Epstein among Cubs rare talents

When we think of the Cubs organization, we think of special talents.   Players like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell are considered all but untouchable.  In a game of replaceable players, they are about as irreplaceable as it gets when it comes to their combination of skill and value.

Perhaps we can say the same of their current President Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein.

In a world where the term gets thrown around so loosely, we tend to take genius for granted.  And I am not talking about the kind of genius  label you can get by paying a fee and then taking a test.  I am talking about individuals who are exceptionally intelligent and creative in their particular field.  I am talking about innovators; people with vision; people who can see the big picture in the smallest things; people who can see change before it happens and act on it before the  rest of the world catches on.

The speed  and accessibility of information today has blurred the line between those who innovate and those who simply co-opt.   It can be done so quickly and cleverly that it becomes difficult to distinguish original ideas from the multitudes of facsimiles.   With the continuous changes we see in baseball, the Cubs need someone to lead.  They need someone to stay ahead of the game.

An executive of a rival team once talked to me about the value of Epstein that goes beyond the use of existing data and process; beyond the instant credibility that comes with two World Series titles and the foundation for a 3rd.  That is undoubtedly important, but there is more to Epstein than that.

The Cubs have yet to reach their ultimate goal of winning a World Series, but the impact of Epstein is clear.  He took over the Cubs under a certain set of rules that he had already learned to exploit well.  When those rules were changed, there was some apprehension — could Epstein still work his magic even as the game closed some of the loopholes he used to build a juggernaut in Boston?

It turns out that the magic wasn’t all in Epstein’s existing knowledge.  It was in his ability to adapt and stay ahead of the game.  When the draft put limitations on past creative measures, Epstein found new ways to procure high level talent.  When IFA pools restricted his ability to outspend, yet still get tremendous value, Epstein quickly calculated that it would still profit to blow through those limits and that the reward would easily outdistance the penalties.  When he saw a shortage of RH power hitters (and power hitters in general) in the post-steroid era, Epstein was again ahead of the game.  He stocked up and built a surplus which gives the Cubs huge reserves of what is perhaps the game’s greatest currency.

Sure, every organization is doing those things now, but the point is that Epstein was doing it then.  There is a certain level of comfort knowing that Epstein can adapt to any environment under any set of rules.  We’ve often said here that if the game is going to continue to change (and it will), the Cubs are fortunate to have Epstein at the helm to find a way to beat the new system, whatever that may be.

This is not to take anything away from Jed Hoyer or Jason McLeod, who are tremendous talents in their own right.  They do what they do exceptionally well.  They too are among the best in baseball.

But that is part of the equation.  Having Epstein around to do what he does allows Hoyer and McLeod to excel at what they do.  There are few people who are put in the position to succeed that they are.  As good as they are individually, having the three of them together allows them all to best utilize their own area of expertise.

They are smart and confident.  They are not Epstein clones; they are unquestionably their own person.  That is more than enough to challenge Epstein and in some cases, win the day.  Like any intelligent person, Epstein is smart enough to know he doesn’t know everything.  He is smart enough to defer to the expertise around him.

While there are many who can follow Epstein’s lead, to think that Epstein is replaceable is a mistake.  It’s a mistake to think that just any PBO would bring the same things to the organization when we don’t know the challenges and changes that lie ahead.

We do feel pretty good about Epstein’s ability to innovate, create, and adapt because he has done it as the head of two elite, but very different organizations already.  We already know he’s the real deal and not a close approximation.  We have seen it first hand.

So, let’s not blur that line.  Cubs fans have suffered through too many bad owners and front offices to let any of it go.  We have no real reason to feel everything will still be OK if we break up what might be the best group of minds in baseball — and certainly among those that work together best.

Ricketts cannot afford to take this kind of innovation and creativity for granted.  He needs to extend Epstein.  And the sooner the better.


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  • fb_avatar

    Theo has to en extended at some point. I'm getting a bit concerned that it won't happen. Maybe an announcement happens at the convention?

