Up Next? Chesny Young Makes His Play

Against a gray mid-May sky, a wiry figure stands in the batting cage at Principal Park in Des Moines, IA. As the batting practice pitcher begins to make his tosses, Chesny Young produces one humpback liner after another. First to right field, then to right-center, and so on down the line, almost as if Young was playing a game of “call your field” with himself.

In talking with Des Moines Register beat writer Tommy Birch, the feeling is that Young is “not far away from being ready for the big leagues”. “Ian Happ and Tommy LaStella got a lot of the priority early on” said Birch, “but Young has been patient and put together some good at bats”.

Later, taking his place on the infield, Young make one flashy play after another while fielding grounders at shortstop. With the same quick swipes of the glove and backhand flips that cause may Cubs fans to “ooh and aah” over another twenty-something infielder, Young completed his infield practice rotation. But while there was a hint of enjoyment in Young, there was no cockiness or grandstanding gestures. There was almost no wasted effort, as each throw popped the first baseman’s glove with an almost surgical precision.

“I learned that defense is huge” stated Young. “I like to challenge myself to do my best no matter where I am played. For now, the Cubs are making every third start at shortstop.”

In 2014, the Cubs selected Chesny Young in the fourteenth round of the MLB Draft out of Mercer College in Macon, GA. Young had played third base in college, but the Cubs asked Young to make the switch to second base almost immediately. After a two game warm-up in the rookie league, Young went onto show that he was no match for the short-season Northwest League. After only 15 games and a .354 batting average, Young was moved to Low-a Kane County, where he ended the season batting .324.

The following year, Young was assigned to Low-A South Bend out of spring training, but that did not last long. After hitting .315 in 28 games, Young was moved up to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and given an even greater task. Prior to that, Young had only played second and shortstop for South Bend. But with the Pelicans, the Cubs decided to experiment with Young and moved him around to six different positions. Amidst all of the commotion with position changes and the pressure of being in a playoff race, Young was able to maintain his focus and bat .321 to earn the Carolina League batting championship and help Myrtle Beach win the league title.

Moved up to Double-A in 2016, the Cubs toned down the position merry-go-round for Young a bit, essentially playing him at four positions, but primarily second base. Things were a bit different with the Tennessee Smokies, who seemed to have trouble competing right out of the gate. But even with little support, along with fighting off a late season injury, Young was able to post a .303 batting average and seeming claim another batting title. However, in a somewhat controversial move, the Southern League awarded the crown to another player.

“Power is a big part of the game, it is a good weapon to have” admitted Young. “But you can’t change yourself for the advanced metrics. I’m spending more time in the weight room, working out to get stronger. That is sort of the push and pull you have to go through to become a better player. I want to improve everything, but I still have to stay who I am.”

Young wasn’t quite done after the 2016 season, as he went off to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Signing for only the second half of the regular season, Young was moved to third base by Escogido and wound up hitting .351in 22 games. When his team was eliminated from the postseason, Young was quickly signed by another Dominican team, Cibaenas, and batted .314 in the playoffs. Back in the States for spring training, Young was invited to the big league camp and saw extensive work at shortstop before being assigned to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. After a slow start, Young has raised his batting average to .297 while seeing time at seven different positions.

“It was a great experience to go to winter ball” said Young. “It was kind of ‘an osmosis’ to watch other and see what they do to prepare themselves. What I noticed about players who had big league experience is that they never seemed to be off balance, always reacting well to whatever came their way. It is the way I would like to improve my game.”

With Young’s success at Triple-A so far, even some of the most experienced Cub observers have come away impressed. “The Cubs have thrown a lot at Young” stated Iowa Cubs broadcaster Randy Wehofer, “and he is very composed”. “Young has a great sense of purpose” added fellow Iowa Cubs broadcaster Deene Ehlis.

Hopefully, Cub fans will be able to see Young’s purpose on display in Wrigley Field shortly.

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  • I have a lot of confidence in Young. The ability to consistently hit is one of the hardest things to do in baseball and Young does it very well no matter where he plays.

    I find it interesting that he has ben getting more reps at SS. Perhaps this is a way for Theo/Jed to have a back-up plan if Russell or Javy got moved in a head-liner deal to bring in a pitcher. We currently do not have back-up SS if one of them went down or were moved. Maybe he is the guy?

