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Levine: Epstein Sees ‘Tremendous Progress’ Amid Cubs’ Struggles

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Theo Epstein. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Theo Epstein. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Bruce Levine Bruce Levine
Bruce Levine covers both the Cubs and the White Sox for CBSChicago.co...
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By Bruce Levine-

(CBS) For the Cubs’ management team this spring, there’s a sense of having turned a corner. Year three for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer has a much more present-tense feel to it.

A state of the Cubs press conference with Epstein, Hoyer and new manager Rick Renteria helped establish a sense of the future that was only a plan in the past.

“We have made tremendous progress ” Epstein said. “I think there is a (difference) by the way the organization is perceived from the outside and how we look at it internally. There is a tremendous amount of talent in this organization. The prospects we have are getting a lot of attention, and they are moving their way up the ladder. The organizational depth, for instance, in the bullpen — there is no comparison to the quality arms that are in camp now than where we were two years ago. Our coaches and scouts, I believe, are impact and we believe we are on the verge of something special.”

Epstein and Co. understand there has been an inferiority complex that all of Cubs nation has had to live with the past three or four seasons, predating their arrival on the scene.

“We understand we are perceived otherwise ” Epstein said. “That is our fault. We have been a last-place club the last couple of years. We are not protesting because we need to earn our way earn our way to become championship contenders on an annual basis. We feel that is moving in the right direction.”

Epstein has not had an easy road, due  to the change of baseball rules that came into being at the same time he was hired in 2011. The ability to throw all of the club’s economic resources into the rebuild was severally curtailed by the limit MLB put on spending in the amateur draft and international signings

The starting pitching cache is still way behind where management would like to be right now. Missing out on pitchers Anibal Sanchez in 2013 and Masahiro Tanaka this year has hurt the rebuild and present growth tremendously. Imagine what projections and fan expectation would be this season if both pitchers had chosen the Cubs.

Perception becomes reality in baseball and all forms of big business. Losing games has helped the Cubs draft well and spend wisely. That way of doing business comes with risks, and there is no automatic switch that turns on to make a team a contender.

The Cubs have nice prospects who should be provide help the next couple of seasons, but the starting pitching depth appears to be too far in the distance to project.

“This time next year, I want us to be healthier and closer to accomplishing our vision of being an annual contender, “Epstein said  Thursday. “We will see what 2014 brings.”

Bruce Levine is a baseball reporter/analyst for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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