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Yesterday, the Nationals clinched a winning record just a day after the Cubs clinched a losing record.

  • Speaking of those very good Nationals, Cubs manager Dale Sveum weighs in on how they’ve gotten so good. “The bottom line is, [the Nationals mostly built their club] through the Draft and through the organization, then mixed their pieces in, and they obviously made a nice trade and picked up [Gio] Gonzalez, and they had [Jordan] Zimmermann, and [Ross] Detwiler’s come through,” Sveum said, per Cubs.com. “Those kind of things, and all of sudden, you’ve got the best team in the National League. But the bottom line is, most of their core players have come through their organization.” Not every top team has been built so heavily from within, but the Nats certainly serve as an example that – for better or worse – being terrible for a number of years is one strategy that has proved effective at becoming good (especially if you fall backwards into Strasburg/Harper). There are, of course, other successful strategies, but you’ll find that all good teams are a balance of homegrown contributors, traded-for contributors, and free agents. Even the Nats – being as internally constructed as they are – have three major contributors that came by way of free agency: Jayson Werth, Edwin Jackson, and Adam LaRoche. It takes a balance.
  • Dale Sveum says Brett Jackson could be a special player, even if he has a ton to work on this Winter. “I’m not going to guarantee anything like that,” Sveum told CSN of the possibility that Jackson could start in center field on Opening Day in 2013. “But he’s shown enough that there’s a lot to work with, and make some adjustments, and then there might be something pretty special. But we all know watching the games that we have to make some pretty big adjustments this winter to handle this kind of pitching on a daily basis. And he knows that.”
  • Sveum will be working together with the front office over the next few weeks to make a decision on the team’s hitting coach going forward, which could lead to a full-time gig for interim hitting coach James Rowson. “I don’t think you judge anything like that on numbers,” Sveum said, per CSN. “He’s got the right mentality, the work ethic, all that. He’s done a great job for stepping [into] a tough situation. It’s a process, too, when you have young hitters. And it’s the toughest job, anyway, when you have a big-time lineup and veterans. When you have a lot of young kids and stuff, it magnifies how tough that job is. You not only have to get guys to understand about making adjustments, they have to be willing to do it, and then they have to be able to do it.” The other big name you’ll hear as a possibility is Dave Magadan, the hitting coach for the Red Sox (and one-time Cub). Take a look at his player card and tell me you wouldn’t like to see him somehow graft his approach onto Cubs hitters.
  • Sveum calls Jeff Samardzija “a horse.” That’s all I wanted to point out there.
  • Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, and Jed Hoyer were all in attendance last night at Boise’s playoff game (though I’d take the other factual assertions – like the statement attributed to Ricketts that the Cubs will be re-upping with Boise after the season, which came by way of “one fan” – with a grain of salt). With the waiver trade deadline passed, it’s a good time for the crew to take a trip and see one of the most prospect-loaded rosters in the Cubs’ minor league system.
  • The Red Sox have called up Chris Carpenter, whom you’ll recall came over as part of the long-awaited Theo Epstein compensation (nope, still no word on the Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod compensation), after he fully recovered from bone spurs in his elbow. He was dominant in 16 appearances at AAA for the Red Sox, though he still walked a ton of guys. Aaron Kurcz, the other prospect the Red Sox received in the deal, was similarly dominant at AA this year, but also walked a ton of guys.
  • The Cubs could call up Rafael Dolis, Anthony Recker, and Jaye Chapman – the reliever received in the Paul Maholm/Reed Johnson deal – today.
  • chirogerg

    Wow. Magadan’s career line is certainly something. .288 AVG is certainly something to boast about, but a .390 OBP is just ridiculously awesome. Just imagine if he could teach the Cubbies to take the walk like he used to.

    Interestingly, one of his worst offensive seasons came with the Cubs.

    • hansman1982

      I also love how he has more walks than strikeouts for his career…if he can teach a small portion of that to Cubs hitters, I will take it.

