I’ll admit it. I’ve been as critical as anyone on the Cubs current state. The whole Theo Epstein saga dragged on to such uncomfortable levels that I got the feeling that Epstein was trying to do his best Brett Favre impression. Dale Sveum? Ehh, maybe the fifth best option the Cubs had for managerial candidates, yet they hired him anyway. Our best player since 2004? Now on a division rival. Any real action in free agency? Nope.
Okay, so we’re rebuilding. I fully understand that. To be honest with you, it should’ve happened 18 months ago. When Lou Pinella decided to hang it up, it was over. The bloated contracts, the nonchalance from players and fans, a depleted farm system, the drop in attendance — game over, man. Game over.
Some people say the Cubs are at a crossroad. On the contrary, this is a fairly familiar situation. You know… Year 104 of our rebuilding process. It’s a bit different this time around. Our fearless leader said it best, “We’re building a foundation of sustained success.” Not with high priced free agents, but youth. We’re developing our own talent, adding depth. And trust me, I couldn’t be happier.
The acquisition of Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates earlier in the week jumpstart our new era, and to be quite honest with you, I don’t mind waving goodbye to the old one. Fans need to grasp the understanding that the facade of a competitive team is going to be (more than likely) absent for a few seasons. I look at the Cubs current situation like putting together the edge of a puzzle while piling up the actual picture on the other side of the table.
While none of our moves have created tidal waves in Lake Michigan, they remind us that a team needs to be built. A culture. Expectations need to be outlined. I always know that, as a fan, I’ll enjoy a home game at Wrigley because it’s Wrigley. It’s the greatest venue in sports. What about enjoying the game and expecting to win? That’s a foreign concept to me.
And sure, we’d be foolish to think that the front office is done after the addition of Rizzo. Multiple reports have stated the Cubs are still looking to move left fielder Alfonso Soriano and eat a large majority of his salary to do so. A rebuilding team doesn’t necessarily need a closer, so could Carlos Marmol also be on the move? What about the up-and-down Geovany Soto? After trading several top-tier prospects to land hurler Matt Garza, could the Cubs move him to a contender in hopes to expedite the rebuilding process?
I can envision a scenario in which the Cubs let several, if not, all of these players create some more value with some 2011 appearances and flip them towards the trade deadline. Couldn’t a team like Detroit or Washington use another solid starter to pair with their aces? Garza would fit the bill. Baltimore definitely lacked oompf on offense last year, so why couldn’t Soriano fill in every once in a while? With the pricey additions of Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, don’t the Angels need to have a sure-fire closer, as opposed to the unproven Jordan Walden?
So let me get this straight, we can trade away many of our assets, guys who probably won’t be with us in a few years, and land a dozen prospects while simultaneously shed salary? Sounds like a win to me.
Both Epstein and Jed Hoyer have reinforced these principals:
“Anytime you go with young players, it’s the right thing to do. It’s exciting to have young talent in an organization, but, yeah, there’s no doubt that with young talent comes an adjustment period. The best prospects get through that adjustment period and they take off. With young players, there does come growing pains. It’s definitely something we’re prepared to deal with, and frankly, the only way to rebuild a great organization is to have the patience to go through that with the right players. … You can do it by constantly acquiring veterans with less upside, but the only way to be a great organization is to be willing to go through those growing pains to get the reward.” -Jed Hoyer
“We’re not running a popularity contest or anything like that in our clubhouse. You just have to be a good teammate who is accountable and somebody teammates can trust to put the team first. Prepare hard, work hard and play hard. It’s not that difficult.” -Theo Epstein
These quotes can both be summed up in four words: the sky’s the limit. We’re off to a great start. Starlin Castro has proved he can be a productive offensive player and with a potential move to second base, could become a perennial all-star. Sooner or later, we’ll be officially introduced to outfielder Brett Jackson and the aforementioned Rizzo.
Outside of our two prized young guns, we’re housing Javier Baez, Josh Vitters, Dillion Maples, Trey McNutt, among others. We can also consider the cache of prospects that could come in with potential trades of Garza, Soriano, Soto, Marmol and Byrd. In the way of help-us-right-now talent, not too much to be excited about. What about in 2014, the 100th year anniversary of Wrigley? We’re definitely going to have a spark. It all comes down to patience. Have faith, Cubs fans. That ‘W’ is going to by flying high at Wrigley soon enough.