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cubs theo epstein uh ohThe 2013 Chicago Cubs are 15-22. They’ve probably played just a touch better than that, but, as GM Jed Hoyer recently said (paraphrasing Denny Green?), the Cubs are what their record says they are.

Having just taken two out of three from the Washington Nationals, however – games stared by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez – is there a reason to hope that the turnaround is happening now? Cubs players and manager Dale Sveum are all pretty excited about that series win in Washington. And the Cubs do stand to benefit from the imminent return of Matt Garza, and the recent return of Kyuji Fujikawa.

Is this a team that can avoid a sell-off in July, let alone be competitive come September?

I don’t want to be the bucket of cold water, because it was a great series to win, but I think we need to step back and recalibrate. A series is a series, and any team can beat any team in a series. We’re taking about three games: a blowout on either side, and then a coin flip game in which the Cubs’ bats did nothing. I enjoyed the wins as much as anyone, but I think we should be very cautious about putting too much stock in one series win, especially one that easily could have gone the other way.

This is a 15-22 team that has a long, long way to go if it wants to surprise to the upside. To get to 85 wins and have a teeny, tiny playoff hope, the Cubs have to go 70-55 over their remaining 125 games. Possible? Absolutely. Likely? Not really, even with a healthy roster. And, if last year was any guide, it’s going to take more than 85 wins to actually make the playoffs (the Cardinals had the fewest wins of the playoff entrants, and they won 88). Baseball Prospectus currently has the Cubs’ playoff odds at just 6.4% right now.

It’s important to keep perspective on just how early it is, and how close the Cubs have been to “good.” How many games have the Cubs lost this year that, with one better bounce or one better pitch, they would have won? With just four losses flipped to wins, we’re sitting here talking about a 19-18 team, on pace to win 83 games. It’s amazing when you think about it that way.

… but we aren’t talking about that team. We’re talking about a 15-22 team, on pace to win just 66 games. It’s a team that can’t hit with runners on base, is shaky in the bullpen, struggles defensively at times, and doesn’t seem to have enough offense to generate wins on the backs of the one bright spot (the rotation). Worst of all, you can’t get those near-losses back. Sure, the team’s performance can stabilize, and “luck” can regress back to the positive side for the Cubs, but those 22 losses are here to stay. There is time to overcome it, but it’s difficult when you don’t have an overwhelmingly strong roster in the first place.

Hoping for a surprise turnaround, by the way, requires not only that the “bad” and “bad luck” things turn around (the RISP woes, the Hairston ineffectiveness, the bullpen troubles, the Soriano slow start, the Castro slump, Barney’s awful start, etc.), but also that the “good” and “good luck” things will continue. What happens if Scott Feldman, Travis Wood, and Carlos Villanueva stop pitching out of their minds? What happens when Kevin Gregg finally gives up a run, or, God forbid, blows a save? What happens if Nate Schierholtz and Luis Valbuena turn into pumpkins?

I’m afraid of what could happen.

I was very pleased to hear Theo Epstein echo my greatest fear for the 2013 Cubs in the offseason: the middle ground. In the Spring, Epstein told David Haugh that “It’d be nice to make the playoffs or get a protected draft pick [awarded the bottom nine teams]. We’re not hiding that. There’s no glory in 78 wins instead of 73. Who cares? We’re going to see where we are and take a real cold assessment in the middle of the season. If we have a legitimate chance to push for a playoff spot then 2013 can become our primary focus. If we think a playoff spot’s not in the cards, there will be no concern for appearances or cosmetics whatsoever.” In other words, if Epstein doesn’t see a playoff contender in July, he’s tearing the thing apart.

That’s my primary comfort as I look ahead to the coming months. Obviously my greatest hope is that the Cubs go on a shocking tear, winning a bunch of games in a row, and find themselves a handful of games over .500 come early July. If that happens, keep this baby together and see what you can do in the second half.

To be candid, my second-place hope is that, if the Cubs aren’t going to contend, they just suck. As Epstein said, there’s no glory in winning a few more games if you’re going to be terrible anyway, so lose ‘em all. As I wrote last year, there’s upside in being awful, so if you’re going to go bad, go all out. There are financial considerations here (attendance, for example) that have to be weighed, of course. But, from a pure baseball perspective, if you’re going to lose 90 anyway, you might as well lose 100.