    I really like Chesny and believe he has a long career ahead of him. Nice article, Tom.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Thank you

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    That was my immediate thought as well. It doesn't mean a trade is imminent, but I certainly think that proves it's a possibility and they are preparing a contingency plan.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I would bet that was one of TomU's points in this article. Could Chensy Young be a back-up SS? If he could do that and also spend time at 2B, 3B as a traditional RH Utility Infielder it would mitigate some need for him to increase his power.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes, Young can function as a backup SS. He doesn't have amazing range, but he can get the job done and doesn't make a ton of mistakes. Not a guy that I would want starting there on a regular basis, but in a utility man role he is fine.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Young can play every position except C and CF.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Then he was one of the biggest late draft "steals" in recent memory for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    If he even gets to the majors and provides any value at all he will be a good draft pick considering where he was drafted. If he ends up becoming a multi year utility player than it ends up becoming a great pick. If he manages to carve out a starter's role at some point then he would absolutely go down as a great steal.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I wonder how much of this might be "showcasing" him. Not necessarily as a "centerpiece" of a "big trade" but maybe something along the lines of Vogelbach-Montgomery (which is looking like a more important trade than I thought it would be at the time). Or maybe as an additional piece in a trade along the lines of the minor leaguers dealt in the Chapman deal (Crawford and McKinney).

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Young provides a ton of value as a depth piece in Iowa this year and maybe next year as well. He can fill in anywhere they need. He could very well end up being put in the TLS situation of being a MLB caliber player that is banished to AAA quite often because he provides more value as depth than he would as a trade piece. He is going to have 3 option years after this season.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    And then he advances to indentured servanthood by providing 6 years of pre-arb and arbitration level salaries. Not likely to get huge raises.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    The only thing that might save Young from this purgatory is that he can play SS where as TLS cannot. A guy that can play SS and give quality ABs is a commodity that MLB teams desire.

  • Michael Young comes to mind when i think of Chesny.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I like it!

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Nowhere near the power Michael Young had.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Bravo!

  • Good work, Tom. I haven't seen him play much, but knew he could hit. I had questions about his defense. Not questions like "I don't like what I see", questions because I just didn't know. I see he's moved around and played some in the OF, but is used now used almost exclusively in the infield. That alone answers some of my questions and is very encouraging. The Cubs briefly had Javy working in the OF to increasing his versatility, but wisely scrapped that plan. There is no reason to have a superior defender in the OF with weaker defenders on the dirt, especially up the middle. I had concerns about Chesney's movement and lack of ability to stick at one position, but I'm pretty convinced that is about versatility, and like the fact that his development continues in the infield.

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    Really good article Tom! Color me a bit skeptical on Chesny, though. Just not sure how he can survive in the majors with no power at all, even as a UT guy.

    I'm sure he'll get a shot; seems inevitable that he plays major league ball at some point

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    In reply to Zonk:

    You are correct that it is hard for a player to succeed at the MLB level without power. One look at the formula for wOBA will tell you that. However, Young hasn't had power in his minor league career yet has consistently put together seasons with wOBA of .330-360 (not bad) and wRC+ in the 120 and 130 range. This year he has had more difficulty. Maybe because his lack of power has finally caught up to him against top flight competition. But at age 24 he is still plenty young for AAA so we might be looking at lack of experience/maturity as much as lack of ability/talent.

    The recipe for Young will be "Can he play passably at multiple positions including at least 1 'premium' position?" and "Can he maintain his strong contact ability and BB% ability at the MLB level?" If he answers yes to this he can have a passable career as a major leaguer with limited power.

    But the answer to those two questions--and likely others as well--will go a long way. Most teams are not willing to invest significantly in a corner infielder or outfielder without the promise of more power than Young has shown. Or 2B for that matter. BUT if Young can show he can play decently at 2B and SS and competently play corner positions he might well get a spot on a roster. By having him on the roster--and not necessarily will it be a Cubs roster--it might open up another spot for a slugging OF BECAUSE the team has Young capable of being the 5th outfielder/back up infielder. If that is embodied in 1 guy rather than 2 suddenly there is room for someone like Jorge Soler (a guy with plenty of power but limited defensive versatility).

  • In reply to Zonk:

    John Jay has no power and is a FA next year. Could be an opening there as an even more flexible defender, good pinch hitter and a guy who puts the ball in play. Look to his assets.

  • Sounds to me like he also could be insurance if TL up and quits the game anytime he wants too.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    I sense a bit of hostility and disrespect, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. It would take a series of unfortunate events for La Stella to ever see Wrigley again.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I was thinking that last night as well. It would seem that Jon Jay has taken over as the contact bat off the bench and that really was La Stella's main role.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I think you are likely correct. Especially given Jay's other attributes (veteran, generally seen as model teammate, plays good defense in corner outfield and an handle a premium position (CF)). TLS's main "advantage" is he is still Cubs property next year while Jay is likely gone.

