Patience, Process pays off for Cubs

My first reaction to the Cubs making the World Series was an emotional one.   I talked about the waves of joy, relief, and even sadness as the Cubs clinched their first pennant in 71 years.  It's been a remarkable journey for many of us long time Cubs fans.  It's been a journey in which we've seen teams that lost direction and yet, Cubs fans never lost hope.

But you don't need to have been a Cubs fan for the last 70 years to have witnessed an incredible journey.  You only need to have been around the last 5 years.  The Cubs were a moribund franchise, an organization with a bloated payroll of past-prime veterans and a farm system that was even more barren than we thought at the time.  Years of neglect had dried it up.  The Cubs were pinning their hopes on the likes of Brett Jackson, Jose Vitters, and Trey McNutt along with young SS Starlin Castro.

The front office had the difficult task of first identifying who and what needed to be kept and what needed to be cleared out in an organization they only knew from the outside.  They had to find players they thought would fit their culture and philosophy and not that of the previous regime.  As might be expected, some mistakes were made, most notably keeping Jackson, Vitters, and McNutt for too long, but also letting future MLB players like DJ Le Mahieu go for little in return.  The Cubs had spent a lot of money on the 2011 draft, the last one of the Hendry era, but they weren't necessarily the kind of players this front office would have invested in.   For the most part the current front office was right, with one notable exception, NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez.

The next step was the task of trying to create value seemingly out of thin air, a task made more difficult by the looming decision to close up some of the draft loopholes that Theo Epstein's Red Sox had exploited for years.  The compensation picks system would be overhauled coupled with the imposing of financial restrictions.  No longer could a very good, wealthy team accumulate draft picks by letting unwanted free agents go.  No longer could a player make huge bonus demands to ensure he would slip down the draft and get picked by teams like the Red Sox.

The front office would have to adapt.  One way they did so was the sign and flip strategy.  That is, they would sign players they believed were undervalued. give them an opportunity to play significant roles they may not otherwise have had, then deal them for prospects at the peak of their value.  The most successful product of this strategy was Jake Arrieta, who came along with top set-up reliever Pedro Strop in exchange for what amounted to two months of Scott Feldman, a pitcher who had the best half season of his life as a Cubs starter.

The Cubs also had veterans to deal.   Matt Garza brought key bullpen arms CJ Edwards and Justin Grimm, but it was another deal with Texas that has made an even bigger impact -- and it was a deal that almost never happened.

The Cubs had a deal in place with the Atlanta Braves to exchange veteran starter Ryan Dempster for young RHP Randall Delgado.  The deal infamously fell through when Dempster balked at being "blindsided" and refused to go to Atlanta.  The Cubs had to quickly search for another trade and settled for what many of us thought was a lesser return at the time, acquiring 3B Christian Villanueva and an unrated, soft-throwing pitching prospect named Kyle Hendricks.

And just like that, the Cubs created 2/3 of their rotation -- two of their top 3, in fact almost out of thin air.  For an organization that had no pitching prospects and is still looking to produce pitching from within, those two trades were huge.  It lessened the need to build a staff through free agency, though that too would play a key role -- but only once the Cubs felt they were ready to take that step.  But we'll get back to that in a bit.

While many criticized the Cubs for not quickly building through free agency, the decision not to do so had a two-pronged effect.  The first was that they kept the payroll lean and flexible to be used when needed.  The second was that the team did not add wins at a time when those wins had negative value in that they would cause the Cubs to slip down the draft.  Considering that they could no longer expect good players to slide to them based on bonus demands, it was going to be difficult.  Yet, with the system bereft of impact talent, it was more imperative than ever that the Cubs obtain top draft talent, and the only way to do so under the current system was to lose ball games.  As usual when there is an attempt to artificially impose uniformity, there are unintended consequences.  Tanking has been one of those consequences.

And so while much of the local media howled about losing ballgames and not looking for the quick fix, the Cubs were drafting players like Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber.  All three players are expected to be on the World Series roster and Bryant will almost certainly win the NL MVP award.

Scouting hitters is this front office's specialty.  Not only did they draft well, but they also acquired key offensive players via trade.  Anthony Rizzo was the first big trade to bring in the player that would become their cornerstone.  Dexter Fowler was acquired for the respected Luis Valbuena, but with Bryant ready to take over and the Cubs lacking a CFer/leadoff hitter, Fowler was clearly the better fit.  He has also turned out to be the better player overall and has served as a catalyst for the offense. Addison Russell was brought in via a big trade with Oakland to solidify the defense first while they waited for the bat to to develop.  All four players have played key roles in the Cubs offensive explosion in the last three NLCS games that put the Cubs in the World Series.

Identifying good young hitters is only part of the story.  The Cubs ability to develop them is key as well.  Javier Baez was a wild swinger with little to no discipline and no semblance of a plan other than to launch the ball as far as he could on every single swing -- which seemingly came on almost every single pitch no matter where it was thrown.  The talent was evident but there was a real question as to whether he could ever harness it.

In some ways Baez is symbolic of the organization itself.  The Cubs basically had to tear everything down and start from scratch.  They sent him back to the Arizona complex in 2012 to orient him on the so-called Cubs Way.  There were a lot of things Baez had to learn and unlearn, but what we didn't know about him at the time was that he had an Einstein-esque baseball IQ.  Between his intelligence, instincts, work ethic and the Cubs instruction, support, and patience, it appears that 4 years later, the Cubs may have something very special on their hands, a uniquely talented ballplayer who can help the team in so many different ways.