      • Sircub

        Yea, and look at his SB/CS ratio. That’s some stat porn right there.

        • hansman1982

          I would take him as my leadoff hitter every single year…

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Magadan was a player that the statheads both loved and hated. They appreciated his very good OBP at a time (late ’80′s, early ’90′s) when a lot of people looked only at batting average. However, they also noted his low slugging for a corner IF, especially when he was playing first. With single digit HR, he was providing the Mets with 10-20 fewer HR than the rival corner IFers: and his OBP didn’t quite justify that. (Keith Hernandez was no slugger, but he always reached double digits in HR while putting up even better OBP’s than Magadan.)

            Historically, it was discussion of guys like Magadan that led to the WAR concept. Had he been able to play MI or C, then he would have been an all-star: but as a 1Bman in particular, he was below average.

            None of this takes anything away from his potential as a batting coach, and you are dead-on that he really would have been a great leadoff hitter.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Definitely: as a first baseman, he had serious issues. At third base, much more attractive.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Ha.

          But for realsies, I also like how the Cubs got him for $500k, which wasn’t much back in 1996 when he was coming off a year in which his OBP was .428(!!!). Man, we really didn’t understand stats back then, did we?

          • Flashfire

            He was just another one of those guys that clogged up the bases.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Didn’t Magadan and Grace help set up one of Sosa’s 5-run HR when neither could get past first?

    • SouthernCub

      Agreed, I also love the fact that his OPS is 100+ pts higher that his BA every year

      • SouthernCub

        OBP, not OPS, sorry

    • fortyonenorth

      Then again, player stats don’t necessarily predict success as a hitting coach. Charlie Lau was, perhaps, the most influential hitting coach of the last fifty years: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lauch01.shtml

  • Crazyhorse

    Speaking by way of the Padres whoops Nationals. Did not the nationals signed Fa and bolster the home grown talent at the same time? but anyway the free agent ship has sailed. I tend to judge the CUbs on the team that they field and they get a big fat F.
    In a couple of years when the baby Cubs progress into The Cubs then hopefully that team will get an A. Dont count chickens err the little Cubbies yet. Count on them in 3 years .

    • @cubsfantroy

      Well aren’t you a positive ray of sunshine.

  • gutshot5820

    For every team that had success like the Nationals did through the draft, you will have 10 that failed. You have to stink real bad plus be incredibly lucky to get to where the Nationals did.

    • hansman1982

      You are right, the Nationals are the cream of the crop when it comes to building through the draft. Then again, you also have teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, Reds, Diamondbacks, Rangers who developed a strong farm system and acquired talent around that farm system.

      I don’t think most of us on the “We’re ok with some stinking now for a helluva farm system that can pay major dividends starting 3-4 years from now” bandwagon are proclaiming that we should NEVER get a big time free agent, just that right now, it doesn’t make sense.

      We will probably continue (over the next 3-4 years) to see teams that, in April, will have a shot at contention if these 6 things go perfectly. If not, then we hope to have assets to sell off at the deadline. Over time that will gradually decrease to “This team should be in the playoffs this year”.

      • The Dude Abides

        Nationals are a nice story this year but preseason had them 3rd or 4th place so they are exceeding expectations and this is the first time they are above 500 since moving to Washington and we all know how good Montreal was. Point is yes they drafted Strasburg and Harper (both appearing to be once in a generation talent I guess). Let them match this year for a couple more years before we make them the gold standard of how to build a consistent winner. Both the owner and manager have a bit of a loose cannon reputation, how about Johnson and his flameout with the Met’s and the reason he wasn’t hired before this owner. How about that J. Werth contract? Every bit as bad as Soriano’s.
        Look I could care less about the Nationals but before we pronounce them the franchise we want to model I would rather let Theo at this point blaze his own trail and see where it goes. This season and next is pretty much a given to be lost but anything beyond 2013 will be unacceptable that they are not competitive. The central is filled with smaller markets where finances always play into decisions on who to keep. We easily have the largest market and as deep as pockets as anyone assuming we spend it. At this point let it ride and see where Theo takes this, besides does anyone on this site really think we have a choice?

