CHICAGO (CBS) — Along the Cubs’ long, rutted road to rebuilding, the model they hope to obtain passes by frequently.
With each meeting against the rival St. Louis Cardinals comes a glimpse of where the Cubs hope to be in the near future. Their enemies from down south have built a consistent winner. Meanwhile, Chicago is working toward finding success and sustaining it.
In St. Louis, it’s referred to as the “Cardinal Way.” Cubs fans might have other words to describe it. But what’s certain is that the Cardinals have molded a winning culture over time, and it’s not going away.
“That’s something we talk about all the time,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Friday. “This wasn’t built in a year, five years or 10. It’s been built over 20 or 50. It’s a culture of winning.”
Sustaining success has been made to look so easy in St. Louis. When slugger Mark McGwire retired, a young prospect named Albert Pujols was ready to replace him. After Pujols moved on to Anaheim, the Cardinals have found success with a platoon of homegrown first basemen, Allen Craig and Matt Adams, and won a World Series title.
Once Chris Carpenter’s stellar career came to a close, Adam Wainwright became the team’s ace. Eventually, rookie phenom Micahel Wacha will take on this role. The Cardinals make it look so smooth.
Hoyer’s hope is to end the Cubs’ infamy of losing — it’s been 106 years without World Series — by filling the farm system with top talent and guiding it toward the big leagues. Since arriving in Chicago at the end of the 2011 season, Hoyer and the front office have replenished a high-priced, crumbling roster with promising young talent. It has taken high draft picks and clever trades to get this far.
The major-league roster has been nothing to get excited about, as evidenced by four consecutive losing seasons. These 2014 Cubs are on pace for another year of 100 losses. Yet, better days are ahead.
In time, the Cubs are getting closer to sustaining their success. Names like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora have hopes high on Chicago’s north side. When they eventually reach the majors, the hope is for a restocked farm system to run through the same cycle again.
This is how the Cardinals have erected a ballclub, and it’s something the Cubs hope to match.
“It’s certainly not built overnight, but it’s something to aspire to,” Hoyer said. “And it’s something that makes us better, because we know we have to beat them in the long run.”
With the rival Redbirds in town, jokes and sharp remarks will come from those who flocked from St. Louis. The Cubs remain a punching bag of negativity, stuck in last place once again. Soon enough, they could be on the verge of flipping the script.
The Cubs’ farm system is loaded with talent, rated second-best in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. The scouting prowess of Hoyer and Theo Epstein is paying dividends, as will soon be shown at the major-league level.
While the Cardinals pass through with their rings and their “Way,” the Cubs believe they’re closing in on their own winning model.
Follow Chris Emma on Twitter @CEmmaScout.