A similar case is that of Willson Contreras, a player the Cubs exposed to the Rule 5 Draft just two years ago.  Another uniquely talented, athletic, passionate ballplayer who sometimes had trouble reigning things in, Contreras appeared on his way out of the organization after a dismal season at Myrtle Beach and a career in which flashes of absolute brilliance were too often overshadowed by aggressive, unforced mistakes.  If you took a casual glance at Contreras, you saw a talented but wildly undisciplined player.  If you squinted your eyes a little harder, you saw a kid who just wanted to make plays, who would do just about anything to help his team win -- he just didn't know how to best use his talents.  With his career with the Cubs in jeopardy, the Cubs sent him to Venezuela -- perhaps as a final chance to show what he can do.  And Contreras responded.  Surrounded by veterans, the light bulb finally went on and Contreras was on his way.  His passion is now an asset.  Manager Joe Maddon described it as much needed "oxygen" for the team.  The difference now is that he channels that passion into his play on the field and he has become what some had seen all along -- a play-maker with a knack for coming up big when the team needs it.

Before I get to the final pieces of this rebuild, I want to point out that all along this way, there has been good fortune.  As good as the Cubs process is, it is not infallible -- but it works much more often than it doesn't and when lady luck happens to smile on them, they're ready.  The Cubs would not have picked Baez had they been with the organization just one year earlier, but they helped develop him into the player that he is today.  Kyle Hendricks was not their first choice -- but when given a second chance, the Cubs scouting department plucked a pitcher off the trade list the Rangers were secretly hoping the Cubs would pass over because of his seemingly pedestrian tools.  A team could easily have seen the potential in Willson Contreras and plucked him for a mere $50K in the Rule 5 Draft.  The Cubs didn't originally plan on re-signing Dexter Fowler and it looked like he was headed to Baltimore, but one day late in the spring, Fowler and the Cubs surprised us all. It's hard to imagine this team without those four players, but it very easily could have happened that way.  A little good fortune never hurts.

This didn't just happen all at once and so the Cubs did see this coming.  There was always going to be a time when the Cubs would surround their young nucleus with strategic signings.  They added an experienced ace in Jon Lester who set the example for how players should prepare.  They added two leaders at catcher in David Ross and Miguel Montero who are assets in the clubhouse and also know how to extract the best performance from their pitchers.  Ben Zobrist added a versatile veteran who puts the team first and while Jason Heyward hasn't hit as expected, he has added Gold Glove caliber defense and smart play on the field.  The fact that the Cubs built the foundation first helps them absorb the lack of offensive production.  Heyward has become a great complimentary player -- even if he is an expensive one.  But he is still young and talented, he may yet turn things around...and wouldn't it be great if it happened over the next several games?

The Cubs are more than just a curiosity or a novelty.  They are a model franchise -- an example of how to build a team the right way and that if you develop a good process when it comes to identifying and developing talent -- and then faithfully stick to that process even in a world that craves instant gratification, then you will eventually reap your reward.  And that it has happened in 5 years for a team that, long history of failure aside, was in complete disarray as recently as 2011, that is far more interesting, far more remarkable, than breaking a curse that only existed in the heads of fans, the cynical pens of a few writers, and the tired, unimaginative voice of the national media.

The Cubs have written their own narrative.  They are now, indisputably. one of the very best organizations in the world of professional sports.

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  • Great overview how it all happened John. It is a special story of patience, insight, and organization. Thanks for summarizing it so well and for your coverage all season.

  • In reply to Ringer:

    Thank you!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I love these kinds of articles

  • In reply to Ringer:

    I second Ringer. Brilliant summary of how it was done.

  • What a Ride, what a Ride! Glad I rolled the dice on game 6 tics and game 1 in Cleveland.
    That's why I'm goin' to Montan.....no wait, Cleveland!

    I have 2 extra Game 1 Bleacher Seats for sale.
    Email me at
    ideaman914@gmail.com
    subject: WS game 1

  • It would be really great if someone produced a sports documentary about these past five years. It's honestly been both disappointing and thrilling all at the same time.

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    I really enjoyed reading the Cubs history John. One small correction--it's Josh Vitters, not Jose. That aside, I've always thought that life is luck and the Cubs luck showed as when they found Hendricks or didn't get Contreras picked from their system--but also comes with preparation and a great eye for talent. As I look over the 1st round draft picks some had us wondering--Hayden Simpson e.g. or great expectations--Earl Cunningham as another. We've said it before, this organization knows how to draft, sign and develop and we'll be seeing the results for years to come.
    thanks again John, for being so thorough and predictive.

  • Thank you for this summary John,... and thanks for your efforts in building up this wonderful Cubs Den venue, attracting a solid cadre of fellow writers to cover what you're not able to cover on your own, and for your and their role in attracting one of the most amazingly friendly, knowledgeable, and honest groups of posters & readers it has ever been my pleasure to encounter on the internet.

    This site, your collective insights into the rebuild the Cubs were attempting, and all those wonderful updates and descriptions of everything good that was happening down on the farm, with the scouting and development staff, and with the international training camps,... there were the light we all saw down at the end of a very long tunnel.

    This next week or so is going to be a seriously fun time - no matter what the final outcome is for the Cubs. In part - because we all can look at this roster, this management and the farm am know this is not going to be some one-time shot at a playoff and WS run.

  • I hate it when my comments get caught in the administrative cue,.....

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    I have one stuck right now

  • In reply to Skidoorunner:

    I've had five straight today.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't know why, but there are days it seems eat everything I submit..

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I poured my heart out into a piece a wrote Sunday morning only to have it disappear into the admin ethernet. Very disappointing, but given it was a New Day, the dawn of a new era, I didn't mind so much.

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    In reply to TTP:

    I'm not sure what's going on. There's nothing in the spam filter. John might know better.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Must be the Russians, lol.

