The long way home
Good things come to those who wait. It's become a cliche, and sometimes it isn't true, but generally, patience is rewarded, when your trust is well-placed. For Cub fans who have been waiting literally all their lives, patience is a necessary and loathesome burden, but it always seems to remain, as long as there is a shred of hope. The 60's Cubs had Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, the 70's gave us Bobby Murcer adn Dave Kingman, who hit mammoth home runs and struck out every other at bat. The 80's gave us Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux and near misses in 1984 and 1989. The '90's gave us Andre Dawson and a heavy dose of mediocrity, and the 2000's gave us Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Steve Bartman (ok, that should have been Alex Gonzalez). So here we are in the 2010's, and we have...a whole lot of losses and not much more. No superstars, no prospects that are clearly major-league ready. So, unlike in past eras where there was at least a shred of hope, the cupboard has been essentially bare since the Ricketts family took ownership of the Cubs, in late 2009.
But it had to be. When Theo Epstein left the Boston Red Sox after the 2011 season to join the Cubs, he began the process of dismantling a mess. No more big money aging free agents, no more hanging on to an above average veteran core while the minor league system was devoid of prospects. In short, the Ricketts' and Theo took the crutches of hope away from Cub fans. And I, for one, am glad they did.
They needed to get bad...really bad, in order to build a team that would be a contender for a decade, not just a random year here and there. It has been 105 years since the Cubs won a World Series. The "shred of hope" approach has not worked. This is how you build a championship team. You build a strong foundation through the draft and stocking your minor league system by trading major league assets that don't fit in your long-term plans for prospects from other teams. Then when a few of those prospects become fixtures on the big league club, you add pieces through free agency. The Pirates have done it, the Rangers have done it, the Rays have done it. The Cardinals have done it for decades. It is the right way to get to and win a World Series. But it takes time, and the bad years can be really, really bad.
I am a believer in Theo Epstein's approach. It broke the Red Sox' "curse" and I believe it will lead ultimately to the Cubs' first World Series victory in over a century. Who knows whether or not Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija or Anthony Rizzo will be there when it happens. But, more than likely, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Albert Almora will. The hope is there, it's just a little farther away than we're used to.
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Scott Dyer is a lifelong Cub fan, singer/songwriter, Husband and proud Dad.