that, right? And then of course, I'm so excited about what Baez did last year and carries into spring training and thinking about him getting up here by July and all of us trying to figure out how soon he could get to Wrigley without Cubs losing a year of control etc.. And then, and then . . . he struggles mightily in AAA. Because, shoot he's just a prospect and jeez we've seen this before.

    And Olt. were salivating over Olt in the summer of 2012 and he becomes something of a throw-in in the Garza deal and even though he seems to be beyond his eye trouble, he fails to seize the day and so the questions and doubts start to set in with him too. Alcantara has been decent but nothing more and CJ has a sore whatever and Soler can't stay on the field and Almora is quite pedestrian at Daytona and on and on it goes.

    And so, honest to God, last Thursday morning, after the Cube drop 3 to the Sox, I'm driving up the Dan Ryan last Thursday like I do every day coming to work and I look at The Cell when I get to 35th Street and I see those dark green seats and think, hey, that place don't look so bad after all, and I've always liked the look of those black unis, and a ton of family and very dear friends are Sox fans and so, like givejonadollar, for 30 seconds at least I'm thinking I should be a Sox fan and I start thinking Wrigley is just cursed and they ought to blow that place up too and make it an all encompassing, literal rebuild in the suburbs. And . . . . cause I'm so pissed with the state of affairs.

    But, just like jon knows in his heart of heart, there's no way to quit the Cubs because we love the Cubs and always will. And jeez, I know I'll be going over all the "what ifs" for the 100th time this year if they win two in a row from the Cards only be crushed when they lose 4 of the next 5 or something like that.

    But thank goodness for Cubs Den. This this place is therapeutic.

    In fact, I usually feel better when John responds to one of my rants. But I do wish more of you guys would get a little more pissed and a little less patient and stop the let's trade Shark thing to get value and more prospects and get off the perpetual rebuild mode, and start insisting on Theo doing more about what we see on WGN and CSN everyday and speed this thing up somehow someway. When will it be time to be legitimately angry about the Cubs situation?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Not the "John" you were speaking of, but I will reply. :)

    You are right. It will be hard to leave. And, when they win, of course I would be right back on the bandwagon, so truly it may be an empty threat.

    But, then again, maybe not.

    By the logic of most here, the Astros are going to be the gods of baseball soon. It's not a matter of me ignoring the realities. The Cubs are cash strapped in one way or another.

    I get it. They don't want to overspend on guys, get in a Soriano situation again, I get it. Who do you sign you ask?

    Yes, that gets harder. Ellsbury? Should have we signed Choo? Who? Right?

    Well, all I know, is every single game I watch (almost) we lose by 1 or 2 runs. Seems like 1 or 2 guys being added would really change that. Surely, we are not playing for draft picks?

    Think of the marginal cost of a draft pick, then the profit you would make putting out a WINNING team. The Yankees seem to "get" the economics.

    And, if the Cubs can flip veterans, why can't the Yankees? There may be no trade clauses involved, but if the Yankees want to tank a year, they have plenty of veterans to trade that can help teams in the way to the postseason.

    I'm all for building up the farm, good scouting, cost control, all of it. But, I'm also getting sick of getting beat by 1 OR 2 RUNS when all it would have taken was a piece or two to address it.

    We absolutely could have signed better bullpen guys and I could name some. They absolutely could have signed an outfielder or two or traded for one or two.

    Want to give Olt his shot at 3rd? Fine. I still think he would have been better served in the minors after such a weird eye situation. I think Val-B is fine at the hot corner, and his good approach dictates he can most likely hang with lefties and/or make at least quality at bats.

    My big thing with Theo, as TTP said above, was "parallel fronts". AND, AND, AND, I thought he was going to bring the patience from the Red Sox, part of what I thought was going to be "THE CUBS WAY" in the approach to batting.

    I'm still waiting! :)

  • In reply to TTP:

    when the prospects are on the club and FO doesn't spend any money to better the team. the plan is get the prospects on the club and start spending money then. if that happens and we still suck. be upset.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Theo never promised 2014 was the year we would be playoff contenders. He repeatedly said it would take 5 years to be continual playoff contenders. That is 2016. The Cubs finally have a plan, yes it is 5 years but I am not ready to jump ship at the start of year 3.

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    What is it with the "Baez is a brat and a child" rants on here? I know there were some comments on his body language and eye rolls, but do we really know what he is thinking right now? All of that stuff is highly susceptible to interpretation. Actually, that type of "body language" is in sync with someone who is very frustrated with themselves. His between pitches body communications could be the result of him being upset for not recognizing pitches. He is 21 years old, not 31.

