By Matt Spiegel-
(CBS) Oh late July. How baseball fans love you.
What’s been fascinating, at the most compelling local trade deadline in years, is the rising knowledge and interest of the faithful. As 670 The Score’s guest log is peppered with the likes of Jim Callis from Baseball America and Kevin Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus, fans have been able to speak knowledgeably on hopeful targets like Zach Lee and Mike Olt. They’ve immediately hungered for information on new guys like Jacob Brigham and Arodys Vizcaino.
July 31st, now viewed from the other side as a pure and aggressive seller, has been incredibly instructive as to how the sausage is truly made. It’s a smarter baseball city than it was six months ago and that’s kind of thrilling.
Theo Epstein’s efforts in building a “foundation for sustained success” are supported with interest by the vast majority, with a sense of relief at seeing a front office based in reality. Even ownership, with their many flaws, has to be appreciated. The Cubs included cash in the Paul Maholm trade to get a preseason top 40 prospect in all of baseball like Vizcaino. Deals like that mean the team will get worse before it gets better. Tom Ricketts continues to give unprecedented support to the long term plan, with both his patience and his checkbook.
Are some growing antsy, yearning for a big market team to just buy its way back towards acceptable mediocrity? Yes, and we hear from them. But they are a loud myopic few, easily shouted down by their brethren with reminders of a century’s ultimate failure. Fans largely trust the earnest efforts of some very smart baseball men.
The goal is to be very, very good for at least a decade. The goal is to get into the postseason tournament as often as possible, season after season. The goal in the micro is to build up a farm system with viable potential winning parts aplenty. Some of them will develop to excellence, some will fail, and some will be used as trading chips before their fate is known. But the volume of those prospects is at this moment the key.
Young pitchers of consequence have to be accumulated, and it could have happened faster than it did these last few days. There is residual, deserved frustration still lingering, channeled in the direction of Ryan Dempster.
The “haul” sent the Cubs way from the Texas Rangers for the capricious one doesn’t amount to much, and pales in comparison to the potential of the Braves prospect that might have been. For years, you’ll watch Randall Delgado, ready to curse Dempster’s name with each affordable quality start.
You’ll be watching Dodgers prospect Allan Webster too. If leverage had not been so horribly lost with the Braves dismissal hitting what crusty old Uncle Dale likes to call “The Twitters,” maybe Ned Colletti could have been coerced into parting with their #2 prospect.
But so it goes. Jed Hoyer re-ignited conversation with the Rangers at the last minute, and got, well, something. The impending free agent will not be at Wrigley to receive awkward boos, start meaningless games, or do impressions of a comedian’s impression of a former broadcaster. And he won’t be here in the offseason to debate a risky one year contract offer you’d want him to decline.
So welcome, Cubs fans, to the reality of the moment. Post deadline life unfortunately involves games started by Justin Germano and Casey Coleman.
But envision Arodys Vizcaino being brilliant in 2014. Envision Javier Baez pushing Josh Vitters for third base time by late 2013. Daydream of an eventual outfield peopled by Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Brett Jackson. And be ready for a cash infusion with some big time free agents as soon as the roster is deemed ready. Then the necessary blend will fill the dugout, with your own young, cheap assets joined by others’ proven performers.
This methodical, forthright approach may not lead to a title. There are no guarantees. But it’s smarter than any plan that’s come out of those offices before.
In the meantime, keep zooming out on your screen, making those big league annoyances smaller, and bringing the accruing emblems of hope into frame.
Can’t wait to see what kind of picture comes into focus.
Listen to Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score weekdays from 9am–1pm CT on The McNeil & Spiegel Show and Sundays from 9am–Noon CT on Hit And Run.