  • In reply to TC154:

    True but Jay makes a lot of money and is a FA after this year. Replacement needed at a more reasonable cost.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    might want to check your senses, No hostility or disrespect from me, just going by what Tommy himself has stated before. I like TL's bat (even more than JJ's) but not sure it will be there by the time we might need it. The longer he is down, the higher the chances are we won't ever see him again.

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    In reply to KJRyno:

    I believe he was referring to the organization not you in particular.

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    In reply to Tyler Cunningham:

    I think BP was referring to the "up and quits the game anytime he wants to" portion of the post.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Yes, I wasn't talking about you, just the situation in general. La Stella had a very tenuous grip on that last bench role with his limited skill set. He was quickly slipping in his spot with the rise of Happ, Candelario, and now Young. I've advocated for Happ to come up and take his roster spot, but even I was surprised at how quickly that happened. His attitude and commitment are his own issues, but are not lost on the organization and the players dedicating their lives to baseball.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    To be fair, TLS has not "deserved" either of his demotions. At the time of his demotions the last two years he has been hitting:
    2016: .295/.388/.457
    2017: .316/.480/.526
    He has literally been second on the team in batting average both times he has been demoted. And this year he was also leading the team in OBP and OPS (by wide margins).

    And at 28 years old already he is pretty much assured of never reaching UFA and making anything other than near league minimums in his career at the majors and as he has never been a minor league free agent either he has not been able to negotiate a higher minor league salary either.

    I understand La Stella's frustration. He didn't handle the situation well last year, but the guy is in a no win situation.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thank you for a well-reasoned response...again.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    He has definitely been caught in the business side of baseball. No question about it.

    As much as I dislike what he did, I still root for the jersey. And given the scuffling of some of our key bats, I was secretly hoping he would be recalled and inserted at 2B and in the 2 spot in the lineup for a few weeks (loud cheer from Joel). Happ has kinda taken his spot given some struggles.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    You heard!

    TLS is a guy who is likely to always be the 25th-27 guy on the roster. Always hanging on by his fingernails. He has some valuable skills. But his ineffectiveness on defense is his biggest achilles heel. If he were a decent defender at 2B I believe he would have a starting job somewhere.

    But,then again, IF Hendricks had a 94 mph fastball he would be a perennial CYA candidate and TEX wouldn't have let him go; and if Baez could cut his K% to the upper teens he would be on the fringes of MVP voting (10th-20th place); If, if, if. My grandpa always said, "'If' is a little word that means a lot."

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I get your point, but I also see this as Tommy's point. To be brutally honest, if he was a better baseball player, this wouldn't be an issue. He could keep playing or quit complaining.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I challenge you to find any players across the league that have put up the numbers he has that has been demoted in consecutive years. He is a better baseball player than probably 25% of the hitters across the majors.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I respect your knowledge, Michael, bit I disagree.

    Tommy has trown fits from St. Josep's high school to the Cubs. He has quit everywhere. And he's not a very good baseball player. He can't run or play defense. I challenge you to show me an example of a fringe player who can dictate their development schedule through a Championship organization.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think you guys are arguing past one another. Michael is saying that TLS is a talented hitter (and conspicuously left out comments on his defense). Your point, BP, seems to revolve around his situation last year and his history of quitting.

    FWIW, I don't think anyone at the time thought that TLS was being sent to the minor leagues for his "development." He pretty much is what he is at this point. It was simply a matter of the Cubs could send him down without any risk of losing him. Technically, they could have done that with Baez, Bryant, Russell, etc. as well but that was even less palateable. At least when Bryant was sent to AAA in 2015 the Cubs tried to maintain a fiction that it was for development ("we want him to work on his defense and OF play").

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    OT question for Tom: What can you tell us about Michael Rucker?

    The Fangraphs guy featured him in his prospect notes recently, and reported pinpoint control of mid-90s FB to glove side, and developing breaking stuff. He's been pitching multiple innings lately, and he speculated Cubs might be stretching him out to try starting.

    He has 3 career BBs (!) in 35 innings, vs. 56 Ks, which is obviously a great ratio.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Rucker is a 23 year old out of BYU. He isn't the tallest guy (6'1") but he is physically mature and uses a simple, repeatable delivery. He is being used in both short and long relief by the Cubs. He has an unbelievable 19/1 K/BB ratio right now (38 Ks and 2 BB in 23 IP) which speaks to both his advanced command and his ability to miss bats so far. You always worry about smaller guys being able to hold up under the workload of a starter, but Rucker has a solid lower half and doesn't waste a lot of energy with his delivery so a return to the rotation at some point is not out of the question.

