Telander responds with a long, thoughtful comment...but I still think he's wrong

Five days ago I wrote a response to a Rick Telander article. I vehemently disagreed with both his approach and his analysis.   Early today, Telander responded with a long, respectful response of his own.  Keep in mind that he addresses not just what I wrote in the article, but also many of the reader responses.  So if you have the time and the inclination, you may want to look back at not just the article, but the 225 or so comments that ensued if you want to get the entire context.

Anyway, here is Telander’s comment followed by my response…

Hi all—
I’ve been out of town–lots of late planes getting into and out of O’Hare to/from Charlotte to see the Bears stink up Bank of America Stadium against the Panthers Sunday (Please don’t trash me for saying that!!! ) But I’m excited to get to join this back-and-forth in the Cubs Den about my recent column about Theo’s rebuilding of the Cubs.

First off, I found the post back-and-forth very interesting, and I read it all the way to the bottom. I found myself described in posts as cowardly, lazy, out of touch, old, irrelevant, stubborn, naïve, ludicrous, unintelligent, plain stupid, embarrassing, full of nonsense, writing just to create “heat,’’ to be a contrarian, to be controversial. And I got called some near-obscenities. And I’ll say this: all’s cool with me. (Somebody did actually say I’m sort of a nice guy, which I think I am. I mean, I like people. I like fans. I love talking sports.)

That’s what the Internet and sites like this are for—to vent, to get your impassioned opinion out there, to agree and disagree with folks who have the same interests and concerns as you do. In days of yore, this was impossible to do. Sadly. Published writers had a monopoly on the projected opinions of the masses. If you didn’t get your words printed on paper, with ink, and distributed by truck or airplane or horse cart, you were out of luck.

Not now. Regular fans can easily know more than employed writers. They can cast their knowledge into the electronic cloud. Indeed, with televised games, press conferences and things like “Sports Center’’ and “Red Zone,’’ and the many radio, TV, and Internet channels carrying so much information to those who merely stay home, sometimes being AT games is a huge disadvantage. Yet we writers continue to go to the events themselves, to go into the locker rooms (often jammed and hostile), to the press conferences, to the training sites, to ask the questions, to do the work, if you will, that a fan never has to do. And, yes, often is unable to do even if desirous.

We go to these often wearying and sometimes distant places and events because we feel we should, and it is our duty. It is the one final code we have other than do not plagiarize or make up. BE THERE. Those who think this emphasis on place is not important have never truly thought out the sanitized information they will receive from the franchises and organizations themselves once those entities have the total control that they desperately crave and continue to lobby for and gain inch by inch. (If the Baseball Writers Association of America, for example, didn’t push and push against the restrictions Major League baseball keeps attempting to add to its agenda (cutting back interview time, restricting clubhouse hours, moving press boxes to the upper, outer, and farthest reaches of stadiums) trust me, you already would be receiving only the happy news the Cubs and other franchises want you to get. You would know almost nothing about PED scandals, ugly contract negotiations, and many other major happenings as well.

In my business, as a sports columnist for one of the oldest daily newspapers in the country, I think about my past always and I take my job very seriously. I am columnist, not a reporter. When I wrote for Sports Illustrated, which I still sometimes do, I was/am a magazine writer and essayist; again, not a reporter. At the Sun-Times these last 19 years I give my opinion on sports matters, and I often use hyperbole, satire, parody, or cornball humor to hopefully entertain and inform readers and sometimes to show my anger or disbelief. People have so many options for entertainment these days that I feel I owe readers something heartfelt for their time. If it’s inside news or rational opinion or sometimes just a possible chuckle or grin, I deliver something four times a week, for over 3,000 columns now. You don’t always hit a home run. But triples and doubles and even singles work. I try not to strike out. If you think my Theo column was a whiff, I’m sorry you feel that way.
Look, I dish it out, so I have to be able to take it. That’s fair. That’s the way it should be. I’ve always felt that. If you criticize things in the course of your work, get ready to take yours. So I’ll take the gas. I don’t agree with it, but I’ll wade through it in my gas mask, once used to not breathe Gleason and Bentley and Mooshil’s cigar smoke.

So let me just say a couple things about that pesky column. As John Arguello should know, I don’t write or even suggest the headlines for my columns. No time or inclination. I’m not sure any sports columnist does that, anywhere. That’s the desk, the editors. So if you didn’t like the title, “Not Buying Cubs, Theo’s Song and Dance,’’ (Internet) or “Call Wrigley The Sell: Theo Says Park Is Going to Get Really Interesting’’ (newspaper), know that I wrote neither. It’s not that I disagree with either, it’s just that I didn’t write them. (Or the photo captions, for that matter. Ever. ) The rest I’ll take credit—or blame– for.

My premise was obvious: I’m not exactly buying into a Cubs plan that has taken nearly four years to unfold, that has begged Cubs fans—the most patient people in the world—to be patient, that will see ticket prices rise next season (prices that are already among the highest in MLB), that has produced nothing but a lot of rookie and minor league prospects so far, with some regulars who might be real winners someday (Castro, Rizzo) and some who are duds (Edwin Jackson, Kyuji Fujikawa) and some, like Travis Wood (8-13, 1.532 WHIP, 5.03 ERA) who seem to have faded before our eyes.

That’s my opinion. You can disagree if you want. That’s fine. But I think to call my opinion something I construed just to create anger and controversy and heat is to not know much about me or my writing. I don’t do that. I always write what I believe, not for whatever its effect might be. If my work riles people up, so be it. If everyone agrees with me, and it’s calm, so be it. In fact, I have written certain gentle columns, and readers have written me saying, “What are you, a wuss?” Comes with the territory. Look, If you read me at all, you know I don’t like $7-million college coaches. Or $10-million college coaches. I think much of elite college, revenue-producing, entertainment-driven D-1 sport is unfair and immoral. That’s not for “heat,’’ that’s what I believe. And I’ll debate anybody, anywhere about that. And I’ll win. Because my opinion is based on facts and logic and knowledge. And, sure, emotion. I’ve paid my dues, fellows.

So you should know that my distrust in the Cubs “plan’’ does not mean—as some purple-veined radio creatures love to repeat—that I don’t UNDERSTAND the plan. I do. And I’m not pretending that I don’t understand the plan. Please. I understand the plan as well as anyone. I’ve been around. I’m not playing dumb. I have spoken personally with Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts. They have made the plan excruciatingly clear. And maybe the plan will work. It would be wonderful if it did. (Contrary to perception, I’d love for it to work. It would be good for our troubled newspaper industry, for one thing. FYI: teams win, we sell more papers. We have jobs. I’m not sure non-newspaper people ever think about that.) But I’ve heard a lot of Cubs “plans’’ explained to me in the past, and we’re going on 107 years of plans that didn’t work.)

There is NOTHING new about building up your minor leagues. There has never—ever—been a new team owner, president, GM or manager who has said his club was going to make his inherited minor league system smaller, worse, less efficient, less important. Does not happen.
One writer said I am “hopelessly biased.’’ Toward what? As a columnist here in a major sports city, my only bias is toward winning, winning fairly, and not fleecing the public. I want the players to be gentlemen, not drug addicts or `roiders or criminals. I want a kind of ethics to blow in the wind off the lake. I want good times and laughs. And I want fans to be treated like the valued customers they must be. So far, in my opinion, Cubs fans have been treated like suckers.

If the Cubs had lowered ticket prices substantially or simply closed shop while they worked out their plan, that would have been fair. Ineed, can you imagine a restaurant staying open while its food was rotten and mice ran across the tables? It would be closed by higher authorities, for sure. But the Cubs offer a terrible product, one that can make you ill at times, and then say, “Just wait—it’ll all be fine.”
Tom Ricketts financial problems are not my problem. Not fans’ problems. If he can’t run a decent business while allegedly improving it, shame on him.

When I asked Theo at the recent end-of-the-year media pow-wow if he was just saying, again, “Wait til next year!”—the Cub fans rallying cry through the ages—it was not a specious question. It was not me playing “stupid.” The real money, you are aware, does not come until 2019, or after. That’s the new TV money. That’s a fact. 2019 is five years from now, not next year. Another fact.

I want to hear Theo and the Cubs brass answer again and again WHEN they will win. This is not a redundant question. It is not an evasive or silly or dumb question. When I heard Theo say the Cubs will not be “all in’’ next season, 2015, I knew the can is being kicked farther down the road.

I was the one who asked Theo about the Cardinals, the small market team that keeps winning and never goes down to the bottom to sit there like a glop of dog food. One of the writers in this chain said the Cardinals were set up for winning some 80 or 90 years ago with their farm system. Right. Same way horse paths were set up for semis. And they have such consistency at the top. Right. Tony LaRusso leaves. They keep winning. Pitching guru Dave Duncan leaves. They keep winning. GM Walt Jocketty leaves. They keep winning. The Cardinals have been to eleven World Series since the Cubs last went in 1945. (The Cubs lost, of course.)