What I do not want to see is a bunch of .500 play from here through mid-July, making the Cubs’ trade season decisions brutally difficult. If they tread water through the end of the year, but don’t even come close to the playoffs, then they’ll have accomplished nothing except failing to accumulate young assets at the Trade Deadline, and receiving a worse draft pick (and international bonus pool) in 2014.

Does that make me a bad fan? Should I not be admitting this? I feel pretty safe in saying this, since I’m essentially just agreeing with Epstein.

Regardless of how you feel about that middle ground, let’s all just agree on this: go ahead and win 20 in a row, Cubs, and we won’t have to worry about the cognitive dissonance that comes with loving the Cubs and simultaneously hoping they’re sufficiently terrible to ensure a sell-off.

If you’re hoping that the Cubs can avoid a sell-off at the Trade Deadline, here’s the number to keep in mind: .571.

That’s the winning percentage the Cubs need to put up between now and July 14 (the All-Star) to get back to .500 by that date, and theoretically avoid another purge. Even then, I’m not so sure the front office wouldn’t pull the plug if they didn’t think the playoffs were a realistic possibility, and feared that not selling off would hurt the rebuilding plan.

  • Mark

    Cubs are better than their record. If it wasn’t for Marmol, we’d be among the top in the division.

    • TWC

      Of course, that’s completely, *entirely* untrue, but why not say it anyway? It’s just the internet.

      • hansman1982

        You can’t put stuff on the internet that isn’t true.

        • SirCub

          This sentence is false.

          There. I just exploded the internet.

          • MichiganGoat

            I’m not having a beer when I get home. BOOOOOMMMM GOES THE INTERNET

      • DocPeterWimsey

        I do wonder how few people realize that the Cubs have been ahead going into the 7th inning in only 15 of their 37 games.

    • Andrew

      While this is not a fair way to evaluate a team, lets look at the WAR numbers of alll the crappy players and see what would happen if they were replaced by replacement level players.

      Marmol -0.5 WAR
      Kameron Loe -1.1 (yikes)
      Hairston -0.6
      Sappelt -0.4
      Barney -0.3
      Lillibridge -0.5

      That adds up to -3.4 wins. If all of those players had played like replacement level players (which is not a vlid assumption of course) The cubs could reasonably have expected to win 3 games, lets say 4. That brings the record to 19-18. Still nowhere near the top of the division albeit a very respectable record. To assume significant positive regression of these players is clearly unfair without assuming negative regression from others. All in all if every cub played according to their expectations, I’d say they would win maybe one or more games up to this point. Still not good.

  • BHam10

    Always, Hope for the Best as the Worst will always find you!

  • Featherstone

    I’m not even thinking about the trade deadline right now. I’m wrapped up in the upcoming draft. Once that passes then it may be a good time to look at what to do next.

    • Spriggs

      So who are hoping they get with the 2nd pick, featherstone?

      • Featherstone

        Would love to see Johnathan Gray get selected at the #2 pick. He’s got a great arm and the stuff to be Top-of-Rotation starter. He doesn’t have a huge body of work in college to look against so he’s less “safe” than Appel, but I think he has a bit of a higher upside.

        • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

          The minor league pitching coach we brought in from Vanderbilt this spring will earn his money with that pick if we don’t get Appel. Appel needs less refinement. Gray has a more “lively” arm. Appel has done better against better competition. I prefer Appel. Gray has a lot of unknowns, but does have an arm. I would like to see him become more of a pitcher. Right now his control is nowhere near Appel. Again, the coach we brought in would earn his money with that pick.

          • Featherstone

            I agree with absolutely everything you said. Appel is the more polished pitcher and is definitely closer to competing at the major league level than Gray is, but with that being said I do feel you have to take the absolute best player available with such a high pick. You could very easily argue that Appel is the better player over Gray, but I just feel like the overall stuff that Gray represents is worth the extra risk. Pretty classic ceiling vs floor argument and I certainly would not be disappointed if the Cubs took Appel over Gray come June. Crappy 2012 season aside, having the choice between 2 outstanding prospects is a pretty nice consolation prize.

  • Smitty

    This will end up being an interesting thread to follow.

    I must admit, I am in complete agreement with you Brett. Their off-season acquisitions were about getting some more minor league talent through trades of the FA’s they acquired.
    Hopefully they can do that and hopefully jackson pitches more like this past weekend and not like all of April.

    Go Cubs Go!