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    That is what i am hoping. That would start the convention off with a bang.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Does anyone think it odd that Tom Ricketts said recently about a possible Epstein extension that Epstein has done "an OK job?" At that moment an icy fear gripped my heart about the possibility of losing Epstein and Co.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    It was clear he was joking. Tongue was firmly planted in cheek. I heard the interview. TR knows Theo's done an exceptional job.

  • In reply to David23:

    Thank God

  • In reply to David23:

    And thanks for the reassurance

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    That makes perfect sense. Interested to see if that happens.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    give him a lifelong contract!

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    I saw this quote in a Jessie Rogers piece on ESPN, " Calling it a matter of “timing" Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts indicated he and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein are “on the same page” in regards to a contract extension for the Cubs executive."

    This is a pretty straightforward quote, but I'm wondering if the "matter of timing" is a bit of an Easter egg hinting at an announcement at the convention. That is the perfect "timing" to announce such a move.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I thought the same thing. Especially considering that in his first comments he said they were "mostly" on the same page. If the mostly is gone and it's a matter of timing that would be one heck of a way to start the convention.

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    I would be shocked if it doesn't happen. Theo and the Cubs are so close to the ultimate goal, that leaving over a contract dispute seems very unlikely. What will be interesting is the duration of the contract. I expect the duration to be the current window that Theo sees for a title. I am thinking 3-4 years.

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    Give him an opt out :)

  • A couple days ago in one of the articles on Cubs Den, it was stated that the two sides are talking and talks were going well. I would like to see him extended 10 more years.

  • In reply to John57:

    I think it is going well...not that I am privy. But there seems to be too much incentive on both sides to get it done and they've always gotten along well.

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    Ten years? He may get bored and need a new challenge. Like fixing the White Sox

  • In reply to Dave Boer:

    Theo will finish the job on the North Side, but I have wondered that myself. He is young. Does he stick around to build a dynasty, or move on to the next conquest?

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't think so. The situation in Boston soured quickly. If I remember, ownership started to meddle. I'm not saying he won't retire young. I just don't see him going to another team. What challenge is left? After taking the Red Sox and the Cubs to Series wins, does he have to continue to walk across water?

  • You are correct in the meddling thought. I agree, what would there be left to conquer? A World Series Championship with the Chicago Cubs is the Holy Grail in all of sports.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Maybe Theo could move to Cricket and bring Somerset the English County Championship, which they have never won since joining the league in 1882. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somerset_County_Cricket_Club

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    At his inaugural press conference didn't he say that 10 years is just about the right length of stay before the message gets old? I hope that he finds everything such to his liking that he'll never wish to leave

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    There is no amount of money that is too much for Theo. He has turned everything around. Being a Blackhawks fan I've seen the benefits of great management. Having the Bowman's father and son controlling the Hawks FO has made them a consistent winner. Being a Rams fan I've seen the other side constant failure and new FO after new FO. Keeping Theo in control of the Cubs is huge. Keeping a consistent quality system in place is a big deal.

  • One of the most fun things about the last few years has been watching this man work. As you mention he faced hurdles and changed course, new hurdles? Changed course again. The whole thing has been both methodical and flexible at the same time. Theo doesn't so much aim for specific events but open up situations with possible outcomes and choose the best ones. All the while he's told us exactly what the broader plan was, if you chose to listen that is. I think there will be the big payoff at the end of this but if that doesn't come it won't be from lack of trying.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Well put TC

  • In reply to TC154:

    Very well said, TC. Especially the part about maintaining flexibility and creating situations that give management several possible outcomes and the ability to choose the best one. He rarely, if ever, allows the team to be cornered where they have to make a move.

    I hope the entire FO team is extended. Jed Hoyer, who publicly seems relegated to simply helping players get their arm through one side of their new jersey at press conferences, is undoubtedly a key component to the team's success. And Jason McLeod has done an amazing job improving the Cubs amateur scouting and player development.