  • Wonderful article, John! Thank you for keeping us all going through the valleys with this blog.

    I request that you keep your typo of "Jose" Vitters in the article. He certainly swung at more pitches than most 16 year old Latin players do so the name is honorary.

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    In reply to jmarsh123:

    ha! That's a good one.

  • This will be a very interesting off season. do they spend big money
    to sign 1 pitcher or use the money to sign their young core
    players to long term contracts. Also who might lose in the
    rule V draft

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I doubt they spend a lot of money. If they do then maybe bullpen help? We can easily have the same rotation as this year with Montgomery to provide depth in case of injury.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I say ship off Almora, Soler, Eloy Jimenez, half the farm system for Trout. (4 Games away from a Cubs WS, so clearly a man can dream!)

  • John, I stumbled on to this site when Theo was signed and as a lifelong Cub fan in his 50's, I can not express the added joy you all have given me as the rebuild unfolded.
    I felt like an insider, saying, the kids are coming.....2 even 3 years ago. All the gloom and and doom I heard.....
    I don't even care, at this point, if they win the WS, because the window is wide open now. Although I believe they will, none of the playoff teams in the AL has led me to believe that Cleveland is better then what the Cubs went through. I was there in game 6 and will be there in game 1....
    Cubs in 5!

  • Nice work John, as always of course. This piece is about the culmination of the plan, but it's also the culmination of what you and the other Cubs Den writers have been saying for all these years. You wrote, we talked about it sometimes with you sometimes amongst ourselves and we learned things along with the team. The process has been something to see and still is. You bring up Javy and his journey from the young man who came up 2 years ago to the co-MVP of the NLCS we're seeing now. Such great stories all along.

  • Oh, and here's a great link to the magic and absurdity of the Lester and Ross battery:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/jon-lesters-oddities-all-on-display/

  • The stroke of luck I always think about is the Astros drafting Appel.

    From the first time I saw KB in the FSL with daytona I knew how lucky we were going to be to have him.

    I love that you still use the picture of him my buddy Matt took that day.

  • Predictions.......ok.....here we go.....

    There is probably NOBODY on this site that will or is picking Cleveland......

    The only way I see Cleveland winning is IF they win the first 2 games......if they do, they may get one in Chicago and then go back to Cleveland up 3-2.....then we have troubles.

    If the Cubs get any one of the first 2 games......ITS OVER!

    Cubs in 5......IN Wrigley....
    Winning Pitcher:

    Jon Lester

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I hope you're right, but I fear you may be underestimating the Tribe. They have good pitching, some good bats and a dang good running game. They also have the manager I'd want if Joe Maddon had not been available. I'm picking the Cubs (of course!) but it may go the full 7 games...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I agree totally with you about the Tribe's running game. I've been surprised no team has really done all they can to exploit Lester's throwing issues. The Dodgers had the idea I've been fearful of over the last two seasons. They just never stole or kept bunting. I believe if a the Tribe commits to really big leads and stealing as well as bunting right at Lester this strategy has a good chance of working. The Tribe just has to keep doing it even after it doesn' work once or twice.

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    In reply to David23:

    Maybe the tribe will do it. But it isn't as easy as it sounds to steal off of Lester.

    1. While Lester doesn't throw to 1B, Ross has NO "yips" about it. And he led the league in picked off baserunners. Apparently he and Lester have a "sign" for it because when Montero caught Lester last year Lester was mad that Montero "missed the sign" several times.

    2. Lester varies his delivery times. He doesn't let the runner get into a "rhythm."

    3. If you do get too aggressive Lester WILL pick you off.
    http://m.mlb.com/video/topic/69972428/v480941083/chcpit-lester-starts-rundown-to-nab-marte-stealing

    4. Finally, psychologically it is really hard for players to "believe" what they "know." After YEARS of measuring their leads with an eye toward getting back to 1B it is hard to simply ignore that internal "clock."

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I think it goes 6 but I'm not overlooking Cleveland. The biggest issue is that part of what the Cubs try to do is chase the starter to get to the bullpen but there be dragons there, well Andrew Miller but you get the idea. To me winning game one will be huge. FiveThirtyEight has the Cubs with a 48% chance at that game against Kluber and the pressure is on them. Yes our best in Lester is going too but their best is followed by 3 maybes. There's a lot of talk about Cleveland trying to run on Lester but the Dodgers talked about that a lot too. It looks to be a good matchup but ask Boston or Toronto about that. In the end though I feel relatively safe picking Cubs in 6.

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    In reply to Wickdipper:

    Cleveland's best chance, in my opinion, is to get on top early in the game. The Cubs have shown themselves able to come back off of bullpens this post-season but the Giants are a far cry from Cleveland. But I think LAD had a well thought of bullpen and, outside of Jansen, they were pretty porous. If the Indians can bring their bullpen to bear on the Cubs we may be in trouble. We have won a lot of games by feasting on bullpens this year. But if Chicago gets a lead then the "lights out" bullpen in Cleveland is less of an advantage to them.

    Also, a lot of the Cubs success this year was based on getting into the bullpen early in the first game of a series and, by the end, they are gassed. In the playoffs with so many off days for pitchers to rest that doesn't work. That is what makes the Cubs success really remarkable this year.