    I'm not defending the poor start. But we have got to stop this whole overreacting to every wink, cough, and sneeze. Making comments about trading Baez when none were to be found before this season IS leaping off a ledge. Pump the breaks. We all knew that any prospect at any time has the potential to fail. This is why depth is necessary for the rebuild to have a chance at someone succeeding.

    If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that you don't put all your eggs in one player's basket. You focus on the minor leagues as a whole. That way, when one prospect falters, you can take solace in the strength of others in the system, rather than labeling Baez a brat who refuses to improve.

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    In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    This is just a site full of opinions from all sorts of cubs fan. Some angry, some still being hopeful. Bottom line is Epstein and Hoyer are in charge. They know what they are doing and will follow through their plan of actions. They have a plan B, a plan C, and even a Plan D. And I'm sure they got these back up plans on Baez too. One thing is certain, they don't read the Cubs den threads for ideas , nor do they seek out for approvals from the threaders.

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    In reply to Cubsforlife:

    I thought this was how the Cubs interviewed candidates. Dang. Guess there is no point to ever post on here then.

    BTW, I heard Renteria's posts on here were what clinched the job for him. Pretty savvy of him. Love when people say that the Cubs FO doesn't read this. I should say they should all be fired if they did.

  • In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    I can tell you that Cubs personnel and the personnel of other teams do indeed read some blogs...including this one.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I would be very happy to be wrong! ;)

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    We all would if it meant a World Series win :)

  • In reply to Cubsforlife:

    Unfortunately, Ricketts said there is no Plan B. There's only the plan of building up the farm system. I'm in the same boat as several other fans here. I'm sick and tired of this rebuilding, and beyond frustrated that the season is over, we have a non-competitive team, and for the third year in a row, we're going to be sellers in July, gutting our rotation again. 300 losses in three years. Remember that Theo said that every opportunity to win is sacred, that we would be working on two fronts, and all we see now is hope for the future. "The Cubs are coming," he said at the end of last year. Really? When? In two years? Three? Ten? In 2012, most of us thought we'd be good by 2014. We're worse this year than we were then!

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    I wish I'd have addressed this in the article, but I failed to. I hear a lot of, "If we're going to suck this badly, why don't we just do what Houston is doing?" I ask in reply, "Who is to say we aren't?"

    This roster was not built to win. Ricketts and the FO can spin it however they want, but I think they've done just enough to say they've done something, and they've been competitive in pursuing potential long term assets (Darvish, Sanchez and Tanaka) that might also help the team in the short term and speed up the rebuild. However, they know the lay of the land.

    The new CBO changed everything. They're boxed in as far as what they can do to acquire young amateur talent. Simply put, the best way to do that now is to lose at the Major League level, which they are, but Chicago isn't Houston. I'd bet any amount of money you liked that, when Team Theo found out the White Sox sweep had officially cost them draft position, they all went home pissed that day.

    No one cares about the Astros one way or another unless they're competitive. Houston can be open about what they're doing. The Cubs can't. Ricketts and the FO have to at least make it look like they're trying. They catch enough flack from the mainstream press now. Imagine if they really were open and honest about things.

    Now I'm okay with that. To me, it is what it is. I see their goal of not just being good for a year or two, but being good for an extended period of time. I think they're doing the right thing, but I think it's going to take longer than they thought.

    2013, even if 2014's record is worse, will be the year things bottomed out to me. There just wasn't much from that season to walk away happy about at the big league level. I don't think that's going to be the case this year, and regardless of where this team finishes, I'd take the 2014 team over the 2013 team in a 7 game series.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed! Especially with the part about international free agents. Puig, Cespedes, Ryu, and Tanaka were underbid by the Cubs. I made this comment on Twitter to Felz, and its interesting that not one time have the Cubs forced these free agents to choose their higher offer than a lower one with a better team. If they were willing to give Tanaka, who was just as unproven as the others on that list, 6 years, 120 million, then why couldn't the Cubs have offered more to Puig, Cespedes, or Ryu?

    Although it can't be proven, the offers could be smoke in mirrors. The conspiracy that came across my head was that the Cubs were never really serious about signing any of these players, but were able to put their name out in the baseball world by making these "bids." Thus, the appearance is given of a team having money to spend when they actually don't.

    If you are waiting for the Ricketts to admit they don't have it, you will likely see a Cubs World Series victory before that happens. They made their millions from their publicly traded Ameritrade company. No owner or majority stockholder ever admits a problem with financial liquidity. That creates fear in stockholders, and causes people to sell, driving stock prices down.

  • In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    Ricketts said point blank that they don't have a problem with spending money when the time is right.

    And talking about IFAs signed in the last two years, the Cubs have gotten way more than their fair share.