One writer said I might be a “secret rooftop owner.’’ Oh my God, I wish I were. I would make it public as hell! But I’ve known the rooftop-owning Loukas family for years, and I am dumbfounded that Ricketts was surprised there was/is trouble getting the rooftop owners to, ahem, play ball on Wrigley reconstruction. The Loukases are tough nuts, native Chicagoans, all former D-1 football players and NFL-ers. They don’t crack easily. And there’s that unfortunate 20-year lease they and other owners signed with the Cubs. How could Ricketts not have known about that? His current business president, Crane Kenney, signed it, for God’s sake.

See, I’m not a believer in things until I see real evidence of their true existence. Pro sports owners have so many benefits and things going their way that they should never be given undue sympathy. The value of the Cubs has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars just since the Rickettses bought them in 2009. That’s a fact. And you own none of that equity. And your ticket prices will rise. And those are facts, too.
By the way, I called it “Jonestown party juice’’ in my column. It was actually Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid back then in 1978. Sucks for Kool-Aid, huh? Standing alone for idiocy? Anyway, one of the blog writers, TTP, had a cogent letter listing issues for the Cubs that are not good and don’t necessarily bode well for the future. One said that under Ricketts and Epstein the Cubs had the worst 2-year record in club history (2012-2013). Again, this is a fact. Yet one writer claims he has some “crushing rejoinders’’ for “all these opinions.’’

No, a fact is not an opinion. The Cubs are 80 games under .500 the last three years. That’s a fact. They have had five straight losing seasons, never coming closer to winning than 12 games under .500. Yes, they’ll get better. How can they not? They’ll probably contend for the division title in a few years. My God, they only have to beat four small-market teams to win the NL Central—three of those cities are too small to have NBA teams; two have no NHL teams; one has no NFL team.

But why is not worshipping at Theo’s “plan’’ akin to stupidity? Why is waiting for results somehow wrong? Rick Morrissey and I were talking the other day, and he said, “How did not going along with Theo’s plan become a referendum on intelligence?’’ I couldn’t answer.

One of the toughest things for young journalists to learn is that you keep asking the same, most obvious questions to a person or people in power, no matter how long it takes until some day you get a real answer. I’ll keep asking the Cubs when they will contend for a World Series title until they provide me with a real answer. In my mind, that trumps all “plans,’’ no matter how intriguing they might be.

Maybe a lot of you don’t know this: Tom Ricketts said of a World Series title, “I’ll be honest–I think we have a team that can do it next year.’’ That was 2009. The Cubs finished fifth in their division in 2010. As they did in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

Keep the dialogue about this team going. Because it’s fun. But think, too. Be, as Plato said, skeptical, which means ready to examine conscientiously.

As I wrote in that now-notorious column, after Theo said he felt most fans have put their trust in him to “get this thing right’’ and bought into his “vision’’:

“Because that vision is out there, on the horizon, moving like the sun. Just a little farther. Always. And the Cubs fans lurch toward it, arms outstretched, half-insane with desire.”

That’s true, isn’t it?

PS–I never said Theriot took `roids. Only that when there’s no valid testing and nobody will talk about anything, all parties MIGHT be guilty of anything. Logic. Likewise, I never said Andre Dawson took PEDs or that I wouldn’t vote for him for the Hall, only that, again, during the Steroid Era, everyone is a suspect. I did vote for Dawson.

Regarding Canseco and Caminitti–I wanted them in the Hall to shame the Commissioner and others who said drugs were no issue in MLB. A protest, if you will. (The two had/have no chance of ever getting enough votes.)

My response…

Hi Mr. Telander,

First of all. Thank you for your thoughtful response.  By the way, I am the one who was told you were a very nice guy — and I believe that to be true.  That was related to me by someone I know well and who also knows you. I have a lot of respect for how you carved out a long successful career as a journalist. I also respect that you worked hard to get to where you are now, as I am sure that didn’t just happen overnight.

But I do disagree with your approach to covering the Cubs. My biggest issue is that you don’t make any allowances for the current environment with today’s CBA, which punishes mediocrity and rewards losing. Why wouldn’t the Cubs lose and take a step back if it potentially means two giant leaps forward? Why muddle along to get wins and draw fans with .500 teams and bloated contracts that will have long term consequences, as it did after 2008?

The only thing Cubs fans should care about is having an organization that has a chance to win every year. They can best do that by creating a system that can sustain success by continually reproducing cost-controlled talent. Think of it as a diet that entails a healthy lifestyle change rather than the binge and purge cycle that has trapped them in the recent past. The latter only opens up small windows of success followed by longer periods of of overweight, bloated payrolls that take years to bring back to optimal balance.  The former puts you in a position to win every year and thus increases your odds that one day things will break your way in the playoffs.

Cubs fans are willing to make the sacrifice of 3, maybe 4 years to get this organization healthy again. We are doing it with the expectation that the result will be a team with a strong core that can add or subtract as needed, much as we see with the Chicago Blackhawks today.

What we want to see from you is to at least try to give the other side a fair shake.  We want to see you try to help your readers understand what the Cubs are doing and explain how it is different and potentially far more successful than anything they have done in the past. Instead, it appears to me you took the easy way out — a results or nothing approach to analyzing the team. That to me is small picture, short term thinking whereas the front office has engaged in a plan with a bigger picture and longer range goal to sustain success indefinitely.

Why is a purely results approach wrong?  Because it ignores that results aren’t simply a factor of hard work,  front office genius, and a strong plan.  Results are also a factor of plain luck, the surrounding environment, and good timing/sequencing.  The best teams and organizations don’t always win because not everything is under their control.  What we should ask any organization to do is develop good process.  That is the part they can control.  Whether it produces the ultimate desired result is not completely up to them (ask the Tigers and A’s of this season — or the Braves of the 90s).   Yet I don’t think anyone would say they haven’t built strong, successful organizations. Baseball, just like life, can be funny and if we deny that at least some good fortune contributed to our success then I don’t think we are being honest with ourselves.  Fortune may favor the prepared, but you have to be prepared first.

It’s a shame that they are getting lambasted by some writers (yourself included) and fans while they use a thoughtful, big picture approach to build a great organization from top to bottom. Instead, people keep demanding a reprise of past failed quick fix approaches that may or may not bring instant results and almost always bring unwieldy long term repercussions.

Yes, you do a lot of the work that some of us are unable or unwilling to do.  For that we are grateful.  But also understand that bloggers like myself are trying to bring an understanding of Cubs process to fans.  We aren’t used to having an organization that focuses on good process built on great scouting, statistical advances, cost control,  and proper roster management. We are trying to help readers understand the statistical tools and vocabulary of a forward-thinking organization and how they intend to build a winner we can enjoy for years to come.  In that sense, we have done the work that you were unwilling to do.  I feel that you are telling your readers to bury their heads in the sands, that they should not even attempt to learn a different, more modern way of building a team — especially given the restrictive environment created by this CBA. You should acknowledge how they have adapted on the fly and built a foundation that the industry considers among the best — if not THE best, in baseball. But what you write is a short cut, it asks them not to think. It asks them only to look at the bottom line and draw all conclusions from won-loss record. Why not challenge readers to see something differently rather than pandering to a particular fan base?

We don’t “worship” the plan, but we do have a lot of respect for a process that has proven successful in the past, not just with his Red Sox, but variations of the same process around the league are used by some of the most consistently competitive teams in baseball.

Lastly, are we “insane” with desire, or are we just excited to join the echelon of organizations who understand what it takes to build a strong, sustainable organization?  Isn’t insanity trying the same failed approaches of the past over and over again and expecting different results? Forgive us if we desire to see things done in what we feel is the right way, painstaking as it may seem right now. But that desire is not “insane”, but rather based on reason and thorough analysis. It is certainly a more measured, rational analysis than a cursory look based on short term won-loss record and a blanket statement of past teams with strong farm systems. It is hard to look at any successful team today that has not first built a strong farm system. It is part of the process of building a strong, healthy organization.

We all want results, Mr. Telander. You say you have paid your dues as a writer. Indeed you have. You have had a very distinguished career as a journalist. But understand that we as fans are also willing to pay our dues.  We are willing to be patient and start with a foundation built with hard work and a focus on scouting and statistical analysis.  We understand it will take time.  I presume that becoming a writer with a long, successful career didn’t come easy to you. It likely involved a lot of preparation and hard work.  It probably involved creating a foundation to build on when you went to high school, college and then worked your way up the ranks.

So why should you expect anything different from a baseball organization?

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  • Im not buying what Telander is selling. Seems to me he is putting up a good front but it falls short..

    wow, that was pretty easy.. i see how he does i t.

  • I think both sides have some very valid points. I also agree with you about the new CBA concessions. It has changed the game dramatically. Yet those complaining about W/L never seem to take that into consideration.

    What I think gets lost about the ones crying foul over the lack of winning is the shear magnitude of the rebuild. It involved, new people, new technology, new systems, processes, culture, etc... No corporate entity could reap the rewards of a major organizational change over night. It's been three years, and it's starting to show signs of bearing fruit...