  • Werner

    All this makes perfect sense. What never, ever makes perfect sense is being a Cub fan in the first place. Which means I believe in the deep recesses of my impossible heart that the Nats series means we are playoff bound. And that Kevin Gregg can fly.

  • EQ76

    If we are out of it totally come late June / early July I’d be okay with selling off a few players. I’m never for an all out fire sale unless it’s a bunch of non productive, bad contract types or unless the return is too much to turn down.

    I could be okay with .500 ball if the core is still young (ish) and we’re on the rise as a team. there should be some middle ground while building. It’s hard to go from 66 wins to 90 in one season.. why should we be so against a 78-82 season if it’s with a lot of the young core players?

    We’re at a point with Soriano where he may be more valuable to us than the return we’d get for him… Garza too.. his trade value was highest when he got hurt, now, we may not get much for him. With the lack of organizational pitching depth, what’s the purpose of trading more than just one of Feldman, Wood or Villineuva? I don’t see a lot of guys that will bring back more value than what we have with them already. So, why do a fire sale?

    • jay

      Even if this team had a bullpen that was even league average (which we don’t), the starting 8 aren’t even close to that. Half the guys we have starting in the field would be riding the pine on nearly every other team. You just don’t have the horses this year (and next) to even begin to think about messing up your long-term plan by hoping to sort of be in it come the trade deadline.

  • Leo L

    The problem is we also want to see the “core” players cont to get better. that could lead to more wins. we also want tradable pieces to do well so we can benefit. but that could provide wins. What we need is more bad luck and baker to come back strong after we made some trades unless of course everyone gets it together and we kick ass and ofcourse lots of luck.

  • john

    im not one of those delusional fans, but i would like to see us at least try to win. teams have to learn how to win at some point. id rather see us compete with teams and take babysteps in a .500 season this year even if, God forbid, we dont end up having a top 10 pick in the first round. i know Theo knows what he is doing and I trust him. And obviously i realize the value in having a top 5 pick instead of the 15th pick but we will still get a major talent in the middle of the first round. i dont see why we must loses games to rebuild

    • jay

      Because there’s no middle ground. You either stock up your team for the stretch run if you think you can make the playoffs, or you gut the team and stock up for the future. And, considering how weak this team is now, imagine how the losses will pile up once you send some of the meager talent you have packing. Playing .500 ball at this stage in the rebuild accomplishes absolutely nothing.

  • Dynastyin2017

    Couldn’t agree more. If you are going to be watching the playoff’s on TV anyway, what difference does a few extra wins mean? The unfortunate part is we don’t have a bunch of ‘high level’ prospects to play at this point. I think attendance would be fine if fans could see the ‘future’ playing at Wrigley, opposed to a bunch of guys we know wont be here long. It’s hard for fans to get excited about the players when we know most of them are flippable assets.

  • Stevie B

    In the words of the immortal Gordon Gecko:

    “Dump it”

  • Spriggs

    Even though I’ve suffered through many really bad losing seasons as a Cubs fan, I had sort of forgotten how painful it can be. The last couple of years have been tougher than I thought they’d be, even though we knew they wer coming. But besides the pain us fans experience – I don’t know if it is anything to really be concerned about, but I just hate to see some of the younger players (esp. Castro and Rizzo) get into the habit of losing. Expecting to lose. Can there actually be a danger that losing becomes part of their baseball/Cubs DNA? So part of me wants them to lose for the future – but another two or three parts of me just hates the losing too much to root for it.

    • willis

      I think right now, they are too young to grasp what you are saying, but eventually it does take a toll. I will echo the thoughts that for three years in a row this team has been filth, and there have been (or will be) three straight years of great draft position. I don’t see the harm, if they keep playing well, to let them play well and build some confidence a little bit. I would much rather see the Cubs be 80-82 vs. 66-96. I want them to see them grow and learn to win. I get the “may as well suck” argument but I don’t agree with it.

    • Rcleven

      I think losing can become a learned skill. That said, if the right free agent(s) can be brought in at the right time it can all be turned around.
      Washington had three 100 loss seasons, brought in LaRoche lost another 100 and boom.

  • North Side Irish

    Ben Badler just posted his Top 10 July 2 prospects on BA…he says the Cubs “will also be very active but will likely award bigger bonuses to two of their top targets and perhaps trade for even more pool space.”

    He mentions the Cubs are the frontrunners to sign two players:

    Eloy Jimenez, of, Dominican Republic – big RH hitting OFer from the International Prospect League. Calls the Cubs “the heavy favorite to sign him”…estimates around $2.6-$2.8M.