  • For years, we watched while one "can't miss" prospect after another fizzled out or was traded before reaching the star status we expected. It was mind-boggling and frustrating. Then, Theo Epstein brought a new approach, building a scouting team that looked beyond raw talent and considered character, discipline, "coachability," and other factors, making sure the candidate was a good fit for the culture they were trying to develop. Veterans were brought in to help mentor the prospects. Thanks to your team, John, we understood the plan, and why it will work. I've learned more in a few years visiting Cubs Den than in decades of watching games and reading newspapers. Not only do I understand more, my appreciation for what the Cubs are doing has reached a new level Thanks.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Well said and me too. I come from a large extended family of beat down Cub fans and after finding this site, they wrote me off as hopelessly optimistic. Thanks for making me look smarter and perceptive.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Cliff-nicely stated.
    John; great summary of our long awaited Cubs team get to the World Series.
    Thank you all for your great insights & articles!!
    Let's all cheer on our beloved Cubs to a sweet World Series Championship!!!

  • Just to add a cherry on top of John's fine summation of the journey that got us here, ya'll need to check this out. The most beautiful thing I've ever seen at Wrigley Field:

    https://t.co/uCUMSVt9Fh

  • I haven't posted here in awhile, but I was hoping to find some friendly advice from my fellow Cub fans! I am coming to town (from Indiana) for a couple days over the weekend and I am looking for a place to watch the games in Chicago. The wrinkle is that I am 19, and therefore not able to get into a bar, but I would still love to watch the game with a big group of fans (and preferably not a huge cost to get in anywhere either). Anyone have any ideas for where I could go?

  • In reply to KingTheo:

    Just look for a bar/restaurant type of place. Many many many around. Or maybe Barley Pop as an idea. In NWI area, we're loaded with em.

  • In reply to KingTheo:

    Hooters..double your fun..

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    In reply to KingTheo:

    Restaurants that happen to serve drinks as well. Buffalo wild wings, hooters.

  • Cubs need to sweep. I will be in chicago saturday, flying out just to be part of it all! wrigleyville here I come!

  • I am considering making a journey to Wrigleyville for Game 4. No ticket, not expecting one, but want to be a part of this somehow. How many other tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Cubs fans have the same idea?

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Ill have to tweet @ you saturday and buy you a beer

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    If you guys are coming in to hang out and watch the game near Wrigley, you gotta get into a bar 3 or 4 hours before game time -- and even that might be too late. Also know this, I heard places like the Cubby Bear was charging $100 cover charge Saturday night. Even places like Rocket's was charging $30.

  • In reply to TTP:

    $100 cover charge for there? I don't have any good words for that....

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Last year at the Cardinal game 3, I stood in the box office line for four and one half hours, I bought two tickets behind home plate back a ways from the field for face value. My son and I sat down with a Chicago dog and Old Style just before the anthem.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    I'm coming in from LA this weekend for the same thing. I heard the bars in Wrigleyville were charging cover charges of $80-$100 just to come in. It's gonna be crazy.

  • I've never liked the term "tanking" when used to describe the Cubs' rebuild. Shaving points, bought off basketball refs, or eating canvas in the fourth round in exchange for a percentage of the gate is tanking. A seediness ranking a notch below ordinary dishonesty.

    A great WSJ article from October, '15 described the terrible state of the franchise when Tom Ricketts assumed ownership in '09. A bottom up restoration was necessary after many decades of disinterested ownership and administrative ennui was the thrust of the article. Normally, it's Cards fans who point fingers and scream about the Cubs tanking as a means of achieving eventual greatness. If the Cubs didn't have good management and a dose of luck, and missed out on the playoffs, would the tanking claim be made?

    Theo, et al have used the rules of franchise management to their advantage, maybe better than any other mlb team. To their credit, they've exploited weakness and shortsightedness, and in so doing, have delivered the dream all of us have been waiting on for years. To my mind, Theo and Jed made the only choice left to them by the new restrictions created. Playing mediocre players (when no better players are to be had) isn't tanking. Of course, Cards fans want to see bloated free agents with equally bloated contracts signed by the Cubs, then doomed to ignominious failure. Sorry, the Cubs franchise doesn't exist as a target for their scorn and ridicule. At least, not any longer.

    I attended my first Cubs game in 1963, and although I was a mere tyke, I vividly remember the experience. I'm grateful for everything Mr. Ricketts has done, including creating a tear or two of joy upon hearing Pat Hughes radio call at the conclusion of last Saturday's game. May the Cubs win the World Series, and may this victorious season be the first of many to follow.

  • In reply to Hazen Cuyler:

    It was tanking. There were good players to be had. There were high priced free agents they could have signed and other veteran trades they could have made.

    What pissed off a lot of people was that on day one, Theo said every season is sacred and that they would be on a "dual tracks" to be competitive each year while also rebuilding their farm system. That turned out to be bunk. They tanked. It was painful and miserable and infuriating. And, now, well worth it!

  • In reply to TTP:

    Got to agree with Hazen on this. It's not tanking. They did not try to lose their games, that's how tanking is defined. Sure they didn't maximize their payroll during the down years of Theo's tenure because they didn't think it would be enough to create a consistently winning team. Just because they didn't sign Albert Pujols doesn't mean they wanted or attempted to lose games during that time.

    But a great article, John, that as usual stimulates conversation.
    You have to think that Cleveland really needs to win game 1 of this series. Kluber is so important to that team. After him there is a big drop off in quality of their starters. But the Indians will run in this series, more than any other team the Cubs have faced in the post season. They will be a tough out, but we know this Cubs team will have to be beaten. Meaning they will not give this series away. That is what is so great and different about this team.

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    In reply to HefCA:

    I don't think it was tanking. I was just explaining this to my wife. When you trade good players for prospects the players that they have left are not as good and therefore will lose more games. The tried to win but just couldn't. To me that's taking advantage of the trade deadline and being in position to "help" other teams.
    They then got very good scouting and the players they selected have all worked out (their 1st round picks).
    I am so happy that Pujols or Prince Fielder weren't signed by the Cubs.

  • In reply to Hazen Cuyler:

    Regardless, it's time we all said tanks.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Arggggggg!