    They do have a point that the ticket prices could have been reduced. But to think that MLB or the MLBPA really care about making anything affordable for the fans is delusional. But that's not unique to the Cubs.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    My only comment on ticket prices is that it's basically supply and demand. If people are willing to go and pay what the Cubs are asking, why should they lower ticket prices. While attendance did drop, according to ESPN the Cubs had the 11th highest attendance.

    Reading that statement in Telander's response (not your comment Hoosier), came across to me as pandering a bit, and fitting the agenda I think most of us were commenting on.

  • In reply to mdel78:

    I agree, and perhaps I didn't explain it properly.... But what I meant was I could see why those who wanted a few more wins would feel better about "Hey we know we're going to stink for a bit, so we're dropping the prices a bit to say thank you for your loyalty"... but at the same time, the Cubs attendance justified no price concessions...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm a season-ticket holder. I went to almost all the home games. I watched the Cubs play winning baseball. What's the prob?

    I think it's obtuse to claim that if you reduce ticket prices, fans will flock to see a team that allegedly is designed to lose on purpose. Some fans might be that price sensitive, but it can't be all that many.

    I think it's beyond obtuse to demand that the Cubs dramatically increase payroll but at the same time demand lower ticket prices (or call for a "boycott," as some disgruntled fans have done).

    This team outperformed several teams that were built to compete this year. One of them is in the same town. Why all this vitriol directed at the Cubs? I'll tell you why. It sells papers. Nobody gives a cr@p about that other team.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Bingo. My main problem with this whole rebuild is for a team w such high revenues, why do they still need to steal from such a loyal fan base ? At minimum, reward the loyal season ticket holders ( no I am not one ) who have been taking beatings trying to get rid of tickets ( not many can go to 81 games of even good baseball )

    If they really believe in the plan, they know it will work and the fans will all come back plus more and that's where u make up any losses in lowered ticket prices during this down period. I don't know if Ricketts is incompetent, doesn't know baseball, or just a crook. Did he really say, this team could compete in 2010-2011? If he did, and it obviously didn't work, why not lower the ticket prices after the failure?

    Sure he can always fall back on the supply and demand and that feeds into the argument that cubs fans are sheep waiting to be shepherded. As a top 4-5 profitable team year in and year out, when is enough millions enough for a billionaire ? ( surely when this team is winning, the money will be coming in too fast to count )

    As hard as it may be, Sometimes the leader needs to take a stand.

  • John, many of the criticisms of Telander were not personal. The problem with many of us is Telanders column last week represented a type of groupthink and even arrogance amongst many in the media, and not only the sports media. His column today reads like a Who, Me? of mea culpa. Sorry for criticizing our home team folks, BUT......

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Thought the same thing. I think very few, if any were personal. Most, like me, just disagreed with his article.

  • fb_avatar

    I appreciate Mr. Telander's response, and your response as well, John. Intellectually I agree with you, John. I also live in the Bay Area, and actually witnessed the Giants take a similar approach post-Bonds. And it worked spectacularly. I may be different than others on this site in that I agree with Telander that it is okay for the fans to start demanding a better result on the field. Starting next season. I hope Theo is serious about going after the division next season, and if that means spending money and/or trading prospects for proven players than do it. The team has the best minor league system now, it it time to use it and not just develop endlessly.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    We are all expecting successful results very soon, many of us by next season and definitely no later than 2016.

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    I hate how sportswriters continually point to the Cardinals and ask why the Cubs are not more like them in their approach. They conveniently forget that the Cardinals have had competent ownership pretty much the whole length of the franchise.

    You just can't expect Theo and Ricketts to turn around almost 70 years of incompetency from the Wrigley Family and The Tribune Company.

    Telander should stick to expose the cesspool of college athletics, he is always on target with that subject.

  • In reply to JimL:

    I have long said that the curse was real....the curse of terrible ownership! I also agree the CBA has influenced recent behavior.

  • In reply to JimL:

    Amen brother! All those years of mismanagement have to be taken into consideration. Rebuilding from the ground up was the only option that made sense in this situation. I am sooooo glad they passed on big ticket free agents like Pujols and Fielder. The time was not right. The years and dollars were not right. Theo and company have been transparent from the beginning. Patience does not mean ignorance. This young team has the 'chance' to become something special. In my 40+ years as a Cub fan I have not been able to say that very often. Keep up the good work John!

  • In reply to JimL:

    This. I also find it remarkable that sportswriters continue to refer to the Cardinals as a small market team. They have been 13th, 11th and 9th in payroll for the last three seasons, respectively, spending in excess of $100MM each year. Sure, if they want to say that the actual city of St. Louis is a small market I'll give them that, but someone should remind them to stop spending like the mid-market team they really are before sportswriters start referring to them as such.

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    In reply to JimL:

    Almost 70 years? Try almost 90 years of incompetence. The Wrigleys took over around 1920.

  • Did Telander blast Hendry 4 years ago? He has to see how much better off the Cubs are in 2014 than 2010. And the fact that the Cubs wouldn't be in this position if they had drafted in the teens the last 4 years.

  • In reply to TD40:

    honestly, even if henry were drafting in the teens, i'm not at all sure they had the player evaluation engine necessary to truly take advantage of the opportunity.

    sure, they got baez, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • fb_avatar

    Who's going to be the new hitting coach?

  • Bill Mueller resigns as Cubs hitting coach

    It's Manny time!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    That was my first thought.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Another first time hitting coach? I personally think experience is usually overrated in coaching, and the actual affect of a hitting coach is as well, but this has me a little scared. Especially since Manny doesn't really seem ready to complete give up on playing. He doesn't seem like a long term fit to me. After a year or two, does he get bored or just start Manny being Manny again? I would be fine with Manny as one of the two hitting coaches I guess, but I think he should be paired with someone that could potentially provide greater stability.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    They will be getting an experienced hitting coach, though the first thought that popped into my head was Manny. The only possible connection I can see is that maybe the Cubs plan on hiring Manny as an assistant -- and maybe Mueller isn't cool with it. Remember, he was around the younger, more arrogant, more immature Manny.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Rumor has it that the team will look to hire an experienced MLB hitting coach.

  • I am no fan of the Chicago Tribune, don't get me wrong, but when I was at the University of Illinois over 40 years ago and I wanted a Sunday paper, I always went up to the local convenience store and bought a Chicago Tribune rather than a Chicago Sun-Times. Why? I wasn't from the Chicago area, so I didn't have any built-in family loyalty to either paper. However, I felt the news and the columns in the Trib were more objective and less sensationalistically written. The Sun-Times was worthy of the bottom of the bird cage in order to soak up the you-know-what, because most of what was printed in the Sun-Times was written with one goal in mind, and that was to sell newsprint. Negativity sells, BIG TIME, to a certain segment of the market and always will. I haven't lived in the Chicago area for over 30 years now. However, when I go through O'Hare and visit the news stands,
    I do notice that the Sun-Times hasn't changed its marketing angle. I buy something else.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Forty years ago the Sun Times was a very good slightly left of center newspaper featuring Mike Royko and Roger Ebert among others. It averaged a Pulitzer Prize every couple of years in the 70s and was a good counter-balance to the conservative Tribune. It's after Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in the mid-80s that its quality faded.

  • In reply to Harry Towns:


    I'm not a conservative, actually much the opposite, so that wasn't a factor, I never cared that much for Royko, and I always liked Siskel better than Ebert.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    Another thing in the Sun Times' favor at the time was that they didn't employ Bob Greene.

  • He says he wants the Cubs to be an organization that can win every year like the Cardinals, states that he understands that the "Plan" is to do exactly that, but then bases the entire article on the fact that he doesn't trust it and questions why it takes so long. What kind of logic is that?

    And since when does ticket prices have anything to do with the quality of product on the field? And how is a free market restaraunt business at all comparable to a closed system monopoly? Ticket prices reflect both inflation and the price people are willing to pay to see the team (or in some unique cases like the Cubs, the stadium experience as well). The Cubs are supposed to apologize because they can still draw fans to their stadium despite poor play? Hey, like everyone, I wish it was cheaper but that is just not the way things work. In fact, if the team was succesful, it would be more expensive and I would be even less likely to go to games (see Chicago Blackhawks). I actually find it a more enjoyable experience and not all that much more expensive to drive up to the Twin Cities and watch the Hawks play the Wild at this point.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Sorry, the above question should read: And since when do ticket prices correlate directly with the product on the field?

    Yes, winning matters, but inflation, the health of the economy in general, the strength of the league, star power, the stdium experience, etc, etc all play into ticket prices. Simply having a bad team is no reason for the Cubs to simply cut ticket prices when many factors lead to fans still willing to pay increasing amounts.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Correct, his comparison to a restaurant with rotten food and mice was laughable. Sure, the Cubs product has been bad, but it's not a health violation. There are plenty of very successful restaurants that put out a "bad", i.e. poor quality, product. More power to them and their marketing departments.

    I was a Cubs season ticket holder from 2002-2012. When I saw the value proposition flip, I got out. That was my choice, others are free to make the same choice or the opposite choice, as they see fit. The better question is why do STH's keep buying a product that is worth half of face value on the open market? But lambasting the Cubs for taking advantage of that and raising ticket prices is misguided. Every business owner would try to optimize their revenue.