    Gleyber Torres, ss, Venezuela – Surprising power for his size, likely to stay at SS. Also says the Cubs are the frontrunners, probably for around $1.6M.

    Players like these are why the international pool money is important…so I wouldn’t be opposed to having one more year with a high draft pick and large international pool.

  • itzscott

    Theo’s becoming the opposite Al Davis – “Just Lose, Baby!”

    • BluBlud

      As long as his results are opposite of Davis’s recent results, I’m cool with that.

      RIP big Al

  • BluBlud

    I don’t think I would mess with the rotation, unless it’s Jackson to the Pen, which is highly unlikely. I would try to trade Garza now. We may get a little less, but it may be worth it in the long run. I don’t dislike Garza, and I’m not againast an extension, but I feel we are going to trade him anyway, so may as well do it now.

    Villanueva, Feldman and Woods should be off the trade blocks unless someone blows us away with an offer. They are all still young and are all pitching very well. Might as well see what we got. I would not trade Russell either. We need to keep him for now.

    Soriano, Dejesus, Barney(because we have plenty depth), Garza, and Marmol should be our trade chips. See what we can get for these guys, add depth with the prospects we get, and build around this core.

    C Castillo
    1B Rizzo
    3B Valbuena( I can’t believe I’m saying this, but he has been good)
    SS Castro
    OF Schierholtz

    BN Borbon

    P Wood
    P Villanueva
    P Feldman
    P Jackson
    P Shark

    BP Russel
    BP Rondon
    BP Vizcaino
    BP Fujikawa

    Build around those players and we are not far away. I wood not trade Wood, but he could be used in a trade for Price, as a cheap current Major League alternative for them until some other prospects come up. Not as the headliner, but as a MLB fill piece.

    This team has 15 good pieces to keep and Put one Big bat and one Ace pitcher, and they could be very competitive.

  • jay

    You don’t want anything to do with Price now. His velocity is dropping alarmingly which usually means shoulder issues. Wood is under club control for a couple more years at very reasonable $$ so I don’t see him going anywhere. Feldman and Villa on the other hand will likely be moved.

  • DarthHater

    Woods is likely a keeper. But Feldman and Villanueva are on one-year and two-year deals, respectively, so neither one is likely to be with the Cubs for the long haul. An important part of signing those two guys was to trade them, if we can get back anything decent–Feldman this year and Villanueva either this year or next year. To keep one or both of them just to play out their short contracts with the Cubs would make sense only if the Cubs were in contention and they were an important part of remaining competitive. But that just ain’t gonna happen this year.

    • DarthHater

      Oops. Response to Blu above.

    • BluBlud

      Darth, I agree. I tired of the sign and flip strategy alredy. It’s possible we could extend Villanueva if he is “really” this good as a starter. I don’t see the point in trading him, just to later trade for a similar player when we are competitive. We could go for another free agent later, but if he is a 3.something(doubt he stay below 3) ERA pitcher, we might not find one as good. If he performs this year and next, we could make the qualifying offer and still get comp if he walks. He’s young and if he improves, he could be a steady #3. Feldmans a little older, so I understand trying to move him if it comes down to it..

  • sven-erik312

    I’m with you Brett. If I think rationally, I come to the same conclusion. But…who wants to think rationally, that series win was sweet. CUBS WIN, HOLY COW. Bring on those Rockies!

  • Chris

    Brett,

    “Does that make me a bad fan?” No, it doesn’t. Though it’s possible, it is so highly unlikely that this roster (that features Luis Valbuena, Darwin Barney, Cody Ransom, and Scott Hairston as either full-time starters or platoon starters) is capable of being a playoff contender.

    Mediocrity – a season that features win totals in the mid to high 70s or even low 80s – would be devastating and would likely set this franchise back yet another year. If we’re not in contention (which we won’t be), I *want* to lose 100 games. Absolutely, 100%. And I was saying this when we signed Edwin Jackson, and it seemed like the majority of this community jumped on that as sacrilege.

    The best way to acquire high impact, cost efficient talent is through the draft. And when drafting high, you want the best you can get. Just look at this year’s draft: though I really like the potential for both Meadows and Frazier, pretty much the entire baseball community agrees that there are two studs/sure-bets (Appel and Gray, respectively), and then there’s the rest. So for the 2013 regular season? Purge the mediocre to good players, lose 100 games, and put yourself in the best opportunity you can to draft an Appel or a Gray next year ….or maybe even the next Bryce Harper, dare I say.

