Chicago Cubs 2013: 4 Suggestions on How to Right the Long-Sinking Ship
It's been 803 months since the Chicago Cubs' last World Series appearance. In that time, they've tried every kind of roster imaginable.
They've had speedier teams, more powerful teams and teams based on solid pitching. Of course, they've also tried to win without having any of those things, which, to be fair, IS thinking outside the box. They even went outside the box manufacturer in the early 1960s by replacing the traditional manager with the College of Coaches.
Nothing has worked, and were it not for the wretched Houston Astros the Cubs would be worst team in the National League (and in 2013, they won't have THAT as an excuse, as Houston will be in the AL).
The Cubbies rank in the lower half of teams—usually near the bottom, actually—in most major statistical categories. Their most high-profile player is as well known for his miscues as for his successes. Their best pitcher is still mainly thought of as a college football player.
Looking for ways for the Cubs to win is a bit like trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel when you're peering down a mine shaft, but I think I have succeeded.
In researching the Cubs' history, I've found that traditional moves (trades, the draft, etc.) have been ineffective, but that non-standard changes have gone hand-in-hand with success—occasionally, sustained success. These aren't easy moves, but sometimes a situation calls for a drastic solution. Or five.
Trade All the Talent Away
In 1964, the Cubs traded promising young outfielder Lou Brock to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ernie Broglio in what is considered one of the worst deals in baseball history.
Sure, Brock went on to the Hall of Fame and Broglio was a bust, but the Cubs actually had their most successful run in decades within a few short years of this trade. From 1967-1972, they won 513 games—just 13 fewer than St. Louis—and had six consecutive winning seasons, a feat they hadn't achieved since 1939.
As a Cub fan, this tells me that the more talent a team trades away, the faster success is likely to come. If trading Lou Brock brought success in three years, trading all their young talent should result in success almost immediately.
Therefore, I suggest the Cubs should trade Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija and Anthony Rizzo at the first available opportunity, perhaps throwing in Darwin Barney and Josh Vitters for good measure.
Most of these players have shown promise at the big-league level, and Castro and Samardzija are the face of the team. As the Brock trade shows, when you change your face, you change your luck, and the Cubs have been walking under ladders for over 100 years.
Between 1903-1915, the Cubs finished over .500 12 times and played in four World Series. In 1916, they moved into Wrigley Field, and over the last 97 seasons have played in only six.
While it's a lovely stadium in a great neighborhood, and played host to some of my favorite childhood memories, occasionally I stop hating math long enough to listen to reason. If you review the statistics, you'll see that the Cubs are historically a poorer team at their home stadium than their opponents are (meaning, for example, that the Atlanta Braves are usually better at Turner Field than the Cubs are at Wrigley, etc.).
The evidence suggests that the Friendly Confines, and not other baseball teams, is actually the Cubs' foremost opponent. Perhaps building a field with MLB's longest foul lines wasn't a great idea in a stadium facing a particularly windy lake?
Convince MLB That Night Baseball Is Passe
Things went considerably south for the North Siders with the advent of night games. From 1929-1938, the Cubs won four pennants. In 1939 and 1940, half of MLB added lights to their stadiums.
The Cubs have won just one pennant since, and made the playoffs just twice between 1939 and 1987. In 1988, they finally placed lights atop Wrigley Field. Of course, in 1989 they won their division, and have reached the postseason four other times since then.
However, local politics make it unlikely that the Cubs will ever be allowed to play a full slate of night games, leaving the team two options. They can either petition MLB to have all teams revert to a day-heavy schedule, or else add even MORE lights to the stadium, since adding the standard amount of lights has clearly brought some success.
Just Quit Altogether, and Perhaps Take Up Knitting as a Hobby
Look, it's been an interesting run, to say the least. There have been highs and lows for the Cubs, championships and epic moments throughout the game's history. But it's unlikely that they're going to be anything but a doormat for the next several years, given their almost complete lack of pitching and the sketchy performance of we're told are their top prospects.
As bad as they are, the Cubs' elevator still seems to be on its way down—so why not pull a Seinfeld and just walk away?
They're a profit center with an iconic stadium and a rich history. If they hit that high note and exit the stage, they'll do something no other professional sports team has done—fold at the top of their financial game.
They'd be the talk of the media for weeks, and the resultant books, movies and sale of Wrigley's ruins would reap a mountain of profit for years to come. Put it this way—that'd be a much more interesting story than the 2013 Cubs will be, by far.