Staying the Course

Staying the Course

We are closing out another year, another trip around the sun, as we look forward to 2014 for a fresh start.  It’s a time for thinking up new resolutions, planning courses of action, recharging for the journeys ahead.  So it is with all of us individually, and so it is with the Chicago Cubs.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that Masahiro Tanaka got posted and the Cubs are in the mix.  We’ve written about what would happen if the Cubs miraculously win Tanaka’s services, and also about why it’s not such a good idea to take him on.  There are a billion different opinions on the internet about what to do re: Tanaka and/or the Cubs’ overall rebuilding plan, but to be perfectly honest, none of us really know how it will play out because baseball is inherently unpredictable.  We can make some fairly accurate, educated guesses, but to say “this is what will definitely happen” is overstepping our bounds.

Our old pal Mauricio sent me this cool link from Beyond the Box Score the other day.  The salient point was to address Bill James‘ prediction that “baseball will eventually solve or contain the problem of economics corroding competitive balance.”  The take-home message is that even in this climate, with rich teams being flush with money and the poor teams having to scrimp and save, there are still new revenue streams to be tapped, yet teams still largely elected to keep their spending under control.  Teams can be successful as long as they have a plan and don’t throw money wildly around (looking at you, 2012 Miami Marlins), as exemplified in this article about the Oakland Athletics finding a potential inefficiency and exploiting it.  In short (too late!), I’m okay either way…if the Cubs land Tanaka, that would be great because he’s obviously a talented pitcher who is still young, would be signed into and through his prime, doesn’t cost a draft pick (only money), and would be very useful for the next Cubs contender if he’s all he’s supposed to be.  If the Cubs pass on Tanaka (or the Yankees or Dodgers go bonkers, damn the luxury tax), I’m okay with that too, because the team could save that money towards future acquisitions.  John at Cubs Den has a great article about that with some of his own scenarios.

Ultimately, I don’t want the Cubs to get so impatient that they go the way that the Seattle Mariners seem to be heading.  I like the fact that the farm system has improved so much in such a short span of time, this being only the start of offseason #3 for the new front office.  I like the way they are able to sniff out talent, and I hope they stack the farm and the majors with awesome talent before some team steals Jason McLeod to be their general manager.  I think Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have a solid plan and at some point that plan may involve throwing more money at team building.  But I don’t want the front office to ever be as impatient as the fan base it serves, because that could be detrimental to the overall plan.  I’m not as confident as John that some of the players he listed will even make it to free agency.  The Cubs should strive to build as solid of a foundation as they can so they can out-Cardinals the Cardinals.  If the rooftops ever back down, they could generate much more revenue and have the resources to attract free agents later on.

I concede that it’s a leap of faith to bank on the absolute success of all of the top prospects currently in-house.  Prospects have a huge attrition rate in baseball and I understand the fans’ reluctance to support a bottom-up approach when teams are snatching up Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo types.  There might be a financial or legal restriction against the Cubs spending out the yin-yang for free agents (there certainly are MLB-imposed restrictions on amateur spending now), but even so, absence of spending does not correlate to absence of planning.  If the Cubs end up signing guys like Tanaka, I hope they are all awesome and stay healthy.  But if they don’t, I’m confident that there is a good reason why they passed, and money wasn’t the major factor.

As for the plan, let’s think about this:



That’s pretty awesome.  Here’s hoping the plan works as well as they think, and when the time is right, the money is there to be spent.  In closing, here’s a clip from a movie that released around when the Cubs made it back to the playoffs for the first time in decades:

Stay the course!  Now for the last of the #handegg and another countdown to spring training.

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