    One person/group who I think doesn't get the credit they deserve is Tom Ricketts and the rest of the ownership group. Many sports organizations have meddling ownership or inept ones. The Cleveland Browns have been a mess for a long time and just fired their GM and coach after just 2 seasons. I heard a sports commentator the other day say he doesn't blame Coach Pettine or GM Farmer for the Browns struggles. They'd only been there for 2 years. He blames the guy who hired those two in the first place.

    It takes a smart executive to recognize one. Ricketts' first management hire was Theo Epstein. He jumped on it. Even got into some trouble for signing him too quickly. He knew what he was looking for and knew that his expertise wasn't baseball, Theo's was. There have been no stories of him sticking his nose into player decisions like Larry Lucchino did in Boston.

    What we have seen from Ricketts is really rather amazing. He has approved big contracts when asked. He's invested in record-breaking IFA classes when asked. He's invested in new training facilities in the Dominican Republic and Mesa Arizona. But most importantly, he's invested a tremendous amount of money (without public funds) into updating and improving Wrigley Field while maintaining it's historic feel and charm.

    I love the new video boards. They fit right in. The advertising signs don't bother me and the revenue they bring in seems to be going into the roster. The players will be getting a boost from the state-of-the-art, massive clubhouse this year. The fans will get more decks and eating areas to enjoy, new bathrooms all with a design that harkens back to the golden age of baseball.

    This ownership group has spent a lot, invested in the team's infrastructure, both operationally and physically, and, perhaps most importantly, hired the right executive to lead their team and got out of his way.

  • Theo will be extended. I saw posted the Cubs have gone from 800 million when Ricketts bought to being worth an estimated 2 billion now. You don't discard the winning Powerball ticket.

    The tactics Theo used in Boston and the IFA plan with the Cubs have new rules. But I don't think that is bad. The competitive advantage is finding out the limits of the system, exploiting the new limit, and then watching the bridge behind you burnt. I look at the rule changes as isolating the Cubs gains before they can be copied.

  • Well said

  • I have been fascinated since the day Epstein was hired. In addition to being a brilliant baseball mind, he manages to balance being ethical, honest and ruthless.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Hmm. Balancing Ethical, Honest, and Ruthless... well put.

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    Eureka!!! this article makes everything clear, that at some point this season every team in baseball is going to call Theo's phone looking for middle and long relief.

    Theo is ahead of the cure again!

  • In reply to Steve Fowler:

    This makes zero sense. Even sarcasm needs to make some sense.

  • I tend to cringe a tad when "genius" is tossed out, but this is mostly spot-on Mr. Arguello. The game on the diamond evolves rather slowly (kind of nice), but the management, structure, and reach of the game is evolving rather quickly since expansion and gutting the reserve clause (and of course, those computers and drowning in dollars). Many FO are obviously smart in the game; emulating success, doing well; this is well-documented and symmetric. I suspect the gift Theo and company bring is asymmetrical thinking in that they can early on identify and connect seemingly unrelated events and possibilities with MLB ops, then build on them smartly and methodically. Of course, it helps when the owner has confidence in the FO and, oh, a bit of the coin. Exceptional post. Last: Why would Theo go anywhere else anytime soon? This is, in many ways, his baby. WS and his statue rivals MJ. No way an extension isn't done soon.

  • In reply to concheguy:

    To be honest, I cringe when genius is used as well :) I think when it comes to Theo within his own field, it fits.

    I do think they'll get it done.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is the Golden Age of the Chicago Cubs. Great ownership, in Ricketts, great Front Office in Epstein, Hoyer, and McLoad, and great Manager in Maddon. Great time to be a Cubs fan. Can't wait for pitchers and catchers to report. Fear the Goat!

  • In reply to tommybaseball:

    What cat? Go Cubs!

  • In reply to tommybaseball:

    Great players with Rizzo, Bryant Schwarber Russell, et al. That certainly helps.

  • Really appreciate the reflection John as always.

    eWAR - a measurement for executives above replacement. How do we rank our front office?

    The other thing that impresses me about the genius of Theo & Jed & the gang is that they seem to treat people with dignity & respect. They are honest & willing to hang in tough, uncomfortable spots to come up with solutions.