  • OT but I'm sure everyone wants to know: Schwarber is 0-2 so far today after batting in the third. MLB:Cubs is offering a free live feed of the game, but it's not playing well with my phone. Maybe ya'll have better luck. I did see his second AB, a line-out to the second baseman playing in short right in the shift.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I had a lot of "freeze ups" during the feed as well BP. Thanks for the updates. I guess if he's scalding the ball, e.g., a lineout, that must mean he's getting his timing back, whether it results in a hit or not. In your opinion BP, you think all the batting practice and the AFL at bats will be enough? I think anyone but WarBear, I'd be more doubtful. But if anyone can do it, that guy is a warrior. I'd love to hear your thoughts. And we're 4 games from snow angel time!

  • In reply to copinblue:

    There certainly is a lot to digest in this situation, isn't there? I agree that if anyone can pull it off, it's him. His dedication and drive are second to none. He's obviously been doing a lot of hitting behind the scenes, and now it's the test of live game action. From everything I've read and heard, when he got the surprise clearance from the doctor to play, it seemed like a foregone conclusion even within the organization that he would be activated, barring an abysmal showing in Arizona. Scouts have said he looks good, his bat speed is right where it needs to be, and it's just a matter of timing, which seems to be improving with each AB. It is an incredibly tall order, though. The confidence shown by the Cubs brass tells me they think he can do it, and that's enough for me.

    He stated after Saturday's game that his knee was of no concern to him. That is a big plus if he's sincere. The mental hurdle of coming back from a major knee injury is a challenge. If he is activated, baserunning will be an issue, which reinforces the belief of many that the Cubs go with 11pitchers, as it is likely Schwarber would be lifted for a pinch-runner late in a tight game. This is a tricky situation, but again, he can do it and seems to have the confidence of the brass behind him.

    Yes, 4 to go, and I am beginning to feel a chill in the air! Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Thanks for your input BP. I played football in college (far from anything to write home about) and the only reason I mention, is because I had two surgeries. One was a reconstruct....the other was a scope. I was scared to death the first time I had to step on the field after the big surgery. The scope, I was literally walking without help in 3 days. The mental hurdle you mentioned is real. And you're right, if he is past that, look out. I read where Scouts said his bat speed is fine. There's just something about this kid. Thanks again BP.

  • I had my Cubs hat on at work today. A superior, who is British, worked in the Chicago area in 2003,and prefers cricket but has a passing knowledge of baseball, albeit as a White Sox fan, congratulated me. He then mentioned something about reading an article about the now-passe goat, and then said something along the lines of "don't worry, they'll (the Cubs) disappoint". Since the exchange took place publicly in the coffee room, I chose to retire to my office than confront.

    But my first reaction was that win or lose, I will not be disappointed. Well, maybe a little, if the Cubs don't win, but not terribly. We have broken through the glass ceiling. Regardless of the WS result, I am quietly confident we will be back here again and again over the next years.

    But I am looking forward to rubbing his face in a WS victory next week.

    And I am really looking forward to go from being a "long-suffering Cubs fan" to an "unsufferable Cubs fan".

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    *insufferable

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    White sox fans are bitter.They hate the cubs with a passion that inferiority complex is strong.That being said enjoy the moment don't let their bitterness bother you.Cubs success drives them crazy now they have to cheer for a divisional rival to beat the cubs lol

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    In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    I had a very different experience than you when I wore my Cubs gear to work yesterday. I had 3-4 people, non-baseball fans as far as I know, say, "I hope they win it this year!"

    But I agree with you. I will be disappointed if they don't win the WS. However, I won't be devastated. In my opinion the Cubs fan's emotional baggage came with the NLCS, not the WS. For weeks I have been reading about Durham, Will Clark, Bartman/Gonzalez/Prior...I haven't read a THING about how distraught people were in 1945. How ticked off everyone was at Hank Borowy for giving up 5 runs in the 1st inning and was pulled before getting an out. Or the fact that Don Johnson couldn't BUY a hit in that series.

    So, don't get me wrong, I want the Cubs to win as much as anyone. But I expect we will be back in the WS again relatively soon. And multiple times.

    Like many of you I am fortunate to have as my favorite teams in other sports that have strong winning traditions. And I can say from experience: the first championship I experience with them is the sweetest. I, for one, will always refer to this season as a success. I will always refer to last season as a success.

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    I'm doing the same thing for games 3 and 4. Getting into Wrigley is a long shot, but I have to be near by to experience this first hand. I will be flying in from Colorado simply to be there.

  • In reply to Eli Roth:

    Bars close to Wrigley will be packed like Sardines. Just getting to the rest room will be an adventure. Still it's a fun way to take in the game, as close to being in the park as can be found.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    It will all be part of the experience! I lived in Boston in '04 when the Red Sox finally won it. I didn't go into fenway either, but the mood in the city was awesome. Cleveland and Chicago will be the best places in the world to be over the next week.

  • I've been glued to the team since the day Epstein was hired. No way to find this out, but I suspect it was Maddon's high estimation of Baez that kept him from being traded. The management team is beautifully democratic in regards to ideas.

  • I just signed up since this is a fantastic blog for Cubs content that I can't anywhere else. I love this article and talking about the Cubs moves over the last few years.

    I created a list and commentary of the top moves made by this organization since Theo took over to share with my friends. I'm not looking for clicks, just needed a place to post it.

    Theo's top 20 moves...
    http://qchicagosports.blogspot.com/2016/10/cubs-top-20-moves-with-theo-epstein.html

  • In reply to Q Cubs:

    Nice summation. Only quibble would be slotting in the David Ross signing somewhere in your top 20. Statistically, his signing might not even be top 30, but having a coach on the field to guide all the youngsters has been a huge asset. Ross barked at Starlin during last year's spring training for clowning during drills, and the observant took notice - natural talent was no longer enough to remain on this roster.