  • Well put John. Took the words right out of my mouth. Why pay millions upon millions of dollars for a closer to .500 record and get a lower draft pick. We are trying replicate how teams like the Cardinals do so well, then come time use our major market team money to get the final pieces. Love your writing John keep up the good work! I'll keep reading.

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    Why do the well written and really thoughtful articles have to be the ones that are in "response" to criticism to a mediocre article. I have never, NEVER believed that the Cubs didn't have money. But I blame that on Rickets. I have always operated on the assumption that the "Theo Plan" is built around the handcuffs the owner has given him. I could be dead wrong. I actually agree with with both sides of this article. The Cubs have been selling a bill of goods to their fans but how is that different from the last 100 years before Theo? But business is business. People still buy Apple products like they are the next big thing even though Apple has only really created one (Siri) new technology in the last ten years. You can't ask a business to stop being a business just because your team is bad.

    I believe in the rebuild because I see fruits of the rebuild. We obviously cannot see the future and maybe we have nothing but misery ahead in the next 100 years but there are really only two ways to do it. The Cardinals way or the Yankees way. Rickets is obviously not willing to spend the Yankee way so all we can do is hope the men in charge are smart enough to do it right.

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    I would debate that Siri was a new technology when Apple released it. Android had voice-activated actions a year or two before that. Either way, your point is still valid.

    I hope we can find a middle ground between the Yankees and the Cardinals. I do think that the Cardinals fan base is underrated in their success. Although they are ignorant and often uninformed of the baseball world outside St. Louis, they consistently support their team and their players. I get that is easier to do when the team sees success year in and year out, but I do believe the support has a positive impact on the product on the field.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Good, very fair points.

    I want to say that the Yankees of the 90s are a good model. People forget how much of that core came from their farm system.

  • John and Rick. Awesome! Somehow you both seem right. Though John is more right.

  • In reply to The BAuBs:


  • Telander is the kid asking why the car doesnt work when the engine hasnt but put back in after tearing it out and rebuilding it. The Cubs are close to getting the Engine put back in the car, and are ready to turn the key.. if and when it doesnt turn over and sputters.. Complain then..

    if he was actually paying attention, he would know the answer to his own question. He thinks he has the right to ask the question incessantly until it happens. well go ahead, and keep being treated like the 4yr old who isnt paying attention or is too impatient to care. I plan on being patient and fully expect to enjoy the ride when the time comes.

  • I happen to agree w/ Telander about the rooftop situation, contrary to the majority opinion on this site. The rest of it, I'm not buying.

    We knew for the past 2 years we were fielding the worst team in the division, and as painful as it was to watch, it had to happen. This year would have been different if we had landed Tanaka, and we came close, but we still would not have made the playoffs. Next year though, the turnaround is here. When Theo says he's not going "all-in" next year he just means he's not going to sell the farm (system) to put us over the top for one year. That's a good thing. We want to keep the core intact, but we still have a shot to win it all next year, and I do expect us to make the play-offs. 2015 was always the year we talked about. Telander should reserve judgemnet until then.

  • He just doesn't understand that repeating the same question to Theo, "when are you going to win?" is the prime example of his issue. He's so focused on setting Theo up for the next time he asks that question he doesn't see how myopic his view is and how it keeps him from accepting the real logic of the process at work here.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:


  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I should have had you write my response, so much more succinct but says it all :)

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    Born and raised in Chicago, my dad and uncles are still sick over 1969 and 1970. 1984 and 2003 burn in my gut. After the Lou Pinella playoff disasters I was done. There is no way any Cubs executive can look me in the eye and explain how the Cardinals have a better farm system than the Cubs, can hire better scouts and front office personnel. The Cubs are too busy worrying about rooftop owners and Wrigley Field. The fan base is immense, money dripping like honey for them yet they continue to make mistakes like a small market team. Yes baseball is not some exact science but it is frustrating to see the Cards year in, year out, achieve what the Cubs can easily accomplish. This year the Royals are experiencing the posteason nectar. Even Boston has won 3 titles and been on the cusp several times in the past 10 years. So for a sportswriter to mention that yet again we get the wait until next year story and he is pissed, well so am I.

  • In reply to Leonard Hamilton:

    Where do I even start with this?

    - First of all the Cardinals do not have a better farm system than the Cubs. The Cubs now have the best farm system in baseball. They did it by hiring the best people to scout talent and then mold that talent.
    - The Cardinals got to the point where they are now by having some fairly lean years in the 90s. Not as lean as the Cubs, and sure the Cardinals had 9 titles at the time so it was easier to take bad seasons.
    - The Royals. Seriously, that's the example you use? There couldn't be a worse example to use in your argument. The Royals haven't made the playoffs before this year since 1985. 29 years! The Cubs made the playoffs 5 times in that span! And how did the Royals finally get to where they are now? By being atrocious and drafting high, then trading away some talent to get players that could help them win when the rest of their minor league talent started to blossom.
    - The Red Sox. How did they accomplish 3 titles in 10 years? Homegrown talent and a mix of free agents and trades.
    - How do you expect the Cubs to easily accomplish what the Cardinals accomplish year in, year out? How do they go about it? Because the way the Cardinals do it is with homegrown talent and a mix of free agents, and then some deadline deals during the season.

  • In reply to jorel1114:

    Maybe they should ask who was in the Red Sox front office from 2003-2011. How about the same folks now in the Cubs front office?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I hate using that in any discussion of Theo, because people will immediately shoot back that Theo didn't become GM until 2002. It's an idiot argument but they still use it.

  • It seems to me that what writers like Rick who are concerned with ethics in sports ought to be explaining to readers is how the CBA is itself unethical; how it gives an incentive to lose as sure as anyone gambling on the sport would have. This is the hell they should be raising on behalf of fans, and aren't.

  • This new ownership/front office will pay off big time in due time. Stay the course.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Thousand points of light...

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    Both sides make valid points, and I'm not going to be one that calls Mr. Telandar an "idiot" or "stupid" for his thoughts as he is entitled to his opinion. But it's just that - his opinion. It doesn't mean we all have to agree with it and it doesn't mean he is right (or wrong). But John's case is spot on. Cubs fans have been through the ringer. We've seen the Yankee approach, and it didn't work. It probably won't work in this day and age as we've seen recently. This fresh approach (to the Cubs) of building from the ground up is EXACTLY what I think most Cubs wanted for some time. I know I sure was in that boat. Maybe it won't work but you know what, if it doesn't, the repercussions aren't as steep.

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    John...SPOT ON!

    He can claim he is not a HACK and point to his past and blah blah blah. However, his actions and writings don't follow with his response to you. If he actually wrote an article that used as mush thought as he put into letter to you, he may get better.

    Just the mentioned of Roids and the names of Riot and Hawk should be a crime. In fact, he never would say the names of Big Skirt, Paulie, Jim Thome...and the word Roids in a column. (Not to suggest any but Big Frank was a user).

    He was talking with Rick Morrisey (That's Big and Little Dick)...enough said...they are the same guys. I believe very little of what comes from these men and their puppy GW. All three are complete HACKS!

    You just keep on keeping on as you and your "like" will gradually push these clowns to the side. Just in time! Go Cubs...2015 Division Winners!!!!

  • In reply to Randy Michelson:

    Time will vindicate us! And I hope it's next year :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    seems to me time will vindicate or crucify the FO . Us has little to do with the FO policy does it?

  • I noticed Telander still didn't talk about any alternate plan to fix the Cubs. Plus I think its funny that he thinks SportCenter provides information.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    I would guess how he keeps referencing the Cardinals, it would be how the cardinals do it.. if so.. the jokes on him

  • In reply to kansascub:

    True, good points :)

  • In reply to kansascub:

    Based on his usage of baseball statistics (aka only using the W-L column to make arguments), I think he would make for a great anchor on SportsCenter.

  • I agree with the logic of the "plan" while also think it is ok to be skeptical of the process. As humans, we never should follow anything blindly. In a lot of ways due to the CBA changes, the Cubs are breaking ground a bit, not necessarily by building thru the farm system but the method by which they choose to do it by exploiting the stipulated inequities. The IFA two years ago was a good case in point. For minimal penalty, the Cubs oversigned and acquired lots of top young talent that begun to have success in the system this year. This year, a few teams like the Yankees followed the Cub's lead. Being a leader into uncharted waters comes with risk. Tangible results make for certainty that those risks where well calculated. The Cubs are only now starting to show results of the first phase of the plan. So Telender is right for wanting more evidence before he buys in. I get that based upon years of being sold a bill of goods that never panned out. I do not feel it is impatience but more of a learned response developed from past failures. His opinion does not make him wrong but definitely opens a window into the mindset of some long term Cub fans other than those who frequent this blog. Others like the plan and enjoy its merits based upon potential. I am cautiously optimistic that the "plan" will be a success. What gives me hope is not only the early returns at the major league level by identified key individuals but the incremental success that has been achieved at the minor league level and also the honesty by this front office about their process to date.

  • In reply to Gator:

    I don't see Telander as being skeptical, looks more like cynicism to me. Big difference. Skepticism requires a well-reasoned analysis to the contrary. Cynicism only requires distrust.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was looking for that distinction in your response. Those three sentences were all you needed.