    I would LOVE to spend an offseason hanging with Theo & Jed everyday learning how they do their business.

  • In reply to Morgzie:

    Would be fun just to talk baseball and have a beer or three.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    you better get your credit card ready then, for sure you are buying!

  • In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    haha! I'll buy in that situation.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Eureka! Free beer? I have appreciated the transparency from day one. That is a rare commodity. I would also like to give credit to Mr. Ricketts. He had the foresight to put this whole dream into motion. I could go off on previous management, but that has been well documented. Thank you, Mr. Ricketts. After all these guys get me drunk, I'll buy you a drink.

  • As part of the total compensation package , I would give Theo an option to buy a percentage of Chicago Baseball Holdings LLC.

  • It takes a lot of variables to conduct a transition like the one we're witnessing on the Cubs. It takes money--Mr. Ricketts took care of that--something that prior Cubs management teams lacked. It takes great management, which Theo and his team of specialists are providing. And it takes good talent, which the management of the team acquired.The result is unfolding before our eyes--an eventual World Championship. All these elements have to be in place to achieve this result--and Theo Epstein is a key part of the formula. Thank the Lord I'm still alive to see it finally happen!

  • In reply to toboyle9:

    I've lived all over this great country in my 45 years. This year I moved back to Chicago, where I haven't been since '88, because I have believed I will see the Cubs win, and when they do, "I will be there". How's that for confidence? Go Cubs!

  • In reply to toboyle9:

    And don't forget that it takes a great manager. I'd rank Maddon at the very top of all MLB managers I've observed over several decades. I have yet to see him make a mistake that I couldn't understand/rationalize, and his skill at personnel management (e.g., Castro-Russell) is simply amazing. Let's extend him as well--he's a critical and essential part of the team.

  • fb_avatar

    Theo is great. Although I have watched enough sports teams to know that success typically starts with the owner. Is it a coincidence that the Warriors, after decades of futility, built a team loaded with talent soon after they got a new owner? Or that the are building a new stadium in San Francisco? When Rickets first signed Epstein, he paid him more than any other exec in the league. My guess is he'll do it again. He built a fantastic training facility in Arizona; best in the league. He's turning Wrigley Field into one of the best parks in the league, including building a fantastic club house that will attract players. He signed Maddon. He upgraded the team's infrastructure (e.g., computer system). He invested in the scouting department. He has built an organization that gives Epstein the tools to succeed. I was lucky enough to watch Eddie D. and Bill Walsh team to build a dynasty. I hope I am watching it again on the North Side.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    You have to love the free-market system, where the most innovative and talented people succeed and thrive. I don't think the Cubs brass promote their talent based on nepotism and seniority.

  • Well, sure, he might bring a World Series for the Cubs..... but can he keep an NFL team in St. Louis? THAT would be something...

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    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I really think that STL got shafted in that deal. That said, STL would only support NFL when it was winning, and in the NFL, that is rare. BTW, STL radio today was crying about it, which is kind of fun to hear...

  • In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    The flight attendant saw my Cub hat today. She was from St. Louis. The first half of the flight I had to listen to her complain about the Rams going back to LA and about how the Cubs have stolen their players. Reminded me of my filthy rich uncle complaining about how much he pays in taxes. 1st I had no sympathy. 2nd these next ten years are going to be fun.

  • Well, we DID give them Theriot. That should count for something.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I should have brought that up. But didn't he get a ring with the Cards.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    He's good but he's not a miracle worker.

  • Thanks, John for putting a voice to my coalesced thoughts. "Carmine" was deemed proprietary and remained in Boston, but Cherington didn't /couldn't exploit it to his advantage. Now Theo offices at Wrigley implementing updated software (ivy?). It often
    seems Epstein is playing chess with checkers players, and it's become a fun winter diversion to imagine what he might do next. We've heard Wrigley plays like two different parks, depending on uwind and/or temperature. Could we see various lineups tailored to conditions?

  • In reply to Hazen Cuyler:

    I like the idea. Just don't see how it is possible with a short bench and a long bullpen.

