The Chicago Cubs‘ 2013 season certainly has not gone the way that the Cubbie-optimist had hoped for. Generally when a team does not meet the expectation of their fan-base, the fans–sometimes inaccurately–take the easy way out and identify a scapegoat for the Cubs’ failures.
However, the Chicago Cubs are in an interesting position when it comes to not meeting expectations and the idea of the identifying scapegoats. This current Chicago Cubs’ front office, headed by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, is unlike the regime it replaced. The Jim Hendry regime was known for making band-aid improvements to the team, then selling Cubs’ fans on false hope. Under Epstein, the idea of band-aid improvements has been discarded.
The goal ever since Epstein was hired in November of 2011 was to completely renovate the Chicago Cubs’ baseball operation. That is not a process that happens overnight. The first step in that process for Epstein and company was tearing down the old foundation that was created by the previous regime. That is what the 2012 season represented for the Chicago Cubs. During the 2012 season, there were a handful of front office changes including a revamping of the Cubs’ scouting department. On the field, the front office was turning players that did not fit with the long-term direction of the team into long-term assets by trading them.
This current season, the 2013 season, is when the new foundation is expected to be laid by the Epstein regime. Note, that this is the season when the Cubs’ front office expected the team to take a competitive turn. While the Cubs are 11-19 on the season, this team has shown significant strides in being much more competitive than they were last season. The issue is that many Cubs’ fans mistook the Cubs taking a competitive turn for the Cubs taking a turn towards becoming a contending team. The Cubs’ front office has not made that mistake. The new foundation on the Cubs’ roster is certainly on display with the likes of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro, and catcher Welington Castillo. However, the construction on the new foundation is not complete. The new foundation consists largely of players that are still developing in the minor leagues. Players such as outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora–both acquired under Epstein’s regime–and infielder Javier Baez. Not to mention that a significant addition to the new foundation will be added in this year’s amateur draft.
With the Cubs having struggled during the 2012 season and to begin 2013 season, it has become an easy option for fans to criticize Epstein and the Cubs’ front office. However, there criticisms are baseless. Many like to compare the Cubs to the Boston Red Sox and then criticize Epstein because of the difference. There is no question that Epstein wants bring the Cubs to same level as the Red Sox where there is sustained success each season, but the Cubs’ president of baseball realizes that is not a transformation that happens overnight. That would be why the Cubs’ front office has indicated that 2015 is the season where the sustained success may ignite for the Cubs. So it may be convenient for Cubs’ fans to see the product that has been put on the field the last two seasons by Epstein and then lose hope in the future, but the future is not at Wrigley Field. The future is in Iowa; the future is in Tennessee; the future is in Kane County as those all are the teams that truly reflect the work that the Cubs’ front office has done over the past two seasons. May be those teams should be evaluated before fans reach a premature conclusion on Epstein and the Cubs’ front office.