  • In reply to bzalisko:

    Ha, I could have made it so much easier on myself :)

  • John. I love your work. You have a great insight to the workings and thought process of the front office. Your bouts with insomnia cause me to wake up in the middle of the night to see if you have posted anything new. I need you to continue to break down the plan.

    At his peak, Telandar was about a 4 WAR (arbitrary rating) writer. He was a 4 for many years creating a real nice career and some enjoyable reading. But at this stage in the game, he is hanging onto what is left of his career in an ever-shrinking print market. I don't begrudge him for that. I even regret that papers are losing readership along with influence. I'd do the same if I was nearing the end of my relevance. But, I don't have to pay attention to what he says or does.

    To compare him with Jordan in DC or Mays with the Mets would be a ridiculous comparison. But I think you understand what I'm trying to say. I can't lose sleep or even indignation over what Telander says or thinks at this point in time on his spiral.

    If he were to show up at the next press conference with a unicorn, I would care less than what your thoughts are about the next hitting coach. That's is something I would read at 2:15 am.

  • Thanks!

    We will continue to break down the plan and will probably need to do it again at some point soon.

    As for the Mueller article, both Mike and Mauricio have some interesting thoughts. Mike's is up now and Mauricio's will be up later tonight.

  • Telander's job is write opinion. He does that. Regardless of what a reader thinks of that opinion, it would be difficult to argue that Telander isn't good at his job. He is a good writer, he has had enormous success working for many of the largest media outlets in this country, and he obviously brings an element to his employers and his readership that has value. I just rarely agree with him.

    People watch and have interest in sports for different reasons. Most people interest seems to be results based and Telander seems to be an advocate for that group. I get that viewpoint, I guess, but that basically means that 95% of sports fans end up disappointed every season because only one team can win it all. That is a depressing outlook on sports and life in general to me. For me, the results mean very little, especially since chance plays such a huge role in the outcome of sporting events. How often does the best team actually win the championship?

    I enjoy sports for the process. The strategy. The numbers. The analysis. Building a team to be in the best possible situation as often as possible, learning from mistakes, watching innovative approaches appeals to me. The front office approach is just as, and often more enjoyable to me, then watching the actual games.

    I understand I am in the minority and that Telander and other like him are not speaking from my point of view most of the time. This does not upset me. He serves a purpose. He provides a reasonable and probably necessary service.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Great way to put it mjvc.

  • There have been so many comments, I assume mine will be buried, but here are both my criticisms of Telander, as well as my nuanced hearing of his central points:

    Criticisms, as brief as I can be: 1. He has inside access, which he and other media have earned, but he doesn't use it. He doesn't compare or ask about the way the organization worked under Hendry compared to Epstein. The sizes of the scouting departments, the way decisions were made. He has access to these things that the rest of us depend on him for; he just doesn't do it. 2. He doesn;t give credit where credit is due. Soler (bought on IFA market days before those rules changed). Rizzo (trade worked out great, and he just outperformed Pujols and Fielder that others were clamoring for). 3. Arrieta. 4. Trading vets, and gettting generally great returns. 5. The FO has been honest, whether you agree with their plan or not (and I'll say more on this in a second)- they said they were going to lose, they didn't lie. They're honest about call ups and development. They're honest about the ways they'll be involved in the FA market. AND LASTLY #6. He hasn;t offered an alternative approach that the FO could have done differently to build a lasting winner. Did he want them to sign Pujols, Hamilton, etc? Did he want them to approach .500 w Middle tier FA;s? I'm guessing the reason he hasn;t offered a viable alternative is that on some level he'd have to acknowledge that no other approach would work. I think this is my main criticism because to me this is just lazy, and while I'll try to avoid politics, most politicians in either party can tear down the others plan and don't have to offer a functional alternative. That's easy, and I think most intelligent people could do it.

    HOWEVER, I do think that some of the criticisms of what the org has done are quite viable, especially regarding the business plan and the ticket prices. I think the mistake he is making is combining both parts of the org and not being nuanced enough to separate them. Theo has no control over rebuilding/city policy stuff, TV contract, or ticket prices. And honestly, in the last 5 years, I think the Cubs have done some stuff in those dept's that really warrants criticism, adn shows ineptitude. That side of the operation has been vague, unspecific, and potentially misleading or at least spoke from miscalculations of the situation (rooftops, updating Wrigley) and yes they probably should have lowered ticket prices (and yes I understand they had no business reason to do so). I think Telander's criticisms in this area are acurate, and would actually like more depth from him there. But the baseball side has been about as transparent as someone in that line of work can be, and criticisms of them without offering alternatives ring hollow for me.

  • In reply to Nateisnotnice:

    Criticism #1 is spot on. I would love to hear from an "insider" about the differences between the organization when Jim Hendry was working under the Tribune and how Theo and the Ricketts are handling the organization.

  • So over half of his response is essentially talking about himself and NEVER actually gives any factual justification for his opinion that the Theo plan won't work. No parallels of other teams, no financial or Free Agent formula that can be tested and certainly not any other solution that would have worked with the myraid of problems the Cubs had. (Hint: it was never just fat contracts to underperforming players or a weak farm system. It went far deeper than that including a crumbling facility, an unsustainable revenue base and an aging demographic market that won't improve without REAL and SUSTAINED winning.).

    But then the real sign that he is not to be taken seriously was when he begins his justification with "Rick Morrissey and I were talking the other day, ..." Enough said.

  • In reply to PolitiJim:

    Are you the 'PolitiJim' that commented on BN ? Miss talking to you folks over there.

    The one thing you folks who like the rebuild process the Cubs are going through need to remember is it has accomplished nothing yet. It may, it may not. Anyone who has followed sports (any sport) for a long time knows things don't always end up like they look on paper. That's really all Telander said. It was NOT an unfair article. It was just a guy saying what some Cubs fan don't want to hear.

  • In reply to djriz:

    We all understand things may not work out. You can say that about every process in the history of mankind.

    There is nothing courageous or insightful about saying things might not work out. It's only courageous to detail why it won't work out and suggest an alternative plan.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Since I don't want to be passive aggressive, let me be perfectly clear.
    I could care less that you disagree with Telander, but a few of your criticisms are unfair.
    1). He doesn't have to give an alternative. As a matter of fact, he shouldn't. It would be irresponsible of him to go through major leagues rosters and suggest trade candidates, or pick FA's he thinks they should look at, or suggest other team's prospects we should target. That's not what he should do. He should report on rumors as they occur, but he should not make rumors. (just my opinion).
    2). In your initial post, you basically called Telander a 'troll'. Accused him of trying to sell newspapers. Well, da! That's what he's paid for. If he chooses to do a fluff piece, great. If he chooses to question the chances of this rebuild, fine. It's his job to give his readership something to think about. Here's my problem with your post. You do the exact same thing. You write posts to inspire thought. You write posts to deliver news. You write with a particular bias (that is not an insult, that's what people do). But, John, you also write to 'sell newspapers'. You want clicks (credit to you, you're not as much a click whore as other Cubs sites). You write articles you think people want to read. That's what bloggers and reporters have in common. Clicks or papers? Doesn't matter. I just don't see how you can criticize someone for doing the same thing you do.

    (btw, is it really not courageous not to provide the answers?)

  • In reply to djriz:

    He doesn't have to name specific players, just come up with a better process under the current environment.

    And he admitted this, "I often use hyperbole, satire, parody, or cornball humor to hopefully entertain and inform readers and sometimes to show my anger or disbelief."

    Lastly, I don't get "paid by the click", so that argument doesn't work. I try to write the best pieces I can and let that be my salesman. I don't market my work nearly as heavily as others. I don't write click bait. My goal is to provide an alternative, which is this: Write something thoughtful and trust that people will want to read and discuss it. I want to make this about the content and not the package it comes in.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Regarding the 'click bait' argument.
    I don't know how or what writing here pays you, I did not say you were doing anything unethical. I want to make that clear. I hope this site gives you everything you want from it, whether that's monetary or just the pleasure you get from writing about the Cubs. That doesn't change the facts, though. And the fact is writers, without a readership, won't be writers for long. Whether that's on a blog, for a newspaper or even books, writers need readers. Unless you write about the Cubs for some cathartic reasons we don't know about, you'll stop writing when you have no readers. That's all I meant by that.

  • Nice job Mr. Telander,

    Remember this, some people worship at the Alter of Theo and believe everything he says. Anyone who comes along and criticizes Theo is not only questioning these peoples 'Deity', they are also planting the seed that this rebuild may not work. Shattering hopes.
    Don't ever be an apologist, there are enough of those around, just keep telling it like you see it. Most of us appreciate it.

  • In reply to djriz:

    So your version of critical thought is an attempt to draw a caricature of Cubs fans who like the rebuilding process? Sorry, but come up with some real analysis and an alternative plan rather than some ham-handed swipe at Cubs fans. No wonder you loved the article You took the easy way out too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Blind faith in Theo is better? Making excuses for Theo is better?
    People give Theo & Co. all this credit for building up a farm system, ignoring the fact that any other front office would have had the same assets to deal with (Ramirez, Garza, Shark, Demp, Cashner, just to name a few), and the same number of draft choices to use, and the same ability to go into the FA market. Who's to say a different approach wouldn't have been better?