  • Look at the talent on that bench. Makes the long 'pen possible. And Travis Wood can hit, run, and even field in a pinch. I love this team.

  • Joe likes fluidity and flexibility. When Zobrist was signed, I wondered what Joe could do with multiple players with skills to play multiple positions? This tactic would lengthen the bench. Next, there's something cooking with the pitching staff. Dedicated starting rotation, designated relievers, but what to make of Cahill, Richard, Warren, Wood, and...there's one more who's name escapes me. Anyway, on those miserable early home dates when the park is playing huge, plug in two or three swingmen while starting a lineup featuring line drive contact hitters.

  • In reply to Hazen Cuyler:

    Definitely something cooking with this pitching staff. I think you see either Cahill or Warren stick in the rotation this season. Both have great stuff and if they can just find consistency (particularly with FB - which Bosio can help with) then they will be successful in the rotation. Our pitching depth (on the major league staff) is underrated.

  • fb_avatar

    Hopefully someone in the Cubs FO is reading this and can forward this to Theo Epstein !!!

  • fb_avatar

    This team of Tom and Theo seems to work well together and they have some so far, done so much, that I just can't see them not finishing this monumental trip, and not just for one WS title but continuing to be there. Theo has said that it's a process that won't stop. What else could be better than working for the Cubs and making this team like the Yankees, without all the drama.
    John, the only critique I would make is your use of "genius". I know you answered this before, but there are so few geniuses around that it's highly unlikely that Theo is one. He is an extremely bright and forward thinking man, but I just don't think he is, but he is in that upper one per cent of management types that sees ahead of the curve. One of my brothers is an astrophysicist and he has seen only a few geniuses in his life, and he has met several Nobel Prize winners. Other than that John, it's a great and insightful article.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Hmm. What about A new category for Nobel Prize -- Front Office? I might be taking it too far.

  • Nah. It would always go to a team in LA or NY. I root for the team in fly-by country.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Genius is indeed a very overused word but if Bill Belichick can be deemed a genius I suppose Theo can once he starts winning titles, but only in a relative sense. I'm not sure those guys bear any semblance to Einstein or Stephen Hawking.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Technically speaking as a professional psychologist, "genius" is a term that is applied to individuals with 140+ IQ's. I'd be amazed if there weren't many Cubs at that level, both in the FO and on the field.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Having said that, I've also met many individuals at "genius" level that didn't have, as my grandmother used to say, "the sense that God gave a grasshopper."

  • I'm curious to know exactly what is the difference between what Theo and Jed do. I feel like any major trade or FA signing is done with Theo's finger prints all over it. Most GMs are the ones deciding these kinds of things, but not the Cubs. Theo is final decision maker, I believe.

    Has there been a time when Jed says this is what we're going to do and Theo lets him do it (maybe the Rizzo trade). I just feel like Jed isn't given the autonomy to make decisions like most GMs. Someone tell me if I'm mistaken.

  • In reply to David23:

    I have the same question. It seems to be a cooperative model.
    Someone will write a book about this rebuild and the journey to a title. I hope it's someone with excellent analytical and writing skills and a big heart, who has been documenting the entire process. A couple interviews scored with the right people completes the circle. Perhaps, somewhere, an Ardbeg drinker is contemplating all this.

  • In reply to David23:

    This is the new system. The big decision-makers has a title above GM. PBO--President of Baseball Operations--as JA put it. Then his GM is the 2nd in command, yet all additional titles remain. The job is too big now for one man, not if he ever wants to sleep. I'd doubt Jed ever has full autonomy but would you rather be a GM who answers to a great BPO or would you prefer to be a GM of a 3rd world organization that doesn't have the budget for scouting, player development, free agency etc? The GM of the Cubs is a bigger dog than the GM/big dog of the Orioles (and is probably paid better as well) even if he has more levels of decision-makers above him

  • In reply to ericccs:

    And does anyone else feel that the Orioles big dog (Dan Duquette) looks like the love child of Greg Maddox and Dan Akroyd? I can't get it out of my head

  • In reply to ericccs:

    I was preparing an educational response to David23 until I saw you did a fine job. Then I was going to thank you for doing such a fine job. Then I saw the love-child thing. It's getting late.