        • Picklenose

          If a team plays much better than expectations, that means the expectations were wrong, not that the team is somehow winning with smoke and mirrors as you seem to be implying. People are creatures of habit, they will predict a team to be weak until proven wrong, and they will predict teams to be strong until they are proven wrong.
          Teams win because they have good players who are put into a position to maximize their skills. And the best teams get most of their players via the farm system and mix in a few free agents or trades to round out the team. Hendry tried going to heavy on the free agent/trade route. Hoyerstein seem to be trying for that balance, and honestly their track record in Boston seems to back that up.

          • The Dude Abides

            Read into what you think I’m implying anyway you want. The Nationals have been good for almost one season not exactly a definitive formula for success. What I’m saying is at this point we are all in on Theo’s way and the rest of these scenario’s that come up really don’t matter.

            The one inherited advantage we have is that we are in the central and all of these teams are from small markets that have financial concerns that cause them to be selective on who they can sign, resign and trade for. That is a big advantage for Chicago since our market is largest and with that reasoning as our minor leagues continue to improve and the drafted players prove themselves IE Castro we can afford to sign them. As players become available and we have a better idea of what we have or need we can sign or trade for them and afford to keep them. None of this assures us a world series but it does allow us a shorter timeline to be competitive in the central where all of the teams with the exception of the Cardinals come and go as financial concerns cause them to make difficult decisions (Cards have the same issue but FO and their minor league system appear to be superior to the rest of the central).

            Long story short Theo will get us competitive and I don’t think he has any intention waiting until 2015 or later which is often stated on this site. I think by 2014 Theo will have the Cubs in the thick of it in the central division.

  • Fastball

    I would agree with the F rating and that falls on everyone in the organization from the Top to the Bottom. However when you are at a point where an E was probably most likely the F has a silver lining I hope. We at least will finish the schedule. Our positives this year are Castro and Barney on defense. DeJesus being a solid free agent and possibly Rizzo being what was advertised. He has a month to go. Once the league got him scouted they exposed him. My hopes are he learned how to make changes after his experience last year during his call up and his time up this year. He has to improve on his ability to make adjustments. It was easy to jump on his bandwagon with the early success.

    Pitching: Before and After the trade deadline: C+ and then an F. Bull Pen is an F for the entire season. Starting Pitching was adequate before Garza injury and Dempster and Mahoms departure. Shark gets a B for the season.

    Defense: B – we are exposed at 3B and Catcher as well as the corner OF with exception of DeJesus

    Hitting: F – I don’t know if this Rowson guy is the answer. I haven’t seen any improvement since he took over. Unless you count the number of Strike Outs per game. We certainly got those numbers up. I don’t know if anyone other than God himself could get results out of this line up.

    At this time I would say that there are only 4 players who are assured a position in the lineup next year. Rizzo, Castro, Barney, DeJesus. The rest aren’t good enough to make most ML rosters except the Astro’s. That’s one of the things I think we really need to accept as Cubs fans. We just don’t have very many guys who are very good at all. So as we move into the off season I think those 4 position players are what you build off of. We suck at catcher. Castillo is a back up catcher and Clevenger turned in to Koyie Hill almost.

    • @cubsfantroy

      Well the Cubs need to go spend $200 million in mediocre free agents, then and only then will we field a wild card team.

      • BeyondFukudome

        Think it’s about time to apply another coat of red paint to that herring…

    • Can’t think of a cool name

      Have to ask why you think Castillo is a back up catcher. I would think he is someone the Cubs still need to evaluate. Right now his bat looks good although a very very small sample size.