    Rick never said the plan wouldn't worked, he just said that it's possible it wouldn't. How can anyone honestly refute that logic?

    If you want to call me lazy because I agree with the fact that there is a good possibility this rebuild won't work, go ahead, but that is being intellectually dishonest. You should know this could fail. Prospects under perform all the time. You say that.

    I don't pretend to be a scout, so any information I get about the draft, free agents and trade targets come from reading on the internet, so it would be just speculative of me to come up with an alternate plan. That being said, there have been a lot of FA signings over the last three years that are better than anything the Cubs have done. The Cubs have made 3 1st round draft picks, and looking at internet rankings, the only one that seems to great is Bryant (which 80% of the baseball world would have made). So nothing great there. So other than their sign and trade philosophy (which can be demoralizing to current players, (could have minimized their chances of resigning Shark)), an argument can be made that many FO's could have done better.

    Since you are so quick to criticize who don't agree with you, I will try to give a quick overview of my opinions of the current Cubs organization. The following bullet points are NOT in order of importance after the first one.
    *lack of top end starting pitching.
    *lack of high OBP players
    *too many high K players
    *tons of power potential, if it will play at the major league level
    *too many holes in the outfield (the only 'plus' outfielder in the organization has not played more than a half of a season in 4 years).
    *just looking at normal progression for hitters, I don't see a potent offense until 2017, at the earliest. barring major trades, of course.

    In a nutshell, all the Cubs have, in my opinion, is potential. The odds of them fixing all their organizational shortcomings are long. I will concede, that if ALL of their top hitters hit their ceilings, and they sign the RIGHT FA pitchers, and their bullpen pitchers perform at this years level when needed, AND players who have never played in high leverage situations perform well in them , they can be a dynasty (yes, this is what I'm hoping for), but until this happens, I'll go with what the odds say, and they say unless something changes, this particular rebuild will not result in a Championship.

  • In reply to djriz:

    It's not blind faith, we have broken down in analytical, objective terms about why we like the Cubs rebuilding process in this environment under the current CBA guidelines.

    I haven't seen an equivalent rebuttle as to why it won't work and a well-thought out alternative.

    Still haven't.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nice, not so subtle, shot.

    You just keep on belittling those who disagree with you.

    Speaking of objectivity, did I miss your article responding to JJ Coopers (BA) chat that referenced managers in the Midwest league totally bashing Schwarber's defensive abilities. Since I know you were all about that draft choice, I would have expected to see your rebuttal.

    Let us hear the bad scouting reports along side the ones that support your 'analytical, objective' breakdown of the Cubs rebuild.

  • In reply to djriz:

    It wasn't meant as a shot at all. Sorry you read it that way. I just meant that (including the Telander article and response I just critiqued) I haven't seen anyone sit down and write something that attempted to describe a better process. As for your particular comment, it had specific criticisms -- but that is not an alternative and it doesn't do anything to point out flaws in the overall process, it only points out gaps in the results. But no process is going to produce all positive results, so that doesn't tell me anything. We can pretty much go through any team in baseball and point out things that haven't worked at any given point in their process, including the Royals which we talked about earlier today. In 2012 they were one of the laughingstocks of baseball. Two years later they are baseball's darlings. They too have not produced OBP or top of the rotation pitching, for example.

    I have said on a number of occasions that the opinions I have on Schwarber's defense as mixed. I myself pointed out that he needs to work on his defense in the minor league recaps (not sure if you read those). We have posted Kevin Gallo's scouting report which points out both his strengths and his flaws with his defense. It's all there. Either you haven't read it or maybe you have forgotten about it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As someone who has an interest in sabermetrics, which uses past results to help predict future performance, can you tell me when the last time a rebuild like this worked?
    90's Yankees (good core of home grown, ton's of FA help)?
    70's Dodgers (pretty good homegrown core, especially the infield. better pitching, of course)?
    04 Red Sox (Theo inherited a ton of talent there)

    I really don't know the answer. Do you? If the success of this type of rebuild is rare, why should this be any different? Because of Theo? Why is it wrong to question it?

  • In reply to djriz:

    Tons of teams: The Giants (starting staff, Posey, Sandoval, Craword, Panik), the Nats (Strasburg, Zimmermans, Harper, Rendon, Desmond), the Phils of recent WS titles (Hamels, Myers, Rollins, Utley, Howard, Burrell, Victorino). There is also the aforementioned Royals, the Braves of the 90s, the second Red Sox title team), the Pirates and yes, the Cardinals (pretty much their entire starting lineup came via farm/prospects). I could go on and on, actually. These teams supplemented more with small to mid-sized trades and signings and not big name free agency.

    It's so much harder to think of a team that build and sustained success through big spending in free agency. I'm not sure I can think of one, actually.

  • In reply to djriz:

    We just finished year 3 of the rebuild. I think everyone hoped the rebuild would take less time. But I don't think any reasonable person could look at the plan that was being implemented and expect results at the MLB level earlier than year 4 and more likely year 5.

    No one denies that there is a chance the Cubs are still bad in the near future if the young players fail to develop. You are being intentionally dishonest to believe that others don't see that as a possibility. Young players fail all the time. The reason many of us still give the FO the benefit of the doubt is that the collection of young talent that the team has collected allows for a number of those young players to fail and the organization will still possess fallback options.

    It certainly isn't an infallible plan, but redundancies are in place. There is talent at every level of the farm system in case much or even all of the first wave fails to meet expectations. There is payroll flexibility at the MLB level available to plug holes if needed. There is an overhauled and well funded scouting team in place to hopefully continue to funnel top talent into the system.

    I think the debate simply boils down to people general optimistic/pessimistic nature, their patience level, and more technically involved what emphasis they place on the importance of young, cost controlled talent plays in the current CBA environment. I think the people that believe in the plan simply see there are a more reasons to believe the plan will succeed at some point (maybe not as quickly as planned or hoped) then there are reasons to believe it won't.

    And isn't all faith, by definition, blind?

  • In reply to djriz:

    I believe in the plan. I believe Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod are all well respected within their industry, have proven track records, and deserve the benefit of the doubt and the time necessary to implement the full ground level up rebuild they envision. If they had come in and proposed a shorter, more direct method, I probably would have had faith in that plan as well.

    It doesn't mean I believe they are infallible. All of them have made mistakes in the past and will continue to do so. And even if the rebuild fails to deliver a championship it does not mean that the strategy was flawed or that people were wrong to believe in it.

    Dallas Green and Jim Hendry both oversaw similar rebuilds during their tenures. Green eventually had his process subverted by ownership after a handful of years. Hendry was allowed to see his plan come to fruition. Each eventually delivered a team that most Cubs fans would agree are the two best that they have seen in their lifetimes. I see no reason the current FO should not be afforded the same respect and patience.

  • So cool reading 2 guys that are passionate in their craft...I'm jealous that I'll never write like either. Rick T. spent some time talking about how writers have to/should be "there" at the games. Maybe that's the key to him? I personally can't imgaine what seeing that much losing in person over the last decades does to a person. He has earned his skepticism. He sounds a lot like a guy I work with that has had season tix for 20 yrs. Pretty bitter and talk to me when we don't lose 90 games kind of guy. Hard IMO to blame them though I dont agree. Ricketts stepped up as the "man in the arena" and is taking his shot at history in the way he sees fit. We all give Theo Jed etc so much credit but like him or not, Ricketts faciltated the whole change over. He hired the FO and got out of the way of the baseball side. Personally I love what they are doing and especially the "how" of it. To me it just feels different. That's exactly why I think it's working. My guess is that Rick will be one of the happiest guys ever proven wrong.

  • In reply to PeteyB:

    Thank you for the kind words, Petey. I may not agree with Telander, but it's a high compliment to be spoken in the same sentence as a writer. I don't know if I'm worthy of that kind of praise, but I appreciate it very much.

  • Love it love it! Love all the comments. This is what blogs should be about. Read every post, and yes, I'm thinking about them.
    Kudos to John Arguella for running this carnival. xoxox rt

  • In reply to Rick Telander:

    Stop reading these comments and get to Theo and have him sign some free agents. Please! :-)

    (while you're at it, call Trestman and tell him it IS legal to stop the other team from scoring).

  • In reply to djriz:

    I'd prefer he tell Trestman to fire Joe D. As difficult as it is to believe the special teams are worse than the defense.

  • In reply to Rick Telander:

    I never missed your sports talk tv show on sunday night PBS way way back " The Sportswriters" was ground breaking !!!! and following sports local and national was so much easier. Heck you guys talked every week about Ray Meyer and DePaul and Ernie , the Sox, Bulls with Butterbean Love...times have changed , so many more teams , the playing field is not fair at times anymore, we all need our Cubbies to finally break throu..I do buy into the "plan" so I can see the cubs become winners in my lifetime.

