Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cubs bring in Theo Epstein to head baseball operations...

So, Cubs nation is beside itself with enthusiasm about the team's hiring of Theo Epstein away from the Red Sox. Epstein comes aboard as team president in charge of baseball operations, and will apparently hire a couple of guys from the Padres organization, GM Jed Hoyer and an assistant GM, both of whom have worked with him in Boston.

Theo has a big job ahead of him. He has to turn around the direction of this entire franchise. Even when they were winning, it felt like a fluke. It felt like the team was an injury or a bad year by a player or two away from falling from being competitive to being...well, being what they were last year. Almost a joke.

And that was pretty close to the truth.

I'm taking this whole thing with a grain of salt. I'm old enough to remember the enthusiasm around the hiring of Andy MacPhail, who, like Epstein, helped to build winners with the Twins. MacPhail was unable to get it done here, and his successor, Jim Hendry, did good things, but also created a mess with some of the big contracts he gave out. Whether that was his fault or he acted on a directive from higher-ups, he'll get the blame.

Where Hendry's regime, and Ed Lynch's and MacPhail's tenures before him, failed, in my humble opinion, was in their player development. Either they've failed with their player evaluation or they've failed with their development process, but for some reason the Cubs have not produced impact major leaguers at the positions.

(Yes, it's possible that Starlin Castro might be an impact player. But at 21, it's hard to not see the flaws in his game. Yes, he might correct them, but apparently he was allowed to develop with these flaws through his years in the Cubs' instructional system.)

Castro notwithstanding, there just haven't been enough impact players, either pitchers or hitters. With respect to hitters, "not enough" means virtually none until Castro.

Until Epstein corrects this, any success the team has is going to feel like a fluke again.

Theo addressed this as an idea, that a team would have solid prospects coming through the system at every position, so that they would never have to sign a free agent out of desperation. That seems like a solid goal to me, the kind of goal that would put this team on a course to win a whole lot more than it loses. If they are competitive every year, if they are almost always in the hunt for a playoff spot, and are actually in the playoffs 7 out of every 10 years, eventually, just by things falling their way, they'll probably get to and probably even WIN a World Series.

I am talking about "in my lifetime". I'd really love to see that.

So....guarded optimism from this corner. And a lot of wishful thinking...

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