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    In reply to John57:

    That is what a business person says when they don't want to tip their hand regarding their finances. I'm not saying they are completely insolvent, but there does appear to be an issue with spending. You may be right, but would you ever expect Ricketts to ever say they don't have the money? What message would that send to the fans?

    I referred to the high profile IFAs that would be able to be plugged in to the major league team. Puig or Cespedes are both more athletic and younger than any outfielder we have not named Lake. They are also producing much more than anyone on our team not named Castro or Rizzo. When it comes to ready to go IFAs, the Cubs have failed to make an offer higher than any other team.

  • In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    I still feel that we don't really know if there's an issue with spending or if they just don't see any reason to spend right now. And maybe the bids for Tanaka and Darvish were just to show fans they were trying, knowing they wouldn't get the players. Because what they want to do is have awful teams so they can get high draft picks. It speaks to Caldwell's comment about the Cubs being the kind of team that, unlike the Astros, can't just come out and say "yeah we are tanking".

    So maybe the underbid offers to Tanaka and Darvish were just blowing smoke to appease fans. And if they got those guys, well it's not the worst thing in the world to have either of them. Plus while they are great pitchers, pitching isn't our problem now. And I think Theo and Co knew that too. The offense has been our biggest issue by far over the last 3 years. Don't have any big home run hitters, don't have a lot of clutch hitting, haven't even had the old Castro until this year. So if by change they did last either of those IFA pitchers, what would it really do for us? We'd still probably be very bad and still probably end up with a top 10 draft pick for several seasons.

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    In reply to Drinkin Olt Cola:

    I'm not sure they were ever interested in Puig, and I think the attempts at other high profile FA's were earnest ones. They'd have probably been happy to have to guys at their price and years, but there is also the other side of the coin. Those players may not have wanted to be part of a rebuild. Tanaka and Darvish for sure wanted to win right away.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Darvish went to the highest bidder. He had no choice between win right away or not. Tanaka and his wife seemed to like NY for a number of reasons not all of them baseball related. I agree I don't think they really tried for Puig. They much preferred the younger and more athletic Soler.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    We are absolutely not doing what Houston did. Houston stripped off anything of value whatsoever from the major league team to acquire minor league pieces. Cashner would have been moved for minor league talent, not Rizzo, Samardzija would have been gone in year 1, along with Soriano. David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, and Edwin Jackson wouldn't have been signed. They were not, in any sense of the word, full on tanking the way Houston was.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Plus, the Cubs traded Garza for not only future talent C.J. Edwards, but also current talent of Grimm, Ramirez, and Olt. Just because the results were less than what Theo hoped for does not mean that he tanked this team. He wants to win now as badly as any Cubs fan, but he won't forsake the future to do so.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Rizzo wasn't exactly an established Major League player either. Are their differences? Yes, but like I said above, nobody in Houston really cares that the Astros were so open about what they did. The Cubs couldn't be that brazen. They'd have been skewered. Call it half-assed tanking then. DDJ and Nate weren't brought into win now. They're not those kinds of players. They were brought in to make it look like they'd done something, and if they performed at all, to be spun off. They were also brought in to be filler material until better talent came along, and they were partially intended to be stable ponies.

    I think they took a chance on Jackson that he'd finally become the pitcher everyone thought he could be with the hope that the dollar and time value of the contract might allow him to be moved as well.

    They've tanked all right. They've just not been as bold about it.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    If this is tanking, then Theo and Jed should be fired immediately for being SOOOO bad at it, finishing fourth in a season when the top three picks are where it's at.

    And I'm not kidding.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Sadly your view is not shared with some members of the media in this town, and those unnamed people continue writing garbage columns that pander to the LCD of Cubs fans.

  • drinkin olt cola! love your posts!

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Thanks CubfanInUT. That's very kind of you. :)

  • Mike, I think those difference are subtle. Rizzo was a minor leaguer when acquired. Dejesus was and schierholtz where pretty good relatively cheap deals.. I still dont understand the E Jackson deal to this day. but for the most part.. The Cubs and Houston are re-building their clubs with the same principles in mind.

  • Speaking of the 2015 draft, who will be the top prospects for next year? Anyone like Rodon who was brought up last year at this point?

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Buzz, at this point Daz Cameron, HS center fielder from Ga. is the consensus #1 pick. Dave Cameron's kid.

    Could it be Cubs draft two 'legacy' guys in back-to-back years?
    Gordon 2014/Cameron 2015?

  • The only real problem I see here is that Baez and Bryant will not be arriving in time to save this year. That was a long shot anyway.