    The Cubs beat up teams with youthful vigor and savvy veteran presence, equal parts Javy and Rossy.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Hazen Cuyler:

    You're right. I had not even thought of Ross. Last year when people were complaining about Ross I was defending him saying he was fine in just a small sample size, and more than good enough for a backup C. I did not expect this much this year.

  • In reply to Q Cubs:

    The sabermetricians could devise a WAR category for mental skills on the field - WARm, perhaps. Ross' intangible value is difficult to measure, yet the Cubs would certainly be worse off without him. He's a "glue guy", along the lines of Scutaro, Dyson, Cabrera (Red Sox), and Flores. Rarely spectacular, but the guy you want alongside when it's time to take the field. Those Ross haters will miss him when he moves on.

  • In reply to Q Cubs:

    Good stuff Q....thanks for taking the time and making the effort to share this here. For a subjective "Theo list", that's a pretty good order.

  • #1, I am so happy we waited for our cookies (will always remember that famous Cubs Den article)
    #2, I'm also flying into Chicago this weekend just to be there. Sounds like it will be Cubbiepalooza outside Wrigley!

  • Kind of John not to mention Ian Stewart. On the other foot, Hector Rondon, rule 5; and that unpopular trade of Sean Marshall for Travis Wood.

  • Great recap - At times it was hard to maintain the faith. Especially about the beginning of 2014 with that 9 - 17 April. Some people may have gotten a little disappointed.

  • Sorry if this posts twice...

    Quotes from the rebuild:

    After Scott Feldman trade:
    "It's never easy to give up a guy that's performed for you (Feldman) but I think the chance to add two power arms (Arrietta & Strop) was very important to us and we're excited to have both guys," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

    After Matt Garza Trade:
    "He was the best pitcher in baseball in his last five, six, seven starts. He's young, has great velocity, has good command of his pitches and that makes him attractive to any team," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It's not easy to part with a guy like Garza and someone has to step in and be productive. We hope the players we get (C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm, Mike Olt) will make us a better team, and in the future, we can be the team who pursues a player like Garza."
    "I thought way too short-term with the Garza deal last year," Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. "That one's got a chance to haunt us and haunt me."

    After Kyle Hendricks trade
    From Lonestar Baseball blog
    While Hendricks and Villanueva are both nice prospects, I don't think either would be considered to be among the Rangers' top prospects, and they aren't huge ceiling guys.

    After Anthony Rizzo Trade (Andrew Cashner)
    "I got called up to the big leagues last year and struggled a little bit," Rizzo said Friday. "I wouldn't say some people wrote me off, but some people I guess lost some faith in me. For them to still have that faith, with everything they helped me through, it just shows me how loyal they are and how honored I am to play for them.
    "This is such a big business," Rizzo said. "I've seen it now for the last five years how much of a business it is. Everyone I've spoken to talks about how professional Theo is, how straightforward he is with everyone. It means a lot to me to be with them again."

    After Addison Russell Trade (From Peter Gammons):
    As all but a few realize, Moneyball is about recognizing undervalued assets and changes in the game. On base got expensive. Beane went to defense and roster flexibility. And now, in a game that one GM Saturday said “overvalues prospects,” Beane was willing to trade the best prospect in the organization, Addison Russell, for reasons of skill and character, not to mention the fact that scouts who watched him in the Arizona Fall League rated him higher than Kris Bryant and Albert Almora, who will be Russell’s teammates in Chicago for many years. Watching him this spring with one of Beane’s most trusted lieutenants, I had a Derek Jeter comp laid on Russell. When Beane and Theo Epstein agreed on the deal, Beane told him, “you got Barry Larkin.”

    After Bryant was drafted:
    "I know they haven't won a World Series in a while," Bryant said. "Hopefully, I can do all I can to help the Cubs win one. That's about the extent of what I know. I know it's a great baseball city, I know it's a great team -- a lot of history to it. I'm excited and just happy I'm going to be given the opportunity to continue playing this game."

    After Schwarber was drafted:
    "We loved his profile as an elite left-handed bat with power and patience," McLeod said. "Stan Zielinski did a great job with his background and we loved his makeup and leadership. Everything was a fit for the culture we're trying to build here."

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    It was about 5 years ago I stumbled upon this blog and I've read it almost every day since then. Early into the second of the three losing seasons I bet my brother (both of my brothers are nay-saying fans of other teams) the Cubs would make the World Series by next season. Of course he jumped on the bet and I'm $100 richer because of you John! I have always loved baseball but this site has given me new perspective into the analytics and strategy behind the front office. It's been so much more enjoyable watching Bryant, Baez, Swarbs and some of the other boys grow up as opposed to just watching them for the first time in the majors. I feel like I've known them since they were just little tykes on dads knee!

    A thought on luck. So many times over the years you've tempered expectations about how not all prospects work out. Since this front office has taken over almost all of their prospects have become best case scenarios and that's fantastic!

    Thanks for the many years of information and I hope you're feeling well!

  • Posted this on the wrong thread..

    I am at the Solar Sox game today with a Schwarber update:
    1st ab: Sharp GB out to 2b into the shift.
    2nd a : Same results, rolled over the top, not as sharp PO
    3rd : Worked a nice walk and came around to score, missed a slider that was up
    4th: Hard shot off the 1B glove, rolled down the line and he made it to second but very cautious running. Did advance on a sacrifice but very cautious as well.

