Thanks to Bruce Miles, raw unsweetened Essence of Theo provides justification
Behold one of the finest blog entries I have ever read from the Daily Herald's Bruce Miles. Simplicity in its finest - more or less a straight transcript, or at least, closer to a transcript of Theo Epstein's 2012 Cubs post-mortem than the local newspapers felt like printing.
Now that you're back from Bruce, thank you, first of all. Awfully kind of you.
As an involved fan, perhaps at an unhealthy level, you project in your mind what management must be thinking when they make moves. Why claim Justin Germano off waivers? Why would you let Ryan Dempster listen in on trade talks? Why do you keep running Josh Vitters out there day after day? These thoughts might occur, briefly, with the casual fan. Where did this bum come from? Same old Cubs. Yada yada. But then, like a twitchy insect, their minds go off to consider boobs, or shoes, or what's on Twitter.
Me? When it came clear that Theo wasn't going to go after Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder last winter, I started marking time until mid-July, when two big things would happen: our big names would be traded for prospects, and sufficient time would pass so that the few prospects we had could be called up to the majors without the risk of becoming Super-Two arbitration candidates. So, when the time came, Anthony Rizzo was dominating AAA. He was ready. Everyone else had issues.
But, I thought, and wailed out here over and over, what part of the Epstein plan is being served by letting 32 year old has-beens or never-weres take at-bats and throw pitches for us? Reed Johnson is a helluva guy, and the West Coast distributor of Whitey Grit. A great bench player with a bad back who tends to wilt when forced to play every day. He was doing great things for us during our one long winning streak this year. He is entertaining and wins games at times. But unfortunately his 35-year-old ass will not be part of this club three years from now, when we are good again. Playing him was the most short-sighted move there was. It isn't quite the same situation as Soriano, who is older but hits for a bunch more power, and also unfortunately is taking nearly a quarter of the entire club's salary. Soriano has to play in order to keep his trade value, that of a 600 PA a year guy. Johnson's ultimate value is that of a 200 PA guy, and keeping him around in order to perhaps win 2 more games a year is not helping us move into the future.
We need guys like Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters up here, ASAP. As long as this year is a lost cause, let these guys come in and be evaluated, I figured.
Theo, as it turns out, agrees. I was very encouraged to read that in regards to both Jackson's and Vitters' experience this year, he said "And you can’t generalize. You have to talk about each player specifically because they’re at different points of their development, different skill sets, different personalities."
He went on to explain that Vitters always starts slow as he takes each rung of the ladder up the organization, so why not let him "start slow" this year? Jackson, on the other hand, needed to see just what the competition is like in the bigs. Management agreed that he was not ready, but rather than just merely telling him, they realized they had the luxury of letting him see for himself. Thus, Jackson has an idea of what to focus on in his game, and Vitters, if he does in fact need time to adjust to the step up, has been given that opportunity.
It is nice to see that Theo thinks as we do here, to hear him verify our suspicions. It is good to know that they have a plan for each guy, that expectations are in place, that nobody is asked to do anything they are incapable of. It is nice if someone can pleasantly surprise and give more than what was expected. But too many times, the Cubs' plan consisted of little more than throwing names together and hoping a large number of them pleasantly surprise us. Once in a while, 1998 comes to mind, it can happen. The right guys can click together long enough to get into the playoffs. Sometimes, even, like what happened down in the MethBelt in 2005, the run can last long enough to win a Championship. But notice what happens the next year...an injury or two, maybe some complacency seeps in, and the team falls back into the crapper.
Theo wants to ensure the Cubs don't need to rely on luck in order to succeed. I am on board as much as I ever have been. Go ahead, guys. Lose as much as you need next year. Just as long as we keep bringing in success stories like Rizzo, Castro, Castillo. Keep the pipeline flowing.