Jed Hoyer Has Been Planting Trees
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
That’s one of those admittedly cheesy sayings, attributed to ancient wisdom, that pops up in business presentations and beach bod Chinese script tattoos. But I can’t lie – it’s one that has always stuck to me. I try to keep it in mind when I think about things I’d like to accomplish, and regrets over things I didn’t start when I should have. OK, I’ll think. I should’ve done this a year ago, but I didn’t. So why not now?
I thought of that idea today when reading Jon Greenberg’s interview of Cubs President Jed Hoyer, on the eve of the 2023 season. It’s a worthwhile read overall, with thoughts on what Hoyer hopes the Cubs can be this year, how they hope to beat the projections, what Hoyer thinks of the new rules, and much more.
But where I thought about the tree quote was when Hoyer mentioned, you know, trees:
Winning is like a lagging indicator of decisions you make over time and I think that we won in 2015, ’16 and ’17 because of decisions that we made in 2012, ’13 and ’14. And I think that we struggled at the end of that run a little bit because of decisions we made when we were on top ….
I hate the word complacency because I think it implies a laziness. I think back and, oh my god, we never stopped working. But I do think that we were probably stubborn to the things that we had success with. And it’s really hard to make changes when the things you’re doing are working. I don’t think we pushed some pitching initiatives in the minor leagues as hard as we should have. And I think in that way, we fell behind. Yeah, we did. And we worked really hard after that to come from behind. But did it cost us? Yes.
And that’s why I said so many things that we do are lagging indicators. We’re planting trees every day, but those trees don’t show up today. They show up later. And so to me, we didn’t plant good trees at that point and that part of the forest was kind of barren. That’s my biggest takeaway. And I think it’s a great life lesson.
I’m not interested in re-hashing the decline that followed the World Series win, because we’ve been over it so many times. Instead, I want to note this idea that Hoyer has hit on many times: the decisions you make now, and the processes you implement, tend not to show up in the results column at the big league level for several years. Not 20 years, but a few? That seems to track from a developmental perspective, and also tracks with Hoyer’s off-the-cuff discussion of 2012-14 versus 2015-17.
Why is that notable here today? Well, Hoyer took over as president in November 2020. He had already started the process of a scouting and player development overhaul the year before, and continued on into a front office overhaul over the next 18 months. Not much of the infrastructure today – outside of Hoyer, himself – resembles what was in place back at the peak of the last playoff run.
So if Hoyer started planting new trees from 2019 to 2022, you might hope that it starts showing itself in a meaningful way at the big league level this year. Not just in useful players showing up – we started to see that last year, especially on the pitching side – but in wins and losses. The work has to start translating there, or none of it matters.
And let’s hope that the Cubs are also planting more trees right now, the fruits of which will show up – continuously – for years to come.