The 4-12 Chicago Cubs certainly haven’t given fans anything to boast about thus far in 2012, but it’s rather impressive to look at what Theo Epstein & Co. have done with the pile of garbage they inherited from the previous regime and see how quickly they’ve been able to implement and begin to execute significant parts of their plan to rebuild the inept franchise from the ground up.
Yesterday’s trade of 34-year old Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox was the latest step in the plan to rid themselves of older players who are clearly not part of the Cubs’ future. Byrd’s initial enthusiasm and effort after joining the club in 2010 was slowly replaced by indifference and sub-par production, culminating in his paltry three singles in 43 at-bats to start this season. Tom Ricketts will have to eat most of his $6.5 million salary due him, but he’s got the money and Byrd is clearly in severe decline. To be able to further pillage the desperate, spiteful, and spiraling Red Sox for promising 25-year old, left-handed reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named is just icing on the cake.
The housecleaning started a mere two months after the new braintrust took office with the jettison of North Side pariah Carlos Zambrano. Big Z’s welcome was more than worn out in Chicago, though he was always great fodder for this blog. Any production out of Chris Volstad will be worth it and even though it cost the team $15 million to send Carlos’ sorry ass down to Miami, it was money well spent.
Next up in the gut-rehab project should be trading the recently DL-ed Ryan Dempster and his mildly amusing Harry Caray impression. The jocular Canadian has been a cornerstone fo the staff for years as a closer and starter with 87 saves, 62 wins, and a 3.83 ERA over his eight-year career with the Cubs. But at age 34, he’s simply not part of the future. A quick return from his strained right quadriceps will go a long way toward boosting his trade value by the deadline to a playoff contender looking for pitching depth. Get healthy Demp!
The coup de gras will be finally moving Alfonso Soriano and the three years and $54 million left on his albatros of a contract that Jim Hendry saddled the club with. It would take a miracle for Epstein to ever pull that off, but hey—they said the same thing about the Red Sox ever winning another World Series.
So at least there are a few positive signs for Cubs fans to look at just 16 games into what everyone knows is a lost season. This is going to be a long process, but the process has definitely started.
You know, this is fine (and positively insightful), but the Cub still will still charge their feckless fans top dollar to “experience” the inferior product and those followers and their drool will still permeate the Friendly Confines. The average Cub fan looks at the shiny object that reflects off their $10 designer beers and wonder why they’re still losing. They’re not into “plans.”
I’d like to see you address the psychological issue of being a Cub. I’ve seen the pattern for ten years now…big free agent signing, says all the right things in coming in and leaves after three years or so mumbling invectives about the experience. There is something about “Cubdom” that is inherently negative and I’d like to see Savior Epstein address that. When he won’t, I foresee another ten years of the lovable losers.
Yes, we’ve seen what happens when they overspend on aged free agents to “put a better product on the field” and look where that’s gotten them. Epstein is now having to atone for those sins of the father and start from the ground up. But begrudging a business for charging what the market will bear will never fly with me. As long as those “feckless fans” are willing to pay the price, I can’t blame the Cubs for making a profit off of them. The difference now is that the new ownership has pledged to take those profits and pour them back into the on-field product and there are already strongs signs they are doing that now. Beefing up the front office with some of the best young minds in the game is one example of that commitment. Another is the $8 million player development facility being built in the Dominican Republic. Both these examples are huge departures fromt the previous regime and give reason to think things are different now. Granted, it will take quite some time for those philosophical changes to take root and eventually bear fruit, but there are no shortcuts to success.
If you are arguing that Cubs fans only care about expensive beer I’m compelled to point out that it costs the same at Cubs/Sox parks and the Sox carry far more designer beers. Mmm… beer.
Nice job by the Cubs, they got an arm with some potential for what was left of Byrd. Great Piece!
Also, do you see the Cubs moving someone like Reed Johnson at the deadline? If they got Bowden out of Byrd, who knows what they might get out of Johnson.
I think everyone except Castro is on the table. Not sure they could get much for Johnson, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind moving him, especially if Brett Jackson is ready to get called up from Iowa by then.