  • In reply to ericccs:

    I argument with someone a while back who argued that the President of Baseball ops title was just a fancier title to justifying your GM more money and bumping his assistant to GM. I don't think so. I think it's more like what you say and that the GM job got so big that an extra level became necessary. Some teams just go with VP of baseball ops but the concept is the same.

  • In Theo we Trust....

  • Love childs and "highly acknowledged submission!" Good night, Cubs fans, we might hear of an Arrieta deal tomorrow.

  • If you want to gauge Theo's value just look at ownership + front office leadership among Chicago's professional teams. The Blackhawks were a mess and didn't sustain success until Rocky Wirtz took over, and eventually put Stan Bowman in place as GM. The White Sox, Bears and Bulls are all dysfunctional in some respect (ownership + FO) and don't compete for championships. What I really appreciate about Theo, and a lesson I learned in my own career is that he's not afraid to surround himself with really smart people. You can never have enough smart people in your organization. He brought in Hoyer and McLeod as well as an entire analytics group. In any event, Theo understands people, process and product - he would be successful any business leadership role.

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    In reply to ccia:

    well said CCIA

  • In reply to ccia:

    I agree. Don't discount John McDonough's role with the Blackhawks though. Rocky Wirtz brought him in to essentially reconfigure the organization top to bottom. He put the right people in the right places and reaped the benefits. I say this in terms of the Cubs in that as much as I'm loathe to praise Crane Kenney, the dynamic of Theo having to only concern himself with baseball was very smart and has allowed both men to accomplish the team goals

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    In reply to TC154:

    TC, what if McDonough had been named GM of the Cubs? Do you think he could have had the success he found with the Blackhawks?
    I don't know.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    It's a good question. If he had been able to pick out the best baseball talent maybe. In this era he may have had a tougher time because of the split most organizations have between the business side and the baseball side. He has always been well connected and well liked though.so he might have been able to do it but certainly in a much different way. He was a the perfect guy for the Hawks though as he had no specific hockey skills and simply looked for the best talent in the business with no hockey agenda of his own.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I tried a longer post that got eaten so until that one shows up I'll just say, maybe.

  • Quite simply, it has been a nearly flawless rebuild. The cubs embarked on a journey that is rarely taken in pro sports, which is a complete teardown and rebuild from a major market club, and it couldn't have gone any better so far. Even his bad moves have turned out golden, such as Edwin Jackson's futility helping pad the loss column for the drafting of Bryant. He turned a college relief pitcher with a history of arm issues into rizzo. He turn 15 starts of a journeyman starting pitcher into a cy Young ace and an 8th inning arm. He sold shark at his peak value for a legit short stop, and he opportunistically signed perhaps the best players manager in the game (among countless other accomplishments) If he wins a world series in Chicago, he should be in the hall of fame. He is as an impactful a person as they have in their organization.

  • While I think Theo/mgt team is perhaps the best I've ever seen, I do think that general brilliance has stifled any real questioning of the plan. Yes, he has done incredible work, and most everything has be excellent, but that shouldn't apply to everything. I think there are a couple of things that the blogosphere should be a little harder on:

    1. The concept that 'you cannot rebuild and win at the same time.' Yes we all bought into it, suffered through it, and are happy to be done with it. But I think in retrospect, the concept is faulty. If we review what talent we would not have if we'd been a middle of the road team for years rather than historically bad, it's really a small difference. We still would have Russell, Soler, Baez, Shwarber (likey), Hendricks, Almora, Torres, etc. Really it boils down to not having Bryant and having someone else lower in the the first round, and not having the first round pick that became Happ after signing Lester.

    Do I like those two, yes. Are we much better off w/Bryant who might develop into a generational talent, yes. But can you rebuild without bottoming out? I'm not certain that is the case.