  • In reply to Rick Telander:

    Thank you Mr. Telander and I am going to assume you meant carnival in the nicest possible way. Carnivals are fun places to be and I'd like to think this "place" is too. I know I sure have fun writing about the Cubs and exchanging ideas with our readers.

  • From the response... "I was the one who asked Theo about the Cardinals, the small market team that keeps winning and never goes down to the bottom to sit there like a glop of dog food. One of the writers in this chain said the Cardinals were set up for winning some 80 or 90 years ago with their farm system. Right. Same way horse paths were set up for semis. And they have such consistency at the top. Right. Tony LaRusso leaves. They keep winning. Pitching guru Dave Duncan leaves. They keep winning. GM Walt Jocketty leaves. They keep winning. The Cardinals have been to eleven World Series since the Cubs last went in 1945. (The Cubs lost, of course.)"

    My response to this point...
    As someone who works in Human Resources, I can say the key to replacing key personnel is having competent management with a clear succession plan along with an infrastructure to support it. You can survive the departure of a star player (Pujols), managers, and coaches, even GM if you have this. The Cards have had this. They had plans in place for what happens when key personnel leave. They knew who to promote or who to hire to replace those people because they had an overall strategy. Maybe not the exact person to replace them with but they knew the qualities they were looking for. (D**n it, I'm praising the Cardinals again. I think I'm going to be sick).

    Many laughed at the "Cubs Way" when it was announced but this would be akin to a business not having a "mission statement" and employee handbook. Sure you can operate for a while but you won't stay in business long. Until now the Cubs strategy has been accumulate the best players without defining what constitutes the best players. If they fail fire management and start over. That's the sort of thing that makes an organization get a bit schizophrenic.

    On a side note, are the Cards really a small market team? Their fans truly do support them and as a result their resources are better in some cases than a large market team. I would argue the White Sox in some respects seem more like a small market team than the Cards due to revenues they bring in.

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    Wow. I have a whole different view of Mr. Telander today than when he wrote his last article. He makes some very valid points. Yet, I still don't agree with his approach. My question to him would be why didn't he enlarge his first article to include the points he made in his response to the Cubs Den?

    He did take the "lazy" approach. He simply stated his opinion without much supporting facts to raise emotions in the fans. It seems he hopes fans would bring the torches and pitchforks. But fans revolted against Mr. Telander with the written word.

    So now he writes a long response to explain his stance? Why now? It would have been so much more effective to get it all out from the beginning.

    I'm not buying his wanting us to look at the Cardinals either. It apples and oranges. The Cards have have ownership that have done things right for 70+ years and why they can continue to move forward after key personnel are removed from the equation. The process is what is a success and this can be seen with the bottom line in wins and losses. It's not the other way around.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Exactly. Good process is sustainable for an indefinite period of time. The Cards have done a good job of sticking with and adapting their process to the changing environment. They have never taken short cuts to success. They also had some lean years in the 90s, so it hasn't always been a swift adaptation, but eventually they righted the ship. That is what good organizations do. That is what we want the Cubs to be.

  • Mr. Telander talks about "being there" as part of the process of being a good journalist because it exposes him to the actual facts and details of the event that aren't part of his process of producing good journalism otherwise. He then turns around and evaluates the Cubs process based on nothing more that the won-lost record. What's the value of interviewing all those people and all of the steps in a good journalistic process if the only thing that really matters is what you can read in the standings each morning?

  • maybe such a lengthy response by Mr. Rick because Cubs Den has more readers than Mr. Rick's column

  • I am a fan of the plan and extremely excited about the Cubs, but as a thought exercise, I do like to consider the other side of the argument? Some believe that every season is sacred, and don't like throwing away four years of baseball and making fans suffer through this losing. Is it not possible to both rebuild the farm system AND try to compete every year? Yes, your draft position would change from the top 5 to perhaps 10-15, and your pool money would decrease. But you could still sign and trade SOME of the Feldmans, Maholms, Samardzijas, Garzas, Cashners etc. that helped you restock the system if you were out of it at the break.
    I would love to see someone smarter than me write a "what if" article of what Theo would have done if his mandate was to try to compete and rebuild simultaneously and what the major and minor league teams would look like versus where we are now. I would argue that we could still have a very good farm system (albeit worse than what we have now) and a competitive (75-85) win major league team that had a shot at a WC in two of the past 4 years. A fair assumption would be that we would have been sellers at 2 of the last 4 deadlines, and completed half of those deals, and the draft position would be altered accordingly. I am not saying that you have to go become the Yankees, but something between complete tear-down and build-up would have been interesting. A fair way of looking at it would have been a $120M payroll and a roster if Theo had made incredibly shrewd signings. It's not like our young talent has all come from the tear-down. We could still have Rizzo, Baez, Soler, Almora, Alcantara, Castillo, Vogelbach, two lesser #1's than Bryant and Schwarber, and 1/2 the guys we got for the mid-season deals Theo cut. I am not arguing that Theo made the wrong choices, just that the other side of the argument is not stupid or impossible.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    I think with the excessive payroll and weak farm system it required a complete overhaul. i to hate having lost seasons. As Theo said the best way to win a world series is to be in the playoffs year after year. What the FO has done is put together a group of young hitters and relievers that should be together for the next 8 years or so.

    I have learned and the FO knows you can add good starting pitching every year and add in the veteran fill-in hitters as needed..

    Could it have been done the other way maybe, but I think it is hard to argue with what they have done the last 3 years.

  • At lleast RT knows something about the Cubs and does have dialogue with Theo. The one person I have difficulties with is Hub Arkush, self proclaimed BIG Cub fan. I recall a few weeks ago when he hosted a talk show on a Saturday and quickly to blasted the Cubs for the "plan." He referenced KC and Pit (I think) as two clubs who have tried the "plan" and asked "How are they doing?" Well, we now know the "plan" worked for them, whether by design or not. Recently, on a TV show, Hub showed his true knowledge of the Cubs "Plan, when he stated he was surprised at how big Soler was and also wanted to know "What happened to Vizcaino?" who that week was just called up. What Cub "BIG" fans were not aware of the size of Soler or the whereabouts of Viz.

    I might mention that there are some very strong past results that have led to success after multiple losing seasons of 90 and more losses.. Besides the two mentioned, one can add Detroit, San Fran, Washington and Tampa Bay and I would be very happy to have the success these clubs now are going through.

    John, thanks for your outstanding blogs.

  • First of all, it is pretty "stand-up" for Mr. Telander to address you, John, and all of the followers of Cubs Den, with a personal rebuttal (I use the term rebuttal because that is what it read like). It demonstrates not only the credibility of your writing and of "Cubs Den, " but also that Mr. Telander cares about the opinions of fellow Cubs fans, which is really cool. To be sure, he could have just dismissed all of us without further thought, but since he took an obviously significant amount of time to compose a thoughtful rebuttal, it shows class on his part. It is a measure of respect shown to us, and in turn I respect his analysis and opinion.

    Although I have personally bought into "The Plan," I do understand how the sportswriters who have covered the team for many years can become jaded and cynical about the motives (and competence) of the owner and/or management. This is simply a fact of life. When you have seen so much bad, you are more hesitant to embrace what appears to be good. Cynicism typically increases with age due to the compilation of negative experiences in life. Having said that, I believe that Mr. Telander misses the mark on this issue and that the direction taken by the Cubs under Epstein and Hoyer is both pragmatic and necessary. Of course, we can speculate all we want but somebody will be proven right or wrong over the course of the next few years. In that light, I sincerely hope Mr. Telander is wrong!

  • It's turning into a love fest. Kudos to all.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    It shows that people appreciate a good, honest, respectful debate. It doesn't mean we all agree with each other.

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    You are a very nice man, John. I love the civil discourse on this blog, which always has me coming back for more.

  • In reply to Phil James:

    Thanks Phil. I appreciate that.

  • Outstanding article! Thank you to John and the other writers of the Cubs Den for presenting an alternate account of the situation based on a depth in analysis and writing which goes beyond the superficial narrative that some in the main stream media have chosen to promote.

  • And this is exactly why CubsDen is the best sports blog/site there is. This blog combines great writers with highly knowledgeable commentors to make for a awesome Cubs community.

  • Ahh, if only world leaders would engage in such thoughtful discourse without the inherent bias, prejudices and emotional histrionics we see on the evening news. The whole world would be like one big Wrigley Field on a summer Friday afternoon! Well done John and Rick. And speaking of one's own bias, I have said from day one I am willing to give 3 years of a free pass to turn this into the Blackhawks (as John said) or the Braves of the 1990's. Why 3 years? Don't know. The clock is ticking.

  • Everybody sucks...

    Sorry it was just too damn positive here, and I will now spend the rest of the day typing equally witty responses to everyone here.

  • What I get most upset about when I read Telander, or some other beat writer, is the oblivious nature of what is in the minor league system beyond a Baez, a Bryant, or a Russell. They are unaware of players like Duane Underwood, Daury Torrez, Mark Zagunis, Felix Pena, Carson Sands, and many other prospects who have a shot at helping the big league club in the coming years.