    During the inning going into the 9th he walked down into the bullpen and just was escorted to the practice facility (hopefully getting ready to board the private plane)

  • In reply to Buzz:

    Very cool! Thanks for the update. The Cubs will be facing a lot of right handed pitching in the series, so makes sense to want to add a dangerous LH bat.

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    In reply to HefCA:

    Great recap. We'll find out soon what the roster is. So if Jon Lester pitches tomorrow that means he'll pitch with 3 days rest. I've heard that maybe Jake and then Kyle.
    Kyle let up 1 run in the Dodgers series. We have to get others to realize that he is in the top tier of pitchers.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    If my calculations are correct he pitched on Thursday. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday would make 4 days rest.

  • In reply to Torcosign:

    Thursday to Tuesday is 5 days between starts. Could happen in the regular season if the team had games on 6 consecutive days with a 5 man rotation.

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    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Lesters on normal rest, Hendricks moved back.

  • I was at the game today. Schwarber looked better but still not quite in sync. Did look more comfortable. Got a chance to run but he was pretty careful, probably not going to be any kind of asset whatsoever on the bases.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Just wanted to tell you too, from top to bottom I think that was the best written, best researched, and best constructed piece of work you've ever done since I've been reading you.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I saw the replay of his double down the first base line. Though the play at second wasn't close, he did slide. I take that as a good sign from a physical standpoint, as some have questioned whether he would be able or even be allowed to slide.

    This is truly a feel-good story, but I just don't know. A hitter's timing is so critical, and this just seems to be a stretch. Of course my heart says hell yes, but I can't ignore the loud voice in my head saying no. But in keeping with the theme of this article, I trust that we have management in place to make the right decision.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I wonder if he was told to "slide if given an opportunity." Might as well find out that way than being sorry after putting him on the roster.

  • Great article John! I'm just amazed at the development of Hendricks. He and Arrieta are two pitchers we picked up in basically no name trade and we may end up with 2 Cy Young award winners(possibly in 2 consecutive yrs). That is crazy good scouting by Theo's staff.

    Now if we can get BamBam rolling...

  • Jesse Rogers suggested on STL that Matt Szczur could make the roster over Soler. His reasoning was Soler doesn't like cold weather and they won't use his glove. If Schwarber comes back he will be the DH so Soler really has no place. Not sure I agree with it but it is something to think about.

  • In reply to lets go cubs:

    I think the writing is on the wall
    for Soler. Best hope is he magically regains value and can be part of a trade for something we need more.

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    Ditto Great Article!! Under Theo and co this organization has been absolutely incredible at scouting and player development. Which still leaves me puzzled why another organization hasn't stolen Jason McCleod from us yet. The only reason i can think of is that he either doesn't want to leave the cubs or he simply hasn't been offered the job that he really wants.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    He said last yr when he got job offers, that he didnt want to leave, he had unfinished business in chicago. So maybe he leaves after we win 1

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    McCleod will get a gig eventually but it's going to have to be the right one with a commitment from ownership. Those don't come up every year.

  • 2 game 4 tickets online for $99,990. Go get 'em guys.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Was that Newman-Marcus' site? :)

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    LOL. You're interested, aren't you Dip?

  • In reply to xhooper:

    Oh yea......I'll give up my right one for them, I don't need it anymore anyhow lol

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    In reply to xhooper:

    I think everyone is "interested." I have gone through my couch cushions 2x and can't quite scrape up enough cash. Though I think I found some of my daughter's Halloween candy from last year.

  • Jon morosi is reporting schwarber will dh in game 1

  • I personally would be upset if Soler didn't make the WS roster because of Schwarber. Respectfully, he did great last post season, but only hit .240 during the regular season. Soler actually hit better than Schwarbs in both the regular and post season, although Kyle hit more HR's. He has not faced major league pitching in 6 months. It seems many are assuming Kyle will come in and hit .300, hit 3 or more HR's in the WS and I just can't see that happening. I'm shocked and disappointed to see so many turn on Soler because he hasn't hit well in the post season, but he hasn't really been given the chance. I will support whatever decision the Cubs make but I really would be bummed if Soler was left off bc Kyle was brought back.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    Why are you assuming it's going to be Soler? Makes much more sense if he replaces Zastryzny on the roster. He was never used and he was there for the Dodgers. In the NLDS that slot was filled by La Stella who had 1 at bat. I'd be shocked if Soler is left off.

  • In reply to TC154:

    TC, only because I was listening to the radio while dropping my son off and they said it might be him, plus a few of the comments. But I'm not assuming, just making a statement that if it was Soler I would be disappointed. I know it's not entirely justified, but for some reason, he's been one of my favorite Cubs for some time (including when he was in the minors).

  • In reply to TC154:

    Thought I read that CLE had a mostly LHH Llineup as well.

  • In reply to INSaluki:

    I don't think Soler ever found his stroke this year, and having Contreras on the bench gives the Cubs the RH power bat. Schwarbs gives them the LH bat and some matchup options. I like Soler, but there's as much chance that Kyle will get hot in the next 7 days.

  • John just wanted to say thanks for all that you do. I live in Sydney, Australia and read here everyday. I lived in Chicago for a year in 1992 and have been back to Chicago many many times including a few weeks ago when I took my wife and son to a few games and managed to get to Wrigley for Game 1 of the NLDS. My dad and I always said that if they can make the World Series we will fly back and now it has happened. We fly out today to spend the next 2 weeks in Chicago. Can't wait to spend the time around Wrigley. Hopefully can find some people from here to have a beer with... Go Cubs!!!

  • If we put Swarbs on roster. Leave JHay off.

  • In reply to mwillie:

    That won't happen.