      • Flashfire

        Also, backup catchers are usually great defensive catchers who can’t hit. Castillo is neither. And his bat, unfortunately, only plays at catcher.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Technically, his bat could play well at shortstop, too …

  • @cubsfantroy

    I’ve always liked Magadan, and wouldn’t mind seeing him back with the Cubs in some fashion, whether it is as a hitting coach or any other job.

  • Fastball

    We don’t need to spend $200M. We could spend $50M on 8 or 9 players over the next 2 or 3 years and be decent and maybe position ourselves for a few more Maholm type trades. We could put a product on the field worth watching and not be throwing players to the wolves who either aren’t ready by a longshot or never were going to be ML ready players.
    We exposed our system so badly this year we couldn’t be exposed unless we made them all play naked. Most of these guys should have never been on a ML roster or a 40 man roster. So we get them assigned properly in the system hire better coaching staffs in the minors who can teach pitching and hitting. We are terrible in those area’s. We need coaches with track records a mile long on player development. No more good ole boy network coaching jobs. Go hire the best minor league coaches in baseball and stop with these guys we have now who are producing terrible hitters and pitchers who think a strike zone is from batters box to batters box.

    • Bill

      Great post. I would only add that if we can’t trade Soriano for a decent prospect or two, we might as well keep him. He’s blocking no one and he’s still producing. Nobody is going to take him from the Cubs unless the Cubs eat all or most of his salary, which is why I think we should only trade him for legit prospect(s).

      We need pitching, pitching, pitching, and at least one power bat. There’s nothing in the farm system that’s close to helping the team next year, so these will have to be acquired via FA or trade.

    • @cubsfantroy

      My sarcasm tags didn’t show up, that was a completely sarcastic post about the $200 million. My bad.

    • Picklenose

      I absolutely agree with your point about getting the best teaching coaches in the minors, but have one question. Is the Iowa Cubs pitching coach really that bad? My reason for asking is that Marmol and Volstad seemed to come back from Iowa as better pitchers. (And yes I realize they couldn’t get much worse.)

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Living in DC, I pay a bit of attention to the Nats. (I really wish that more people would do so: Wrigley is much more packed with a Cubs team that might lose 100 games than Nats stadium is with a Nats team that could win 100 games.) Two things stand out. One, their starting pitching is great: on how many other staffs would Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson be the 3rd and 4th best starters? Is there another staff on which Detwiler would be your 5th best starter?

    Two, the Nats are unspectacular but above average at nearly every position. (Flores is the exception at catcher: but he’s a 3rd string guy pressed into duty after Ramos and the primary backup got injured.) In particular, they do it with power: all of the regulars are either in double digits for HR or would be if they had not missed time due to injuries. So, there is no one “don’t let this guy beat you” batter in the lineup: but every batter provides just a bit more than the average guy at his position.

    If Ramos were healthy, then 5 of their 8 position guys would be homegrown, which is really good. And, as others have noted, pretty lucky, too! (The fact that it’s only 4 of 8 due to injury highlight’s the luck part: and Zimmerman’s due to break down again any day now….)

    • Flashfire

      It looks a lot like what Theo says he’s trying to build. I hope he can. The hard part is going to be getting our Strasburg. Figures the year we are truly terrible there are not real lock aces in the draft.

      We also have a better building block in Starlin Castro than anything the Nats have.

    • Bric

      Doc, that was really well said. I don’t live in D.C. and don’t follow the Nats but agree it’s a shame more people there aren’t getting on board. Probably because D.C. is much like Florida (90% of the people here were born someplace else).

      Anywho, nice summation of how the Nats got to where they there. Living 45 minutes from Tampa I’ve been saying the same thing here of how the Rays did it with an even smaller fan basebase but no one on BN seems to believe me.

