Monday, March 7, 2011

Chattin' Up Cubs Baseball

I am going to break this team down in 3 different categories: Past, Present, and Future.

Many Cubs fans do not realize this, but the Chicago National League ballclub is one of the oldest in the league, and has been around since 1870. In the early years, they were a very good ballclub. In fact, they appeared in 4 World Series in the span of 5 years from 1906-1910, winning back-to-back titles in 1907 and 1908 (their last titles), and they also appeared in World Series in 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and their last appearance, in 1945. From 1947-1981, those years were referred to as the "Dark Ages" of Cubs baseball. 
After William Wrigley passed away in 1932, he bequeathed the Cubs and Wrigley Chewing Gum company to his son, P.K. Wrigley, who proceeded to destroy a franchise that likely would've been comparable to the esteemed Yankees franchise, had he not mettled with a good thing. While other teams were considering installing lights, P.K. initially resisted, then acquired lights, and proceeded to donate them to the Navy for the war efforts, which was admirable, but clearly a calculated move on his part to eschew adding lights. He also made the highly suspect move of doing away with the traditional "manager" position, and implemented the infamous "College of Coaches" where different coaches led the team on any given day, creating confusion and ridicule from both players and the media. The Cubs would not return to the postseason until 1984, resulting in a 39 year playoff drought. 

It was said at the time that P.K. Wrigley was too consumed with operating the chewing gum company and profits than concerned with putting a winning product on the field. That same type of ownership continued under the Tribune Company, but they created a lot of goodwill with Cubs fans by investing heavily in the front office and player development, signing good baseball people like Dallas Green and Jim Frey away from winning organizations. Unfortunately, ownership mettled too much with a good thing, and ended up driving both of them out of the organization they helped turn around in a relatively short period of time. 

Despite having some of the worst records in all of baseball from 1947-1981, the Cubs failed to land top talent in the MLB amateur draft that's been held ever since 1965. This trend would continue until recent years.


In the past 65 years, the Cubs have made it to the postseason just 6 times: 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007, and 2008, putting into perspective just how poorly the franchise has been run over half a century. What's even worse, is they've had just 18 winning records during that span.

What has plagued the Cubs more than anything is their lack of baseball wisdom and common sense from the front office. This has led to poor drafts, trades, and free agent signings. If you look at all the players that have come through the Cubs system and played at the MLB level, it'd lead you to believe that the Cubs probably had some very good seasons, but that has simply not been the case.

One of the reasons for the long stretch of futility is the fact that the Cubs would either have all hitting and no pitching, or all pitching and no hitting. There was never really a happy medium, and when they did seem to have it all together, like 1984, 1989, and 1998, guys like 1998-Sosa, Morandini, Brant Brown, Glenallen Hill, Gaetti, Wood, Beck, Mulholland, 1989-Walton, Smith, McClendon, Maddux *up to that point it was a career best year, Bielecki, Lancaster, Mitch Williams, 1984-Sutcliffe, Dernier, Moreland *up to that point it was career best, Durham, Trout, and Sanderson.

That's a significant amount of players that had career years during playoff seasons. If you look at the names, that amounts to 6-8 guys in each of those playoff years that had career years. 

Might I submit this fact as Exhibit 1 as the primary reason why the Cubs have failed to reach the World Series in over 65 years. To be more precise, it is management's reliance on these type of players to even reach the playoffs in the first place, and then maintain that same level of competitiveness the following season that has led to terrible results. Quite simply, if you rely on veterans to perform at career best levels, you're playing with fire. Unless that player is an Albert Pujols, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez, where you look at their stats, and you have a very good idea of where they'll be at year in and year out. 

The Cubs last consistent hitter was Aramis Ramirez, circa 2004-2008, prior to his injury in 2009. Prior to that, it was Sammy Sosa, who was quite obviously on steroids a majority of his career. Prior to that, it was Mark Grace. The fact is, it makes it EXTREMELY difficult to field a competitive team if you have absolutely no idea what your offense is going to provide any given day. 

Jim Hendry absolutely loves going after players coming off career years, and this falls completely in line with the numerous questionable moves Cubs management has made over the years. Hendry has signed the likes of: Burnitz, Bradley, Dempster (re-signed after career year), Miles, Byrd, DeRosa, Lee (re-signed after career year), Hollandsworth, etc., and the results have been nothing short of disastrous. Miles, Burnitz, Bradley, and Hollandsworth (technically just 1 full year), only lasted a year before being released/traded/non-tendered. Dempster hasn't even come close to his career year numbers since signing the extension, and only Byrd and DeRosa could be considered successful signings.

In the case of just about every one of these signings, there were other more consistent players available on the free agent and/or trade markets. I don't think I need to describe this anymore than I already have, other than to say consistency matters, and that's one of the MAJOR reasons the Cubs haven't won much in recent history.


The Cubs are banking their future on a vastly improved player development team, and their ill-advised (in my opinion) hire of Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg for the managerial position. Unfortunately, someone forgot to send the Ricketts family the memo showing how badly Jim Hendry has managed this franchise since 2002 when he took over, and they allowed him to make one of the more ill-advised trades I've ever seen in my life this offseason:
Matt Garza-27 years old, #3 starter (at best) for the Rays, Zach Rosscup (who?...EXACTLY), and Fernando Perez (better known as Joey Gathright Jr. You can't steal 1B, my must actually hit the ball)

in exchange for:
Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld

The Cubs weren't even expected to contend this year, and given the fact that their offense was the culprit in their demise in 2010, a trade for a #3 starter, giving up 4 Top 10 prospects, was highly questionable. 

But even with that trade, the Cubs still have a bright future (prospects-wise) ahead of them, provided the Ricketts family does the right thing, and terminates Jim Hendry from any crucial, decision-making position. 

Here is a list of the prospects to keep on eye on this year:

  1. Brett Jackson-OF
  2. Trey McNutt-RHP
  3. Josh Vitters-3B
  4. Jay Jackson-RHP
  5. Christopher Carpenter-RHP
  6. DJ LeMahieu-IF
  7. Reggie Golden-OF
  8. Hayden Simpson-RHP *I struggle with this one, because he hasn't thrown a single inning in pro ball yet, but I've watched tape of him, and he looks good
  9. Marquez Smith-3B
  10. Matt Sczcur-OF
  11. Welington Castillo-C
  12. Rafael Dolis-RHP
  13. Austin Kirk-LHP
  14. Ben Wells-RHP
  15. Alberto Cabrera-RHP
  16. Ryan Flaherty-IF
  17. Jeffry Antigua-LHP
  18. Chris Rusin-LHP
  19. Brooks Raley-LHP
  20. Jae-Hoon Ha-OF
  21. Aaron Kurcz-RHP
  22. Robinson Lopez
  23. Brett Wallach-RHP
  24. Michael Burgess-OF
  25. Junior Lake-IF
  26. Matt Cerda-IF
  27. Justin Bour-1B
  28. Marwin Gonzalez-IF
  29. Steve Clevenger-C/IF
  30. Pierre LePage-IF
*I will post scouting reports of each of them soon

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