    A former starter in college, he has a four pitch mix, but his slider is his most advanced secondary. He will also throw some changeups to lefties and will mix in the occasional curve.

    Rucker and Dakota Mekkes have both compiled amazing seasons so far and are definitely putting themselves on the map for rapid rises through the system where they may need to be challenged by more advanced hitters later this season.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Rucker isn’t the tallest guy (6’1″) but he is physically mature and uses a simple, repeatable delivery. He is being used in both short and long relief by the Cubs. He has an unbelievable K/BB ratio right now (38 Ks and 2 BB in 23 IP) which speaks to both his advanced command and his ability to miss bats. You always worry about smaller guys being able to hold up under the workload of a starter, but Rucker has a solid lower half and doesn’t waste a lot of energy with his delivery so a return to the rotation at some point is not out of the question. He has a four pitch mix, but his slider is his most advanced secondary. He will also throw some changeups to lefties and will mix in the occasional curve.

    Rucker and Dakota Mekkes have both compiled amazing seasons so far and are definitely putting themselves on the map for rapid rises through the system where they may need to be challenged by more advanced hitters later this season.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    You always worry about smaller guys being able to hold up under the workload of a starter, but Rucker has a solid lower half and doesn’t waste a lot of energy with his delivery so a return to the rotation at some point is not out of the question. He has a four pitch mix, but his slider is his most advanced secondary. He will also throw some changeups to lefties and will mix in the occasional curve.

    Rucker and Dakota Mekkes have both compiled amazing seasons so far and are definitely putting themselves on the map for rapid rises through the system where they may need to be challenged by more advanced hitters later this season.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    What about mass (physical size) helps a pitcher with a starters workload? I've been wondering this for some time. In most sports physical size is unrelated to stamina for greater workload or can actually mitigate against it.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Repeatable clean efficient mechanics are how pitchers have stamina. Not by body type. There is a school of thought that a thick muscular lower half helps pitchers. I don't agree with that. Pitchers who have stamina come in all shapes and sizes.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    That is kind of my intuitive experience but I may well be wrong about it. I am just looking for a reason and I truly believe there is a reason for this (I have heard it from people that I respect their opinion and judgement, like Michael E. and John). That doesn't mean they are infallible, obviously, but, like with you, the opinion/belief/understanding needs to, at the very least, be respected and can't be dismissed out of hand. That is why I enjoy reading these comments. I consider myself knowledgeable in some areas of baseball but am a relative neophyte when it comes to projecting things based on NON-production based skills that anyone can get off of fangraphs or baseball-reference. I think there is a place for that type of evaluation, but there are some things that are difficult to quantify so, as long as I get a "reason" I should look past the statline I will include that in my personal evaluation/valuing of a prospect.

    Full disclosure, I am "suspicious" of using demographics in evaluations (height/weight/body type) as I believe it leads to self-fulfilling prophecies (people have believed it for so long that it can skew the sample) but I try to keep an open mind and will acknowledge that those at the extremes such as draft prospect Nate Allen, or other players that are extremely large/small may have an exceptional uphill battle to make it to the big leagues. Even more than the usual weeding out process that takes place in the minor leagues.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I have a response to this that has been eaten by the administrator.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I've tried answering you several times, but they keep getting eaten by the spam filter, not sure why. I can only recovers comments on articles I write.

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    In reply to Zonk:

    He is a little old for his league (about a year older than "average" per BR). But that doesn't explain it all. If I am looking at minor league relievers I look mostly at K/BB/HR. Rucker lights up all of these. Worth keeping an eye on him, I think.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Zonk, I don't know much more than you have already said. He is starting tonight. If I get a chance to go down to South Bend soon, I will see if I can dig up a little more.

  • Chesny Young is the leadoff hitter of the future for the Cubs. Offer Happ, Candelario and a pitcher NOT named Cease to Tampa for Chris Archer. Then bring up Chesny and his perennial .300 avg.

  • In reply to AJinLA:

    "Happ, Candelario and a pitcher NOT named Cease" won't come close to getting Archer.

  • In reply to AJinLA:

    What about his .657 lifetime minor league OPS screams leadoff hitter for you? Especially over Ian Happ a career .839 OPS? I think Young might be a fine utility player and more power to him, but Happ looks like a MLB star in the making. Also Happ, Candelerio and a pitcher not named Cease might get you Sonny Gray and maybe not even that, it certainly won't net Archer. I apologize if this post seems overly critical, it was not my intention, but let's be realistic.

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    In reply to TC154:

    Not AJinLA, but maybe it is the .378 OBP. Happ has a still respectable .360 OBP but who would you rather having bat in the 3-6 spots? The guy with a .470 SLG or the guy with a .380 SLG.

