I’m a pretty patient guy. If I start a project, I have to make sure it’s done right and that it will last. I think I get that from my mother. My father is the kind of guy who wants to rush to the end. He wants to see results. And when he gets those results, he wants to move on to the next thing and then get those results. That sounds great, but the problem is, I distinctly remember my dad having to re-do those projects all the time.
I think he reflects the mindset of many Cubs fans. The idea of having a plan, trusting it, and letting it develop in time is foreign to us. We have seen it in fits and starts but we have never seen it to completion. We first saw it with Dallas Green in the early t0 mid 80s and then the early days of McPhail and Hendry. Eventually both plans were scrapped before they could be fully implemented. Like my father, ownership inevitably rushed to the end in pursuit of quicker results. They clashed with Green and eventually hired yes man Jim Frey (facial tic, twitch, vein bulging in forehead) to focus on short term success while the Hendry teams shifted to win now mode in 2007 in part to raise the value of the franchise, giving the Cubs a small window of success but leaving the franchise in total waste once the damage of long term contracts and special clauses took their toll. We also can’t forget the Ed Lynch days when, sensing a shot at the (gasp) wild card for his deeply flawed team, he tried to fast-forward the process and traded his top two pitching prospects for middle relievers (facial tic, twitch, vein bulging in forehead).
The current Cubs are undergoing another rebuilding plan with a new front office but this one is even larger in scope than the one of their predecessors. Most people were okay with it initially, but in the 3rd season, patience is wearing thin. This despite the fact that there was complete transparency and we were told it would take up to 5 years.
Most people expect to see tangible process. They want to see results. If we go on a diet, we don’t want to wait for results to show, we want to see it right away. When we don’t, we often quit. If we were asked to choose to go on a diet that will make us lose 10 pounds in 10 days or a slow one that will take months but will provide us with a sustainable new lifestyle, most of us would choose the former. We would choose the quick fix diet because we think we can switch to the long term one afterward. But it never works that way. once we find the short term success we crave, we go back to our old habits and re-gain the weight. Then we need the quick fix again. It becomes a hard cycle to break.
It’s really hard to see things in terms of process and big pictures. We require some sort of tangible, incremental progress to keep us motivated. In absence of seeing this on the MLB team, we have turned to the minor leagues and the top prospects.
When we see Kris Bryant mash in AA but he stays there, it doesn’t feel like progress. It feels like running in place, Or maybe it’s like Groundhog Day. We are excited to see him hit HRs but frustrated that he is seemingly no closer than he was yesterday, no closer to the ultimate goal of helping the Cubs. But trust me, he is progressing toward Wrigley and he doesn’t need an Iowa uniform to prove it. We tend to see progress as one step at a time, we want to see things approaching gradually and we look for that consistent pattern of upward mobility. In the real world, progress doesn’t work that way, it looks more like this,
Or if you prefer, something like this…
In other words, this will all come together quickly and suddenly for the Cubs like it did for Sir Lancelot here. Just when the Cubs seem to be running in place, they will suddenly be rushing right on their opponents. They won’t know what hit them and by the time they do, it will be too late. The Cubs will wreak havoc and leave a trail of carnage in the NL Central.
Well, maybe that is a bit dramatic, but you get the point.
The same goes for Kris Bryant. His seemingly endless two month stay at AA has come to symbolize what seems like stalled progress for the organization as a whole. We want to see him move ahead just as some wanted to see Javier Baez make the team out of spring training, or see Mike Olt start more games. We want to see it so that we can at least feel like we are taking a step forward. We want it because in a larger sense, it makes us feel like the Cubs are getting closer to the kind of success we were promised, one built with a talented young core of homegrown players. We want to see that next piece fall into place.
I get it. I want to see it as much as anyone.
But we need to look no further than the Houston Astros, the Cubs partner in futility over the past 2+ seasons. The Astros had 2 top prospects who were much further along than the Cubs top prospects in George Springer and Jonathan Singleton. Despite being more advanced than the Cubs prospects, the Astros took their time, let Springer dominate in the minors, and then moved him along as they felt he was ready. Meanwhile the MLB team took their lumps in even more humiliating fashion than our beloved Cubs, Now MLB ready, Springer has fueled a resurgence and tonight he was joined by Singleton, who homered to help the Astros to another win. They are 16-15 since April and 14-8 since May 10th. Once the talent is there, you can get better fast — but you have to wait until that talent is ready. Springer got more than 300 PAs in AA despite dominating it almost as much as Bryant did. He spent another 300+ PAs in AAA. Singleton spent a full season worth of games in both AA and AAA
I think the Cubs can make a similar turnaround as their own prospects become ready sometime in the 2015 season. We have seen how rushing prospects adversely affected Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro’s development despite their great success in the minors. They are catching up now. Let the front office stick to it’s development plan for each hitter and do it the right way, it’s not like they didn’t have success doing it their way in the past.
Trust the process and let it develop as planned because if we wait until prospects are truly ready — as judged by those who do this for a living rather than those who follow the box scores, then the Cubs will soon get to where we want them to be — and when they do get here, they won’t just trickle in, they will come in waves, ready to make an impact right off the bat.
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