    Remember that stupid run we made and stupid Mike Quade in September 2010 that put us out of contention for Gerrit Cole, Dylan Bundy, Danny Hultzen, and Trevor Bauer? Yeah. Let’s not do that again. (note: I like Baez, but he’s much less of a sure bet than the aforementioned). It appears that our front office knows this, as evidenced by the 2012 Cubs’ putrid Aug and Sept, which resulted in the #2 pick in ’13. And thank goodness for that.

    Sure, sometimes mediocrity can show organizational progression. For example, the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates and KC Royals may have shown growth for those organizations, respectively, and now they’re both playoff contenders. But let’s be honest: the 2013 Cubs are nowhere near either of those 2012 squads.

    I’m with Brett: let’s win 90+ games and make the playoffs or let’s lose 100+. Anywhere else in between would be just so dumb and Classic Cubs….

    • ssckelley

      Chris, your comment was a good read but after I got done reading it I felt as if the Cubs are a small market team. I can’t help but look at what the St Louis Cardinals are doing and wonder why the Cubs cannot have just as much success, if not more, considering they have a bigger payroll. Somehow they are competitive year after year and they have not had a top 5 pick since 1998 yet somehow they still have a pretty good farm system. Most teams cannot afford to give up on seasons and still have fans buy tickets and show up at the games. I certainly hope the Cubs do not turn into a franchise like Kansas City where they have had a top five pick 7 out of the past 8 years and now finally have a shot at making the playoffs.

  • ssckelley

    Last year at this time I felt it was ok to dump in order to acquire young talent, I was sold on the idea that the Cubs could not win but the future would be brighter. A year later I see the Cubs could be heading towards the same outcome, when does it end? If another year passes and the Cubs are in the same position next season will we be ok with this?

    There is a part of me that is starting to second guess these moves. When Epstein was hired he was known for spending a lot of money in drafts and sometimes would acquire players at the trade deadline just to get more draft picks all while keeping Boston competitive year over year. Since he has came to Chicago the rules changed, you cannot acquire players just to get compensation picks anymore and now there is a draft/International pool. It is more challenging to both win and build the farm system at the same time.

    Losing sucks, it appears a number of us are ok with the Cubs punting this season. I just hope a year later we are not still here discussing the same types of moves.

  • Justin

    Yeah having a team around .500 is worst case scenario. People who don’t get that, don’t understand how baseball works today. Suck or be good there should be no in between for smart teams. Although, the protected pick thing this year seems less of a concern. Other than Cano and Choo are there really many other players that will get offered a $14 Mill qualifying offer? I am all for Choo and his ridiculous obb next year too. The free agents absolutely blow this offseason.

    • Featherstone

      The way the FA landscape is changing, each year’s crop of FA seems to get worse and worse.

    • Kyle

      Sorry, but I think I have a pretty decent understanding of how baseball works, and I find this sort of min-maxing to be an oversimplification.

      If we make it back to .500, that means a lot of good things had to have happened for our long-term projection. It probably means some things happened like Jeff Samardzija kept up his breakout performance from last year, Anthony Rizzo continued to mash, Starlin Castro pulled out of his duldrums, Edwin Jackson’s performance caught up with his peripherals, some of the cheap bullpen arms broke out.

      In a vacuum where future player performance is completely disconnected from this year’s record, then sure, draft position or playoff spots would be all that matters. But how our players perform this year directly influences both our record and their future projection. That’s pretty important, too.

      • Justin

        It’s cool that you understand baseball. And yeah players like Rizzo and Castro continuing to develop and improve is obviously very important. Maybe my statement is too broad, and I am not saying they shouldn’t try to win. All i am saying is that players that clearly aren’t in the longterm picture should be moved for value. And the Cubs shouldn’t keep certain dudes so they can win a couple more games, when it doesn’t matter.

        • Kyle

          Sure. If we’re not in real sight of the wild card, then we’re selling this year.

          Our expiring contracts without options are (doing this off the top of my head, so I might be missing someone): Garza, Feldman, Gregg, Camp, Baker, Navarro. There’s no reason for any of those guys to be here by mid-August if we haven’t made an insane turnaround.

