The 2015 Draft Picture So Far
Folks on the Twitters and Facebooks were going a little wacky today, mostly in regards to the Cubs continuing to suck after their sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks, and some with respect to MLB silliness. I did my part by randomly inserting unwritten rules queries and whether they were compliant with the Colby Lewis doctrine of baseball etiquette, and also kept track of the standings as it looked like the Cubs were going to leapfrog the Astros by mere percentage points:
Somehow #Cubs slipped % points in front of HOU for #3 pick in 2015, but that'll be #4 because the Astros are assholes.
— Rice Cube (@CubicSnarkonia) July 21, 2014
Yeah, pardon my French, but yeah, the Astros aren't putting forth a good reputation these days and deserve all the scorn and ridicule they're getting at the moment.
Competitive Balance Lottery
In the meanwhile, it looks like the competitive balance lottery will take place on Wednesday afternoon. Looks like because of the 10 smallest/poorest rule, 15 teams get a shot at the Comp A and Comp B picks for 2015:
This year, the Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, D-backs, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies and Royals have a shot at the supplemental first-round picks. Whichever teams from that group don't get one of those will be eligible for the supplemental second-rounders, as will the Mariners and Twins.
Since the Cubs aren't small or poor (much to many fans' chagrin, I'm sure), they don't get one of these here picks. HOWEVA! I am reminded that the Marlins actually traded a Comp A pick straight up for Pittsburgh's Bryan Morris, a reliever, mind you! He was pure crap for the Pirates before the trade but has been pretty darned good for the Marlins though and they got their money's worth. The pick, #39 in the 2014 draft, switched hands just days before the draft and was worth about $1.4MM, and the Marlins still had tons of random picks lying around for whatever reason, so they hardly felt the loss of the pool money. It's kind of fun to pre-speculate which of those 15 teams listed above would want a random reliever like, say, James Russell and cough up their pick for the Cubs, but that probably won't happen until closer to the trade deadline and perhaps not even until next draft season. The Pirates ended up drafting a kid named Connor Joe with their extra pick and pool money. The scouting report is pretty good so the pick obviously has some value. Can the Cubs exploit this even though they aren't small/poor enough? I guess we'll see.
I am kind of displeased with Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel so far in Oakland, but I guess I assumed like most intelligent folks that their stats would take a noticeable hit when they switched leagues. Thankfully, the A's have been able to stay ahead of the surging Angels and the spent-money-so-they-better-be-good Mariners in the AL West. Most of the divisions are still up for grabs, with at least two teams in each jostling for the lead. It's almost as if teams have to play all 162 games and #narrative over half a season doesn't matter too much, but of course, we have to heed the trade deadline.
The Cubs Fan Divide
There's are many reasons why a lot of the stuff we blog about seems familiar and why we keep linking to past blogs. One reason is obviously because fans of our blogs (and most of the internet in general) don't read past the headline and miss the big picture (shocker, I know). Another is because they've already made up their minds that Entity X is evil and can do no right, even if Entity X is trying to improve the standing of their favorite sports team. It just gets easier to link to a previous blog and say, "Here, knock yourself out," because there's no reason to waste effort trying to converse with someone who is closed-minded.
For example, after we shared the blog about the Cubs suing the Billy Cub guys, certain fans wondered what the point was, partially because the Ricketts family should be focused more on winning on the field than on doing more lawyerly stuff to put down the "little guys" or something. The news flash, of course, is that they can work on several fronts to improve the infrastructure of the team while dealing with a potentially damaging blow to their team image (and of course you might snark and say that the MLB club has already damaged their image anyway, but we'll come to that). As with the Wrigley expansion and renovation, the Cubs have a right to maintain and improve what is theirs, and to ensure that others are not unfairly benefiting from their brand. That seems reasonable for any company, not just a major league sports team. But fans are so quick to consider the Ricketts family as idiot money-grabbers that they don't stop prior to the knee-jerk reaction and wonder why something is going on.
There was an incredible thread on Twitter recently (along with the usual comments on our Facebook page) about the plan concocted under Theo Epstein's guidance to rebuild the Cubs. The gist of the thread can be summed up in the following:
- The Cubs traded away assets like Samardzija and Hammel and thus cannot win anymore
- The minor leagues don't matter
- Theo and his disciples are idiots
I don't think the folks on the "other side" of the debate realize how difficult it is to try to build and maintain a franchise in the new CBA environment, which I've tried to address here and in previous blogs. I also don't think they realize how lucky we are as Cubs fans to have a competent front office that has transformed this franchise into one that seems to be well-respected despite the MLB team being so bad.
Let me start off by saying that, yes, it is possible that the rebuild plan won't work as intended. It's possible that none of the Cubs' top 100 prospects (in all of baseball) will pan out. It's possible that injuries or other poor luck will derail the plan and set the timetable back. There is an inherent risk in anything that is done in baseball, as there is with all sports dealings. The difference is that the Cubs have hedged their bets by building one of the strongest and deepest systems in all of MLB to reduce the risk of not producing at least one MLB-ready player. And it takes a special kind of fan to hope that the plan to rebuild the club and generate a sustainable pipeline of talent will fail so that the Cubs are forced to go back to the days when they would spend a lot of money, get some free agents that would help them compete for a couple years (with no guarantee for a title, mind you), and then just suck it up and pay the remainder of the albatross contracts once all the players signed get old and decline. Personally, even though it's not my money and I don't spend enough when I do go to the ballpark to make a dent in the budget, I feel that building the farm is important, that home runs at the minor league level are cool, a sign of things to come, and not a waste of a prospect (prospects who, ironically, don't matter because only the MLB club matters), and that the Cubs front office should be allowed to see this through.
There was a reason I shared the standings above, and that has to do with context in our narratives. Yes, the Cubs were playing good baseball for a stretch that gave them one of the best records in the majors over an arbitrary period of time, but that was never likely going to last. The offense has too many holes and there's only so much the pitching can do. But fans seemed to forget that out of five teams in the NL Central, four of them are above .500 and all are within 2.5 games of first place while the Cubs are lounging in the cellar. The front office was never going to torpedo that overall plan in order to satisfy the "me now" crowd. The steadfast adherence to the plan seems to displease that faction of fans, and I have to say it's disappointing when they all but perform ritual sacrifices to ensure that the new Cubs way fails so they can hold their heads high and say, "I told you so."
In fact, the crowd that wants to see the top prospects promoted now, or big name free agents signed, kind of reminds me of how Social Security and Medicare are going to rapidly run out of money and become insolvent before I can collect. This is partly because people live longer, and partly because those people who live longer don't really care about the younger generations and just want their benefits now. Granted, yes, they have paid in to the system and have a right to extract their benefits in the near term, but not caring of the long term is detrimental to us all.
I do want to see the Cubs win, but I want it to be a more annual feeling, not just a short window like we saw in 2007-2009. I think that's worth waiting a few months before calling up the top prospects next season so that they can be controlled for another year longer. I think that free agency carries its own set of risks and I'm sure you don't have to look far to see all the big money that is on or has already hit the disabled list this season. I guess the best news for all of us is that if in the unlikely event Theo Epstein and the rest of his front office is fired, the Cubs will look a lot healthier than when Jim Hendry was fired. And then you can watch the Cubs trade all those awesome prospects we've been following for some "proven veterans" who will command higher salaries...because, I guess, that's what the fans want.
Luckily for us, the smart people in charge don't listen to the fans for their decisions, not even me (I'm not that smart). Here's hoping everything works out, because that's the kind of hope we Cubs fans should be having.