    Not saying that Happ would necessarily be a bad guy in the lead off spot; nor that Young would be a great lead off guy (maybe better low in the order where his ability to make contact would be most valuable). But I am guessing this was part of what he had in mind as well as possibly he "looks" more like a lead off guy than most players on the Cubs roster--though I am not in favor of giving roles to players because they "look" like what I think of as a lead off guy.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Young has had good OBP numbers in the past but is at .316 this year in AAA. My larger point was that we fall in love with players and want to slot them into roles that a bit ahead of their skis. Young looks like a solid utility infielder to me, Happ looks like a MLB starter but even their how good a player is still in question.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It's too early to use his AAA numbers as a meaningful data point. We could say his .224/.266/.235 is proof he at best is a role player from his April or we could say potential 1-3 WAR player based on May's .367/.390/.443. It's no secret he scuffled out of the gate, but the dude has hit over .300 with very good BB/K rates at every level. He has a knack for hitting for a great average. It's hard to do and he does it better than most.

    Ok, I revoke my Chesny Young fan club membership and took his poster off the wall. LOL. Haha.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I don't know what to make of Ian Happ. Like everyone I see a ton of potential but he is striking out at an alarming rate (though he has a very good BB%). He seems to hit with plenty of power but lacks a strong defensive home. Might not be a bad thing, I LOVE guys with "versatility." He hits from both sides of the plate which is always a good thing in my book. He arrived with a bang, then sputtered, and now seems to be doing better. I hope it is just that he is adjusting to what the league is doing. But the sample size is still pretty small. My guess is he will be the 3rd, 4th, or 5th best player on the team. Not bad to be behind Bryant, Rizzo and likely 1-3 other guys (Schwarber, Russell, Baez for instance).

  • In reply to TC154:

    To be fair, Young has a career .758 OPS.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I realized that after I posted.

  • Forget Archer. If I'm the Cubs, I'm going for a #4 types now (e.g., Vargas). And targeting Bumgarner in the offseason. The Giants need outfielders and depth, so Eloy, Almora, Hanneman, and two others.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I think they need at least a 3 this year to be playoff competitive, but I get you in principal. Still you'd know more than me but would SF trade Bumgarner? I would think there would be a riot.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Honestly, I don't think they will trade him. But should they: I believe so. Granted, I like to troll the Giants (in my head at least). But consider: they are currently one of the 3 or 4 worst teams in the entire league. They have the fourth highest payroll. They have a farm system in the bottom third, and no elite prospects. The players on the team that they could trade (guys like Belt or Crawford) are not cheap money wise, and they mostly have no trade clauses. They do have some good, young, cheap pitchers, but those are the types of players a rebuilding team keeps. To me, Bumgarner is their one true trade chip. They could reasonably ask for a package like: Eloy, Almora, Cease, Baez, Hanneman. Or go to the Yankees.

  • Thank you to everyone for making this such a successful article. I am happy you have enjoyed it!

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    In reply to Tom U:

    I think your articles are very good in general. Not sure what you mean by "successful." If it is the length/quality of the comment chain that can be kind of arbitrary.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Yes. That is something I always told Adam. Number of comments usually don't correlate as much as you would think with number of readers.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What I have noticed is that as the comment chain gets longer there is a good likelihood that things have wandered far afield from the article. Sometimes it is still commenting on the article (usually these are "transaction" ones like trades/FA signings) but usually the comment thread kind of takes on a life of its own.

    IF we want to judge success by comments--and this may NOT have been what Tom meant--a "better" way to do it is with comments saying, "great article." But this isn't a reliable measure either as many times if I agree with what is said I don't comment, or don't take the time.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Joel, thank you for the complement. Both you and John are correct in that the number of comments do not always correlate. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments, and it seems as though the article stimulated a lot of thought. Because of that, I would consider it successful.

  • In reply to Tom U:

    That's really how we like to measure things here. Thoughtful, informative pieces that generate thought either through comments or otherwise. I am really not about trying to generate hits. The easiest ways to do that are 1) baseless rumor posts, 2) instant highlight videos already posted elsewhere that serve only as eye candy and 3) being deliberately contrarian or shocking to generate emotional response.

    I can promise that we won't ever do that here. My first priority is the integrity of the blog. I want us to have the best written, most thoughtful, fiercely independent, and original pieces on the Cubs anywhere. I think that is how we made our mark and I want that always to be our identity. If we write good content, people will read. And not just anybody, I mean the kind of thoughtful, respectful, intelligent people we often see in our comments section.

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