          But there’s enough talent in placed locked up for future seasons that you aren’t likely to get a 100-losses-or-bust train going even after trading all those guys. Unless the bullpen post-deadline continues it’s uncanny ability to be just the right amount of awful to lose any given game, there’s a really good chance you are going to end up between 70 and 80 wins.

          The only way to really be sure to avoid it would be to cannibalize the 2014-15 rosters in the fire sale as well. Barney, Soriano, DeJesus, Villanueva, Hairston, Fujikawa, Wood (and maybe even Soriano) would all have to be considered for dumping in that scenario, and you’d need to dump a lot of them.

          You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that doing that sort of damage to the medium-term outlook for the team is worth the draft position, especially in a year where the battle for the top 2 picks was reduced to Miami and Houston long before we ever had a chance to try to enter the discussion.

          • Chris

            Kyle,

            Of your group mentioned, I’d keep Travis Wood (pending the return). That’s it. If we’re not on track to win 90+ games and make the playoffs, then I say we dump Barney, Soriano, DeJesus, Villanueva, Hairston, and Fujikawa (along with Garza (pending extension), Feldman, Schierholtz, et al). Hopefully after doing so we can ensure sub-70 wins.

            Wood and Garza are the only two I see as being potential meaningful contributors in 2014-15. The rest are quite replaceable.

            • Kyle

              I think you’d find the rest to be a lot harder to replace than you expect. The free agent market is not friendly in the next two years. Trading that deep is essentially tanking the 2014 and 2015 seasons in advance. There’s just no need for that.

            • bbmoney

              I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where Villanueva and Fujikawa have built up enough trade value to really be worth dealing given they can help the team next year too. Unless Villanueva sticks in the rotation and still has a sub 3 era in July….which again, I have a hard time envisioning.

              I’m also not sure I’d want them to deal DeJesus AND Soriano, unless they get a lot more for them than I’m thinking they could. I think It’d be nice for the 2014 team to have one of them around.

              • ssckelley

                There is an outside shot Fujikawa could bring back some value to a contending team needing a closer, assuming he ever gets that role with the Cubs. But I agree with you on Villanueva, someone who has been used as a spot starter and bullpen his entire career is not going to get the Cubs much for prospects in return.

                I think if the Cubs are sellers in July their top trading pieces are Garza and possibly Feldman if he can maintain this success. DeJesus could fetch the Cubs a decent prospect.

        • ssckelley

          Tell me more about Castros “continuing to develop and improve”.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I think those of us who are saying these things ARE talking in that vacuum: if the Cubs aren’t going to the playoffs, we’d rather they lost 100 games. We do not, however, want to see massive regression/injuries from key pieces. Sure, it’s much more nuanced when you actually start translating individual performance to team wins (it’s hard to lose 100 if everyone’s playing well), but this is an academic discussion.

        • Chris

          Agree with Justin and Brett

    • bbmoney

      I think Choo is going to be a pretty fascinating FA case if he continues to play well.

      He’s got a ridiculous career platoon split, and SS as a given in May….it’s actually worse this year. He really shouldn’t ever play against lefties and it’s hard for me cognatively to justify giving a guy like that a big contract, even if he’s great against righties.

  • YourResidentJag

    Here’s the problem with thinking that the Nationals series was just another series and a “coin flip”. Think of it from the other side of things. Did anyone think that the Nats asserted any sort of dominance in that series. Sure, Shark had a bad outing but that’s bound to happen to anyone…I would expect even Matt Harvey to have at least one or two bad outings this season. The Nats clearly have holes and problems which made this a “coin flip series” as Brett puts it. Zimmermans defense looked at times awful. Jason Werth…sorry that’s a bad contract. Other offense pieces like Beranadina…non-existent. Bullpen…one lefty Zach Duke. Let me state that I don’t think the Cubs are playoff bound. But who’s the clear cut 2nd wildcard team…next to the Cards or Reds. I don’t see it and from the Nationals perspective, I didn’t see it this series.

  • Chris

    Ssckelley,

    I agree with you that Epstein’s greatest organizational tool while in Boston has been stripped from him since his move to the Cubs (acquiring many draft picks and spending big on the amateur side).

    That said – let’s look at the Rays and the Nationals, who I believe are the two squads we’re trying to emulate right now (note: I would imagine we’d be emulating the likes of Boston and St. Louis once/if we become consistently good).