  • BluBlud

    My mother is from D.C. and i spend a lot of time there. I have been to many Nationals games against the Cubs, both at old RFK and now at the new nationals park. This is well ran organization, who have done things the right way. I big on home grown talent. i would love to see a team with 25 players on the roster that we drafted. Will never happen, but the mor talent you develop in house, the better trade position you put yourself in. not to mention, once that talent develops into MLB players, the more you can attract free agents. While I have questioned some of the moves of the front office, building within is definitely the way to go.

  • North Side Irish

    The Nats are a good blueprint for how to build a team under the old system. They spent more money on the draft than any other team from 2007-2011, though admittedly a big chunk of that was on Strasburg. But that option no longer exists under the new CBA so they really aren’t the best example. Especially since they were fortunate enough to have so-called “once-in-a-generation” type talents available in back-to-back years. Not really a model the Cubs can follow.

    I still think the Rays are the model to follow. Draft smart, develop talent, and always have replacements waiting in the wings. Except the Cubs won’t have to trade players when they get expensive and will be able to use their reinforcements as trade bait. Unfortunately the Rays get to operate in a low pressure market where there isn’t constant critiquing of every prospect on their way up the chain…which isn’t exactly an option for the Cubs.

  • Deez

    I live in DC & hope to go to the game today.
    Nats were lucky & resourceful at the same time.
    The Nats drafted both Zimmermans, Detweiler, Stratsburg, and Harper.
    How often do you get to choose “once & a lifetime” prospects in back to back drafts!?
    Noticeable on trades & Free Agent signings.
    Nats put tons of prospect in their system & picked & choose what they wanted to acquire.
    They are good, but they have not won “anything” just yet.

  • Kyle

    Two things the Nats did that the Cubs can’t or may not copy.

    1) They drafted two historic, once-in-a-generation draft picks. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg aren’t walking through that door with the No. 2 overall pick next season.

    2) They began spending money and acquiring players a couple of years ago, *before* they were ready to compete. They didn’t wait until their homegrown stars were ready and then add the infrastructure, like so many Cubs fans want to do. They began adding players so that when their homegrown stars got there, there would be something to work with.

    • MoneyBoy

      Kyle … I would suggest that Mark Prior, when he came out of USC, was thought to be in that sort of prospect. I read recently that Tom House was one of the earlier proponents of biomechanics (I think that’s it) and that somewhere along the way Prior lost a lot of what he’d learned in college. Throw in the shoulder thing (tumbling over the STL second baseman) … well, we know how that turned out.

      As to your second point … completely agree! It’s just my opinion but I believe the turning point for the Cubs came with last year’s FA draft and INTL signings. Let’s hope that trend continues … although Reinsdorf really screwed things up with the new CBA limits.

      I don’t have specific numbers but I believe PIT and WASH have been among the biggest spenders in both areas in the last five years!

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    Speaking of hiring coaches – I’ve always thought it was a bit naive to think that a hitting coach should handle all the hitters on a team (Right & Left) (Power & Singles) . Why not designate multiple hitters to multiple coaches ? I believe a system would be best served with specialists – Football has been doing it for decades – why not baseball ? Also same theory in pitching – have a RH starter coach, LH starter coach, RH bullpen coach & a LH bullpen coach.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    Prior, Wood and Gooden were all once in a lifetime prospects. All failed for reasons of injury and excess. In this era, Bob Gibsons and Seavers are few and far in between.

  • Bren

    Well didn’t the Nats have the good fortune of being horrible the two years prior to two Cant Miss prospects? I dont know that we’ll be that lucky

    • Flashfire

      That was very, very fortunate. And it’s doubtful we could get that lucky. But, only one of the two can’t miss prospects has been spectacular. (Harper has a fWAR of 2.9, which is around 80 in the league.) The other members of that team have all been can-miss prospects who panned out. Also, we already have our Bryce Harper — he’s 22 and plays shortstop. We do need our Strasburg, and that will probably be an incredibly expensive FA signing or waving good-bye to Almora.

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