Well, here we go again. It’s been just shy of 2 years — but I’m finally ready to jump back on that “Cubs-writing horse” again.
At least my last post back on December 20th, 2012 –YES 2012! — was pretty much right on. The Cubs were on the verge of signing Edwin Jackson to a 4-year, $52 million deal. I was besides myself. The Cubs had lost 91 games in 2011 and then 101 games in 2012. Theo & Co. were preaching a good old-fashioned rebuild. They lost out on the Anibel Sanchez sweepstakes to the more competitive Detroit Tigers. Fine I get it – you swing and missed on a solid starter. But did that mean you had to go sign Edwin Jackson to a bad contract?! Hell No! But they did anyway. And as I predicted, it was a bad move (in 2013, Jackson went 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.46 WHIP and in 2014, Jackson went 6-15 with a 6.33 ERA and 1.64 WHIP). And that was it – I could not bear to continue to vent about this team any longer.
But 683 days later, I have finally put that all behind me. Cubby Blue forever, right? It hasn’t been easy, but I feel like Theo & Co. are back on course. Theo acknowledged his Jackson-signing-mistake and vowed never to make a rash decision like that, just to make a move that might placate the fan base.
Sure the Cubs lost 96 games in 2013. But they continued the re-build the right way with key trades to acquire young talent (Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, etc,). After the 2013 season, , the Cubs swung and missed on the Tanaka sweepstakes, but they learned from their Edwin Jackson mess and stayed true to the re-build. They didn’t go take their Tanaka money and spent it on one or 2 lower tier players. They kept it for a rainy day (see “rainy day” signing of Joe Maddon below).
Sure the Cubs lost 89 games in 2014. But they continued the re-build the right way with key trades to acquire young talent (Addison Russell, Bill McKinney, Jacob Turner, Felix Doubront, etc.). There was a different vibe in the clubhouse and in Wrigley Field, as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo returned to All-Star form. They were as excited as heck when they won, and never sank too low when they lost. Manager Rick Renteria wasn’t perfect, but he had a great attitude for the task at hand. And that positive attitude resonated with his players. And when Tampa Rays manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract just a little over a week ago, the Cubs had the perfect chance to land a manager who could lead them all the way back to contention. Sure it may not have been the most popular move in some circles, but Theo had a decision to make for the “organization” not just for “one player” or “one coach” or “one executive” or “one fan” like me. And if landing one of the best managers in baseball meant you had to fire a respected manager like Renteria, then it had to be done for the good of the organization.
So it all comes full circle from the whole Edwin Jackson signing debacle.
It reminded Theo & Co. that one move was not going to turn the Cubs into perennial World Series front-runners.
It reminded Theo & Co. that they needed to stay true to a well-formulated plan.
It reminded Theo & Co. that not all of their moves were going to be popular with the team or with the fans. Fans were mad when the Cubs traded away Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel (and the list could go on and on). But look where they are now because Theo & Co. made those unpopular trades.
Some fans are mad that they sought another manager even when Rick Renteria was still under contract. Some fans are mad that they are paying $25 million over 5 years to Joe Maddon when they think the Cubs should be paying more money to players that actually perform on the field. But let’s look at that $25 million as 1 year of the Tanaka deal that never happened thereby giving Theo & Co. the financial means necessary to land a manager with the caliber of Maddon without comprising the pool of funds that can still be used to land productive players on the field.
We will have to see how the 2014 off-season moves all shake out, but I have a pretty good feeling that the number of losses in 2015 will be considerably less than the 89 losses in 2014. And given my perfect prediction on how the whole Edwin Jackson signing would turn out, you can take that to the bank…