    The Nationals – 7 consecutive years of being stupidly bad resulted in:
    Ryan Zimmerman – 2005, #4 overall
    Chris Marrero – 2006, #15 overall
    Ross Detwiler – 2007, #6 overall
    Aaron Crow – 2008, #9 overall
    Stephen Strasburg – 2009, #1 overall
    Bryce Harper – 2010, #1 overall
    Anthony Rendon – 2011, #6 overall

    The Rays – 10 consecutive years of being stupidly bad resulted in:
    Josh Hamilton – 1999, #1 overall
    Rocco Baldelli – 2000, #6 overall
    Dewon Brazelton – 2001, #3 overall
    BJ Upton – 2002, #2 overall
    Delmon Young – 2003, #1 overall
    Jeff Niemann – 2004, #4 overall
    Wade Townsend – 2005, #8 overall
    Evan Longoria – 2006, #3 overall
    David Price – 2007, #1 overall
    Tim Beckham – 2008, #1 overall

    My points are these:
    1) It takes time. From a Cubs perspective, our organization isn’t going to be awesome after only 3 stupidly bad seasons (2011, 2012, and 2013, so far)

    2) Look at what being really bad can net you – all stars and solid starters.

    3) But even when you draft really high, that player is not a slam-dunk to become an all star or solid starter (see Brazelton, Young, Townsend, Marrero, Crow, and possibly Beckham). But even this proves the importance of accumulating as many high draft picks as you can in a crappy period.

    Bottom line: if we’re going to not be playoff contenders in 2013, 2014, or 2015… then I say we sell-off those bubble assets at each trade deadline, lose 100 games each of those years, accumulate as many top 5 draft picks as possible, and hope it takes much less time for us to become consistent competitors than it took either the Nats or the Rays.

    …And in the meantime, root for the Blackhawks and your preferred football team.

    • Kyle

      Epstein did a very nice job with that, but I don’t know if I would call it his greatest tool. He had a lot of clubs in the bag then that he doesn’t have now.

      The revolution was in progress, but there were still a lot of ignorant people running baseball teams back then. Epstein got insane amounts of value out of underpriced and free players, which I would call his greatest tool. And he made some use of Boston’s payroll club to bludgeon the non-Yankees in his division as well.

      • Chris

        Kyle,

        Very true. Indeed, that may have been his greatest tool, and David Ortiz is the prime example of it.

    • YourResidentJag

      But what if I’m not Blackhawks fan and I want my summers to mean something. Under your plan, losing 100 ballgames until 2016 would virtually guarantee my summers pretty much void of meaning until then.

      • Chris

        YourResidentJag,

        There are a lot of good micro breweries in the Chicagoland area. They can be lots of fun during the summer.

        • YourResidentJag

          Problem is I don’t drink. But thanks for the suggestion.

          • cubsin

            If you stay a Cubs’ fan long enough, you’ll start drinking.

    • ssckelley

      Granted I can find better uses of my time than watching baseball during the summer months but come August it would be fun to watch a team playing baseball that had some hope of reaching the playoffs. Both of those examples you gave are teams with a very limited payroll, especially the Rays who are expected to sell off Price to the highest bidder. Plus I do not want to see the Cubs go through 7 to 10 years of really bad baseball just to reach the playoffs and I think they can win without just using the farm system to produce talent.

      But I get the feeling we don’t have a choice in the matter. It appears the Cubs are dead set on losing now, simply building the farm system, and then winning once Wrigley Field is renovated. The “new look” Wrigley Field will be highlighted with a “new look” team.

      • Chris

        I’m not disagreeing that it’s rough to be a Cubs fan right now, and I can’t imagine much better than watching a baseball playoff contender which you support in August and September. But we’re just not there yet, and we probably won’t be for another couple of years.

        Also, I’m saying we emulate the player acquisition strategies of the Rays, Nats, Royals, Pirates, et al. now, because signing big time guys at this point of the juncture will probably just bite us in the behind and make us mediocre.

        But sure, when/if we’re looking more like consistent contenders is when I’d rather emulate someone like the Cardinals or Red Sox. And hopefully we get to that point much more quickly than it took any of the aforementioned teams, in part because of our big market.

  • Beardface

    I agree that the chances of a turnaround year are not high, but the team on the field now is quite a bit different than the one from the first 15 games of the season. They now have Ransom, Barney, Sweeney, And Gregg. Fujikawa was gone for a while. Also, the first month’s schedule was pretty brutal. I’m not giving up yet however I am not expecting anything yet.