    They tend to live in a bubble that I find infuriating. I don't think they see the game like a fan does or a blogger does. And to be fair, I don't see the game like they either, nor I am privilege to their world.

    If you watched this team this year, you saw a terrible April (bad bullpen month) and very decent and watchable May and June. July was horrid for a week or two after the trade and then the last two months (mostly without Rizzo for part, and Castro for all of September), it was exciting to watch the team compete and play with some of the best teams in the National League to get to 73 wins and only have two players over 25 most days..

    If that team that I saw the past 4 months shows up next spring and adds 5 new players (including Bryant in late April, early May), they can show up to the ballpark every day and know that they can win every day in 2015. I think that was the team I saw this year in the second half even while getting Alcantara, Baez, Soler, and Hendricks playing time. I don't know what team Telander saw this year, but aside from the post-Hammel/Samardjiza skid, the 2014 team was a much better product to watch in 2014 than 2012 or 2013.

  • In reply to historyrat:

    It's not that the writers are unaware, most fans don't care about the small prospects.

    Following prospects is a full time job, most fans dont want to do it.

  • In reply to Horny Dave:

    Being unaware is one thing, but many in the media appreciate and have respect for what we bring to the table when it comes to prospects.

  • John,

    I'm a little late to the party here. Read both. Loved your response. Couldn't have said it better. The important piece on the CBA is the part that many people miss. You basically have to stink if you want to land impact talent and I believe it was your interpretation of that when the CBA was signed back in 2012. It was said when Theo took over that the Cubs really lacked impact talent and if you look at the Cubs in 2012 and compare them to today, there has been a dramatic change for the better. The more important aspect is that October is a weird month. The ball bounces differently in October and sometimes there is what many people would call luck. If that is the case, then if I wanted to win it all, I would do whatever I could to be at the party every year to give myself a shot just in case the ball happened to bounce my way. Sometimes the best in the regular season isn't the best in the playoffs (Cubs 1984, 2008) but one thing is for certain, you have to make the playoffs to win the series. If the Cubs current plan eventually replicates the consistency the Cardinals have of getting in the playoffs, they are going to win it eventually. What I like the most about this plan is that it is different from the previous failed plans they have had. So the question for Rick is why not try something different? Why must the Cubs and Cub fans be married to high risk plans simply because it's been more than 100 years since they last won? Why this false urgency that they have to win right now, this year or next year because it's been too long. I get that the people have waited and I know Cubs fans crave the win but ask Sox fans how the last 9 years have been since they won it all where they have been in the playoffs just once since and ask them how they feel about their team. What the Cubs are building is an opportunity to be a perennial contender - to not only be the 2017 world champs but possibly the 2018, 2019, 2020...champs. The beauty of the Blackhawks that you referenced in your response is that they not only were the 2010 champs, but they also were the 2013 champs and for the sake of a bad bounce, could have been the 2014 champs as well. What about the Bulls' 6 titles in 8 seasons from 16 years ago? So Rick, if you have the opportunity to build something that you can sustain, why not do it? Moreover, since there is no guarantee in an all out effort to win it all, why mortgage everything when we all know October is such a fickle month. You might come up big or you might roll snake eyes and then be left with 6 or 7 years to ponder what you could have done different.

    I will give Telander some credit. He did respond and while I may not agree with his point of view, he's entitled to it. If he says he's being skeptical, fine but it's easy to cherry pick the team's record for the last 5 years and assume that from that they are a failure. But that's shortsighted and honestly from a journalist of his stature, I would expect a little more.

  • In reply to joparks:

    Thanks for the kind words, much appeciated. Enjoyed what you added here. I figured when I wrote this that you guys would add a lot to what I had to say and I haven't been disappointed. Great stuff.

  • Rick Telander is an amazing sports writer. One of the best EVER, and that's not hyperbole, He has written two of the best sports books ever written, "Heaven Is a Playground" and "From Red Ink to Roses: The Turbulent Transformation of a Big Ten Program." If you haven't read them, do so. They're phenomenal. And I have no doubt he is a very nice guy.

    And I say this in all sincerity; the insight, intelligence, and thoughtfulness of John Arguello sounds a lot more like the Rick Telander who wrote "Heaven" and "Red Ink," than the 2014 version of Rick Telander who covers the Cubs.

    I want my old Rick Telander back covering the Cubs. And being skeptical, and being critical, and being challenging, and being smart, and holding ownership's feet to the fire. BUT with the same big picture perspective he used to provide and that John Arguello does provide. I think that would be a great service to all of us Cubs fans.

    And on that score, I cannot be more serious.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Wow! That is a high compliment. The little John who read Telander as a kid would be thrilled beyond belief -- in fact, I think he may have come out a little after reading this. Thank you.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I started following this blog when Bruce Miles' blog was essentially eliminated by his newspaper's policy of charging for access. Back in the day I always considered Telander one of the top writers in Chicago, but for me the only print writers worth following are the guys at the Daily Herald. I consider the quality of sports writing on this blog every bit as good as that of the Daily Herald and the quantity of interesting content just blows the print papers away.
    As for the Cubs, I have one question: What team is in the better position right now, the Cubs or the Brewers? That last game of the season was such an odd juxtaposition, The Brewers clubhouse appeared so depressing, it reminded me of the 2009 Cubs, while the Cubs players seemed to have a confident optimism going into the off-season.
    I like the Cubs plan a lot more than the current state of affairs in Milwaukee- that winning franchise that Matt Garza was so happy to laud while dissing the Cubs earlier this season

  • My conclusion on Telander--he doesn't really care much about baseball and therefore he doesn't really put the work in to follow developments in the sport, first and foremost, what it takes under the new CBA and related MLB rules (in short, "Let there be parity") to put together a consistent winner. He's mailing it in. His tap dance only confirms it.

    He talks about Plato's skepticism. Plato's Socrates directed his skepticism at the so-called conventional wisdom of his time. Telander represents the conventional wisdom.

  • And as for laziness, I'm the guy who said I had "crushing rejoinders" to each of the points TTP catalogued. One of those points was the bald fact of the Cubs losing record 2012-2013. Telander's comment insinuates that there can be no possible refutation of that fact. However, I didn't say I had "refutations." I said I had "rejoinders" (e.g., providing additional facts which place the selected facts in a broader context). There were other examples on TTP's list were true facts without context. I have rejoinders to those facts. Readers of the Cubs Den probably do to. Telander should know those facts too. He doesn't seem to (lazy) or he just ignores them (has an ax to grind and he's grinding it).

  • Being a logic-minded person, what dismays me most about Telander is his lack of logic. He talks about the Cardinals as the model of success, but then questions the Cubs modeling the Cardinals. That doesn't make sense. "Well, it may not work!" And it may not have worked for the Cardinals, either, but it did. So I ask, as many on here have, what does he want the Cubs to do if he wants Cardinals-like sustained success?

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Illogical thinking has been a hallmark of a lot of the Sun-Times coverage of the Cubs. I believe it was Telander himself who one week said the CUbs had no money and then the next said the Ricketts should just buy the rooftops so they can keep their quaint charm.

    And I'm sure that as much as these guys loved Hendry and the access they got, they were also critical of the overspending, the dead-weight contracts, the lack of homegrown talent and the losing seasons. And yet now the Sun-Times staff wants the Cubs to spend freely on every big name free agent and believes that if they aren't spending that money, they're just fattening their coffers. Meanwhile the homegrown talent is here and more is coming and they only want to complain about the fact that Bryant isn't here yet, during a losing season.

    And you know that if they had brought Bryant up too early, at least one of them would have the stones to complain about how they're starting his clock too early.

    The reality is that they are pandering to the lowest common denominator of Cubs fans, and also Cubs haters. So you can be inconsistent as long as you have conviction.

  • Dear Rick,
    I only submit this question to you: What is the ideal plan that you have for the Cubs to win? What would a plan that you TRUST look like? And whatever that plan is, please research baseball teams over the seasons and tell me which teams implemented that plan and why they were so successful in doing so that you TRUST that plan.

    And of course, then using John's advice, critique that plan in the context of modern-day baseball.

    And then, just for fun of it, critique yourself for critiquing a front office that has won multiple world series' and knows how to build winners.

    You can lecture me about journalism, and you can tell me how great you are and how I don't have to agree with you, but at least tell me the "whys". Or is it just the journalistic norm to leave out the "why" and just spew opinionated nonsense?

    Intelligible Cubs fans

  • I think we all should thank Rick Telander for engaging in a discussion. It shows a lot more integrity than a lot of newspaper writers around town. While I disagree with his recent article and firmly agree with John's analysis, I also think that Telander is getting a fair amount of heat because the Cubs beat reporter at the SunTimes has done such a poor job over the last year.

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    I think the whole title thing is wrong. I can see a major Headline in a newspaper being the editors. But, an individual story should be all the writers. Now to the Cubs. Are we headed in the right direction? Who knows? What I do know is the past five years have been a disaster with nothing guaranteed at the end. Look at the Angels,Dodgers, and Nationals. Heck even the Tigers. On paper they should still be playing they are not. So nothing is guaranteed,except for the five years we have thrown away.

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