  • Schwarber is traveling to Cleveland. Still no word if he's on the roster. Eric Longenhagen of fangraphs has his opinion from today's game as well: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/one-last-look-at-kyle-schwarber/

  • Jon Morosi via twitter: Kyle Schwarber en route to Cleveland now on a private jet. He's expected to DH for the #Cubs in Game 1. @MLB @MLBNetwork

  • Im happy as a lark just getting to the WS. I just dont want to see JHay swing one more time till March.

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    I still think that JHey will have a moment during the season that will help the Cubs. The obvious choice is to sit Zas. He didn't pitch in the NLCS so it would be logical to sit him.
    The one worry I have about the Tribe is that they run a lot and have the speed to do it. I know Joe has told Lester his job is to concentrate on the hitter, but if someone gets on and steals 2nd and then 3rd (Billy Hamilton comes to min) but Lester is so good that I think if anyone can handle it he can.
    I don't bet (although good bet BP) but I am convinced that The Cubs can and will win the Series.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thank goodness Lester can throw home! Or else they'd steal it too.

    Honestly, I'm hoping the embarrassing leads the slow of foot Dodgers were taunting (actually, kind of humiliating him with--some were so far off that any non-errant throw easily picks them off) him with provokes his pride just a little.

    I think if he shows a pickoff move early, that one move could be enough to stunt Cleveland's planned aggressiveness. Likewise, I think Cleveland will be looking to take off the first chance they get.

  • This Indians team reminds me a lot of last year's (and 2014's) Royals team. Questions at SP, good contact, aggressive speed, filthy RP. It's hard to feel too optimistic after the thorough dismantling of the Sawx and Jays, teams I legitimately feared, but regardless of what happens, I could not be more proud of the way our boys absorbed those haymakers from the NL West. There were several standing eight counts, but they fought back and defied my expectations. This series will be won by the team with the lead after 4/5 innings. I hope it's us, but I am thrilled with this season regardless.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    For whatever reason (maybe I'm
    misinformed), the Indians remind me more of the Giants. The Jays and Sox more like the Dodgers.

    The Cubs had to make it past Kershaw and Bumgarner. Arguably the best regular season and post season pitchers, respectfully, of the last half decade.

    As a Cubs fan, I rarely get over-confident. But all the position breakdowns I've read, have led me to believe that the Indians only have the advantage at SS, speed, and relief pitching.

    Having to play at least 2 of the first four, if not 3 of 5 in Wrigley takes away one of their best power hitters, while the two we play there provides us the bonus of getting Schwarber into games. I love that. I'd love to have Miller over Chapman at this point in time, but it is what it is.

  • People talk about the pressure players have in the playoffs, but I feel like Cubs FANS have a crazy amount of pressure on us as well. People love to mock us about "next year." Outsiders want to constantly define the talent on this club not by the wins and insane numbers (run differential etc) put up, not by making it to the WS, but by saying we HAVE to win it all. Win or bust.

    I have to admit, I was feeling the pressure the last two series. But suddenly I don't. Suddenly I'm at peace at the outcome to come, joyful or not. Win or lose, I feel I won't have to justify my team's performance. Finally.

  • Terrific 5 years in review article John. And there are so many more details. I'm already looking forward to your book on it.

    Oddly though I actually enjoyed following the tear down and rebuild. The losing wasn't the same. There was a hope to it. You could see long term success being built piece by piece. Draft by draft. There was always something to look forward to. This wasn't Bobby Murcer at the end of his career signings. It was clearly philosophically different from anything Cubs fans had ever seen.

    But I must admit it's still a bit surreal. Can't say the reality of it has completely sunk in after almost 50 Summers and Falls of "Wait till next year". We've been conditioned to expect the other shoe to drop. Wake to find it was only a dream. Seeing them in prime time with the WS patches on the uniforms should do the trick.

    All that said it occurred to me the other day that the newest generation of Cubs fans is starting their life long love affair with a contender. "Wait till next year" shouldn't have that same hollow meaning for some time to come. And based on our life experience that is truly surreal.

  • In reply to Cubmitted:

    I'm with you, Cubmitted. After years of signing free agents to plug some holes then hope for the best, it was refreshing to see a total tear-down. Knowing that Theo and co. were doing the rebuilding made it exciting. The hope was that when the team was ready to compete that we would have something special for a long run.

    And so it became just as much fun to follow all the great prospects year by year as it was to actually watch the Cubs. A very good friend and serious Cub fan was disgusted a few years back that the Cubs 3rd baseman was Ian Stewart. And he couldn't understand why it didn't bother me. I told him when you know your going to lose for the good of the team in the future, the amount of "suckiness" really doesn't concern me. The only thing I cared about in the big league team was the younger players like Castro and Rizzo. He was not impressed. The problem was, like the Bill Wirtz Blackhawks, no one had ever had the guts to try it in this town. Now today I saw Rick Hahn talking about the Sox doing a total rebuild.

    When I was a much younger man I used to get Baseball America and The Sporting News in the mail. TSN would only give you stats of the minor leagues, but it was still fun to see what was on the farm. The first two prospects I fell in love with were Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Sure enough Dallas Green shipped them both out in one fell swoop. Today we can find info on all the kids plus international prospects too. I've read all the sites and about 3 years ago found Cubs Den. Best of the bunch. It's been great reading John and staff's evaluation of the youngsters and also the awesome discussion forums each day. Now lets beat these Indians and get this dynasty started.

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  • In reply to Maria Coleman:

    ....and The Rent Is Too Damn High too.....

  • Great read John. I also love the strategy of drafting the best hitter with your first pick and then loading up with young power arms after that. Because drafting pitching is such a crap shoot.

    Also I see them resigning fowler and trading soler this off season. Maybe they sign a reliever but that's about it.

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