Executive Summary: on the 2012 Cubs, there is no such thing as rushing prospects too soon.
Cubs fans of the past ten years or so know the names of Felix Pie, Hee Seop Choi and Corey Patterson. At one point, all three guys were brought up to the team with large hype. Patterson, you will recall, thought he was a slugger, and the Cubs wanted him to be a speed guy. Choi never established himself as a power hitting first baseman, and Pie could steal second, but had a hard time getting to first. Remember, this was the Tribune Cubs, the team run with no discernible plan other than to reset themselves annually like any of the other television series run on the CW Network. The Cubs were always expected to "win" the past ten years; always had a big-name manager on hand, always had big-money stars on the roster, and all three of the guys were being heavily counted on to fill a hole. Without much of a plan or support system, it was somewhat unfair to expect them to step into a lineup and immediately fill the gap at a high level.
That's not the way things are anymore. The Cubs are being rebuilt from the ground up.
We have only seen the high-level details of the Epstein Plan, and so far, the high-level milestones are being met. The next one, seemingly, is the trade of high-ticket veterans in exchange for top prospects. I don't doubt this will happen.
The two things that continue to worry me about the current organization, are 1) that for an organization with triple the manpower of a year ago, the Cubs so far this year cannot seem to multi-task at all; and 2) lots of innings and especially at-bats are being WASTED this year on guys who are not part of the long-term plan, and are not even considered to be trade bait.
I've touched briefly on the first part before: it seems like they can only do one thing at a time. Months spent chasing down Soler, with nothing else happening. Then, Months spent finding the right time to bring up Rizzo, with nothing else happening. Months spent crafting deals for Dempster and Garza. Meantime, the rest of the roster stands static, which is absolutely DEPLORABLE for a fifth place team.
As a Cub fan, knowing that the next time the Cubs will compete for a Championship is most like 2015, you need to feel like you are being cheated by:
- every at-bat Bryan LaHair takes. He had a great May. Now, he's just killing us. The YMCAs are full of guys who started out hot for a month or two and could not sustain. Because management can't seem to do two things at once, they lost the opportunity to sell high on this guy. Now? Send him out or send him down.
- every at-bat Joe Mather takes. He was LaHair four years ago. This is the result. Good lord, DFA this bum already?
- every at-bat Geo Soto takes. I'm sorry, when did it become OK to be a .180 hitter in this league?
- every at-bat Luis Valbuena takes. I suppose (see above), that's if it's ok to hit .180, then I suppose it isn't fair to bench Valbuena for hitting .220. .220 is better than .180.
See where I am going? All of the guys above are 28 or older. They aren't going to be in the LEAGUE in 2015. Compound that with the reps that Soriano, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker are getting, and the Cubs organization still has a very troublesome bottleneck of old guys stunting the growth of the entire enterprise.
Welington Castillo is young. Josh Vitters is young. Brett Jackson is young. They should be playing every day with the Cubs in 2012. Right now. Maybe they are hitting well in Iowa. That means almost nothing. Rizzo hit well in Iowa. Micah Hofpauir hit well in Iowa. Adrian Cardenas hit well in Iowa. Scott Moore hit well in Iowa. Meant nothing. ZERO. The PCL tells me nothing about a player's worth.
I need to see what these three can do, here, in Chicago. I need to see a strong start, and a strong reaction when the league adjusts to them. If they succeed, great. If they fail, then send them home and bring up the next guy. That's what organizations do. Sink or swim. They are not going to be expected to win right away; they will not have the same expectations that allegedly hurt Patterson and Pie. If they suck, that will suck, but it won't be because they were rushed into a pressure situation.
They may not suck. Who knows? This is the time to find out, not to watch LaHair and Valbuena and Soto wipe their asses on trips to the plate.
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