    Will Baez bust? It could happen, but it is way to early to be going there. Baseball is a hard game to play and a harder game to learn. Everyone here knows this. Give the guy some time. If he gets it figured out, it will have been worth the wait. If he doesn't, what has been lost by waiting to declare him a bust?

    The only way I can stop being a Cubs fan is by dying. So, eventually I will give them up, but until then I'm a Cubs fan.

  • I've got an uncle that turns 91 this year. Still recites the '35 lineup (that's 1935) and tells stories of returning to the States from Tokyo and listening to the '45 (that's 1945) World Series while shipboard. It's guys like that for whom I feel sorry. And in his final years he has to experience this. I wish there was some urgency for fans like him.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    I agree, that is the hard part and I know people in similar situations, but you have to admit that is no basis for a team to make baseball decisions.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I do. And this ownership can't be expected to make up for errors in the past.

  • I too am stuck being a Cubs fan....but the crap we've seen for the last few seasons and this one so far is unacceptable! Improving a farm system and putting (at least) an OK MLB team on the field are not mutually exclusive goals. There are low cost/short term free agents who could have been signed to put a better product on the field. This year's team is on pace to be the WORST CUB TEAM EVER...and that's saying something. If this continues who gets fired at the end of the season?

  • I don't see how "we knew they wouldn't be good" excuses them for being horrible, which they are. There is little reason to think they'll be good next year either. The owner is getting away with way too little effort on the team.

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    "Let's face it, Sosa was an asshole"

    Sosa was anything but an asshole. He smiled, played with style, was fan friendly and was a great player.

    Saying something like this truely shows flaws in your credibility. You might try something like Sosa was not popular with his teammates, but calling him out like that is bush leauge!

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    Sosa groped my girlfriend's sister's ass when she was a waitress! Class act? Hardly.

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    In reply to givejonadollar:

    I bet my last dollar that your, what was it, your girlfriends sister loved it and is only mad because Sosa did not want her baby!

  • I've been a Cub's fan for a long time. Born and raised in Cardinal country. Even though this may well be one of the worse stretches of Cubs history in terms of the major league team (Like pack up the jalopy and head for California bad), I am still very optimistic with where the organization is going as a whole. In a way it is one of the best times to be a Cub's fan because years past we wouldn't have been able to witness day to day how the organization is growing with videos and first hand accounts. Getting info on the minor leagues use to be hard to come by. Now it is instantaneous which has the down side of quick overreaction to bad news or slow starts by top prospects.

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    Too much happytalk for me. One thing I learned from reading Orwell's 1984 is that you must be willing to say that 2+2=4. Or to put it in this year's terms. a 54-108 pace for the season is not acceptable.

    I'm going to speak strictly for myself when I say I want to see the Cubs win one time before I die. Dynasties don't happen in baseball anymore, and the talk of perennial contention is pie in the sky. Playing badly--or tanking, if you prefer--is an insult to the fans who have been waiting, in all but a few cases, our entire lives to see the Cubs play in the World Series.

    I think about Cubs fans like Harold Ramis. He had a great life, no doubt about it, but the multi-year rebuild process cost him a chance to see the Cubs win a pennant and/or World Series.

    Cubs fans who you and I have never heard of have died, and will continue to die, while we're being fed rosy scenarios like this one. I hope it's not me, and I hope it's not you and anyone else reading this, either. But it will continue to happen, especially since the lack of championship-caliber pitching is so prevalent throughout this organization.

    And the bullpen hasn't been so bad? Really? Ask Jeff Samardzija what he thinks of this bullpen. A 1.45 ERA and no victories is testament to an anemic offense and a minor league-caliber bullpen. It can't be anything else/

    Sorry to not join the chorus on this one, but we're in a dark, dark tunnel right now. And the light isn't anywhere in sight, at least not to this observer.

  • Perennial contention does not mean annual championships. It means having a competitive team that contends for and in the playoffs for several years in a row with the aim that one of those years will be the year.

    Yes, it sucks to be a fan that does not live to see the results, but people are talking like it would have been no big deal for Theo and company to already have a World Series Championship. After all, there's nothing to it. After all, 2+2=4.

    I'm only 58, but even if I was now 91, I would prefer what is going on now over yet another rash of free agent signings for a couple of years of crushed hopes followed by years trying to clear out overpaid non performers.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    MESSAGE

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    MESSAGE!

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    I went back and took a look at the bullpen issue. There aren't any games where Samardzija took a loss when the bullpen gave up a lead, but they have let 9 games get way from them, in the first 36 games of the season. That's not very good at all. And the signature game for this season was the 100th anniversary against the Diamondbacks. A more painful bullpen collapse than that game is hard to imagine.

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