There’s precious little Chicago Cubs out there today, as we slog through the perennial lull between the GM Meetings and the Winter Meetings. Sadly, there aren’t really even any good rumors out there to sustain us. So let’s turn our attention to the question on everyone’s mind: When will the Chicago Cubs start winning at baseball?
Over at Bleacher Nation yesterday, Brett wrote about his fear that 2015 might be just as terrible to watch at 2014, which is shaping up to look as bad as 2013. No bueno:
There are increasing signals that 2015, in addition to 2014, could be another slog. I fear that we’re seeing another message taking shape.
Ken Davidoff recently interviewed Epstein about a variety of things – mostly the New York/Boston rivalry – and Epstein offered a somber note about the GM Meetings last week: “[I]t takes time [to build], and a lot of that work is very enjoyable, but it’s also under the radar, which gives us space and freedom and creativity. But it makes for a different experience. Unfortunately, you can’t provide your fans with what they deserve along the way, which is teams that play meaningful games all year long and play until October. So we just have to take a patient, long view. It’s a different experience. But I’ve always enjoyed the scouting and player development aspects of the game, the investing in young players, more than any other aspect of it. So to that extent, it’s been really fulfilling. But it’s different. It’s different. It’s strange walking around the meetings and being a little irrelevant, because we’re not major players in some of these deals.”
Irrelevance is not a word I’d like to hear associated with the Cubs for much longer.
I don’t think Theo is saying anything new or startling here, but I get where Brett is coming from. We’re heading into year three of the reboot, and people expected that at least something would have happened by now to give Cubs fans some hope, some excitement, some reason for living.
I’ve been vocal that my sources have said this off-season will be much like the last two. The Cubs will look for players they can flip for talent at the deadline, and won’t be involved in any high profile deals for big money free agents. They’re not going to sign Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, or David Price. Brian McCann is not coming to Chicago. Frankly, I’d be surprised if the Cubs are as “in” on Tanaka as they’ve indicated they play to be. I realize that this makes fans sad and isn’t what anyone wants to hear. But it’s what I expect to happen.
Enter John over at Cubs Den:
Whatever the case, I don’t understand why there must be a certain number of years before the Cubs can officially start winning. As if there is some neatly laid out pattern that goes: rebuild, rebuild, rebuild, .500 baseball, playoff contender, world series contender — with the apparently self-evident caveat that you can’t get past the rebuild phase until you start spending.
I don’t understand the argument that spending equals winning and not spending equals losing, especially when 5 playoff teams had a lower payroll than the Cubs last year.
When the front office says the plan isn’t going to come into fruition for 5 years, to me it’s because that plan is lofty. The plan is to become a team that contends for a title and builds an organization from top to bottom that can sustain success indefinitely. If the plan was to win or just build a highly rated farm system, then they could be done by now. But, nooooo, they justhad to set high standards for the organization, didn’t they?
Here’s the thing: Both John and Brett are right.
If you’re in the camp that expected the Cubs to be highly competitive by 2014, I’m sorry. I’d like to say you were sold a bill of goods, but that’s not the case. Jed and Theo have been pretty clear from the beginning that this process was going to take years. They were even open and honest about the club being in way worse shape than they anticipated (thanks, Jim Hendry!) when they took over. If you thought the Cubs could completely turn the wreckage of the organization into the St. Louis Cardinals 2.0 in two years, you were really kidding yourself.
This was never a 1-2 year rebuild. This is always been a 3-5 year rebuild. That’s the kind of shape this team and the farm system were in. If you want to be angry with someone, try being angry with Jim Hendry for leaving the team in this kind of shape. Be angry at Tom Ricketts for not jettisoning Hendry the minute he took over the team. Hell, be angry at the fact that the Cubs don’t have the payroll to throw garbage bags of money at free agents. But you really can’t blame the front office for doing exactly what they said they were going to do.
On the other hand, don’t expect to see 2013-levels of suckitude much longer. Kris Bryant and Javy Baez have been tearing it up over the last six months. Mike Olt is going to be hard to hold back much longer. Young arms like Jake Arrieta and CJ Edwards are poisded to bust into the rotation. The Cubs won’t win the division next season, but they’ll be more fun to watch, and more competitive. Once the kids start to make their way to the big leagues, they’re going to keep coming and coming. For a long time. The Cubs aren’t in a holding pattern to buy free agents; they’re in a holding pattern until Theo can take his finger out of the dyke. Once he does, you’re going to love being a Chicago Cubs fan.
Before I get accused (again) of sucking up to the front office, let me point out that Jed and Theo have made NUMEROUS decisions that I completely disagree with and I’ve said so. I jumped up and down about re-signing Ian Stewart from day one. I may have passed out when they brought back Koyie Hill. They have mad missteps. They are far from perfect.
But I buy into the long-term plan. If I didn’t, there’s no way I could write about this team every day, because my heart would shrivel up, fall out of my chest, and die on the floor in front of me.
The Cubs are going to win. Not just yet, but soon.
What doe you guys think? Is the rebuild on track or taking longer than you thought?