    • ssckelley

      Don’t be fooled into thinking that all these cast offs the Cubs have acquired will magically turn this team into a playoff contender.

  • Beardface

    Plus I think we are 11-9 in the last 20.

  • Chris

    Beardface,

    I cannot agree that a roster consisting of Cody Ransom, Darwin Barney, Ryan Sweeney, and Kevin Gregg (all replacement-level players) makes the Cubs a playoff contender.

  • Vince

    Talking about the streaks and records. The Cubs have a better record than the Angels!!!

  • Bilbo161

    The Cubs are aying pretty well lately. Makes me happy. :-). I think the team could still trade Feldman or Garza without affecting the team too much. If we see the proverbial June swoon then both could be useful trade pieces along with the current outfield trio and even Barney. Not all of them mind you just what is needed to get the pieces back we are looking for. We have to push the minor league logjam at AAA up the ladder to see what we have at the end of the year. Who knows, we might just find the talent surprise us.

  • Ivy Walls

    Cubs should be a few games closer to .500, not bounces or pitches but playing smarter and that includes taking the handcuffs off of Sveum’s lineup decisions.

    I think Schierholtz should be batting cleanup and even though it is not L-R-L-R-L-R-L-R-P, Soriano needs to be moved down the lineup until he begins producing runs.

    Defensively Hairston is a bust…and Cubs need to find a better RH platoon in RF. Then there is Barney, what happened? He is messed up. Willing to see Cubs move up Wadkins and see what is there and platoon Barney.

  • cubmig

    I’ve read all the post on this topic. I am no nearer to feeling the certainty I’d hope to reel-in to go along with a “here’s what we should do” position. The arguments —even though they’re “academic”— still leave me conflicted. I remain that way because: 1) I hate the 100 loss strategy. It goes against everything I believe a team should be about; winning. Every effort should be made to play the game to win. The powers-that-be may be brain-storming ways to put together a contending team, but doing that in a way that celebrates losing for a high draft pick, to me, undermines their own reason for being.

    2) Manufacturing a 100 game loss record may/will produce a high draft pick, but as others have said, that pick may pan out or may turn out to be a flop. In other words, there is no guarantee—–which means, imo, it’s a gamble with risk attached. Add that to factor to the 100 game loss plan and then try justifying that, everything to build a contending team is under control and moving in the right direction. It has all the makings for a “slippery-slope” headache; especially, if the FO sees losing consistently to stock up on high picks and more flop than succeed. I’m not for that.

    3) The current team is not doing enough winning to show they are going places. They’re trying, but nada. I can see trading players (Barney, DeJesus, Soriano, Garza, Marmol, and others) for the best returns expected by the FO. I also want to see some of the promising prospects in the minors brought up to get ML experience. The current state of things represents a window of opportunity for the youngsters (and management) to assess skill-level and mental preparedness. If the 100 loss strategy is invoked then I hope the call-up for on-th-job training for those youngsters is part of the thinking. It seems like the only way the losing would make any sense.

  • FastBall

    Well I like your points 2 and 3. But I am afraid what will happen is that Sveum will just play what crap players he has left on the 25 man and let the young guys sit on their butts if and when they are brought up. He and Quade seem to be cut from the same cloth in that regard. If you are going to bring up young players you have to just let them play everyday. You can’t stroke a veterans ego at that point. I am not for losing 100 games EVER. I can’t stand losing and I will never accept losing because it gets you a draft slot and I sure as hell won’t support losing more games because there is no difference between winning 72 and 77. Then why don’t we just state before the season starts. We have a goal of 72 wins and that’s our WS boys. If I told my VP I was going to blow off the 1st 3 quarters and show up in the 4th by design or just suck all year on my P&L I wouldn’t have a job but for another week or two. I would be ostrisized from my organization. I will admit I have one hell of a hard time choosing to logon and watch this team play. If it’s raining outside wherever I’m at I watch. I miss my old Cubs that at least sucked me in and made me watch every single game no matter what. It angers me that I can choose 18 holes or going out on my boat over watching the Cubs. I’m not a fair weather fan. These Cubs just don’t have my interest level peaked like the previous 50 years of being a fan.

    That is sad and I want it to change. So I hope they shit can Marmol, Camp and the rest of lousy players on the roster. Sell Off … I vote yes. Hell you probably can’t sell some of these guys. So why not just DFA/Cut them and play somebody who might have a future.

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