    2. There's a tremendous market value for the power hitters the Cubs have collected. Yes, the Cubs have collected a lot. Yes, the pundits are wildly supportive of the talent that's been collected. But a market inefficiency? We haven't yet seen a willingness to overvalue those assets of the Cubs yet. In fact, we've seen the opposite. Pitching remains overvalued -- Shelby, etc. In fact the Cubs received what was perceived to be too much hitting talent (Russell and McKinney) when they gave up pitching. Perhaps this turns in future years, but we cannot count this as currency yet.

    3. "Offense wins Championships" -- this to me is the big one. The Cubs have a specific opinion that "Big Pitching" is overpriced, both in the draft and as free agents and as a result have shied away from it -- with the exception of Lester. Through quantity, they will find quality. This is a unique, intriguing, fascinating stance. It's propelled the Cubs very quickly to a 97 win team. What we don't know is if this strategy wins World Series. It's contrary to 'conventional wisdom,' including the way the Giants just won 3 out of 5, or the way the Mets got to the Series this year.

    As someone without a lot of time to do my own research, it's hard to tell if this conventional wisdom is in fact bunk, or if it's correct. Yet, it does seem to me that it's worthy of harder investigation than has occurred.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    It looks to me like the Cubs are spreading their eggs across many baskets, with FLEXIBILITY as the operative default. That way we can be in a position to take advantage of whatever luck provides us. Perhaps postseason flexibility is the new market inefficiency.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Speaking to your first point, we don't know if Theo et al embarked on a "faulty concept", in terms of rebuilding. What we know is the Cubs organization was in worse shape than anyone realized, including Ricketts. The most efficient means to reclaim value was accomplished through short term pain in exchange for a burgeoning franchise, now the envy of every major league city.

    It cannot be underestimated how valuable was the job done by McLeod and his staff dedicated to scouting and player development. Sure, it helps to have high draft picks, however many prep and collegiate heroes don't make it out of the minor leagues. Or, they don't live up to the (short term) hype, as is the case with Mark Appel. How would Bryant look in Astros orange, bashing baseballs off of that locomotive beyond the left field wall?

    The team we love is being led by a different version of generational talent at several levels, and we're fortunate beyond our dreams.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    In response to your points:
    1.) If you look across all sports, there is no worse place to be than average. In Chicago alone, whitesox, bulls, and bears have all been stuck in that middle tier of too good to get can't miss draft talent, and too bad to be a title contender. Also, under your scenario, I don't think you have Russell because a team trying to compete wouldnt trade shark. You can also make the case that arrieta wouldn't be here because Feldman was reliable. Similar story to Hendricks, strop, Ramirez, grimm. All of those guys were acquired by taking a step back. This team would look drastically different with many old, mediocre, stop gap free agents if trying to compete from day 1, AKA the whitesox plan.

    2.the cubs core of power hitters are like blue chip stocks. Even on a bad day they have good value and are not as volatile (injury prone). The cubs haven't needed to trade in that stock out of necessity yet, so they keep the pieces that have good long term value, and will wait for the perfect time to buy the fast rising volatile stock that is going young pitching.

    3. Getting to the playoffs repeatedly wins championships. It's more or less a crap shoot. Personally, I would want to build my playoff team with a legit,legit ace and more guys that make consistent contact, but im not aware of any data that supports any type of a strong correlation between winning in the playoffs and those attributes (or any attributes for that matter.)

  • In reply to kb60187:

    1. You bring up a good caveat. If they'd been trade short term talent for long term upgrades, especially with starting pitching, while still providing better than replacement value in the bull pen or field, could they have had a punchers chance at the play offs. The issue here isn't mediocrity, but the willingness to trade short term talent for long term talent.

    2. My point here is that the blogosphere has touted what great currency the Cubs have created by stockpiling this resource. The actuality to date is that we haven't seen that stockpile be worth what it's been reported to be.

  • In reply to Gunga:

    Keep in mind the Cubs have one of the better pitching staffs in baseball. Acquiring power bats in the draft hasn't hindered the Cubs in any way from compiling a strong pitching staff.

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