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Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:28 pm

By Matt Snyder

What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule of this feature, click here.

When we discuss the Chicago Cubs, no baseball fan is lacking an opinion -- specifically, everyone seems to have some pet theory as to why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. I've long argued with the people who believe the streak has something to do with a stupid "curse" or somehow now has something to do with playing so many more day games than everyone else. No, the real problem is they've never put a top-to-bottom management system in place that has done the job consistently for more than a small handful of seasons. It's possible current Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has done so with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, et al (in fact, I'd argue it's likely), but that's a different discussion for a different forum.

For now, we're left looking at one of the worst Homegrown Teams in our series.


1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Darwin Barney, 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Tyler Colvin, LF
5. Casey McGehee, 3B
6. Eric Hinske, 1B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Sam Fuld, CF

Starting Rotation

1. Ricky Nolasco
2. Kyle Lohse
3. Andrew Cashner*
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Randy Wells
* - if Cashner fell injured like he did in the real 2011 season, the options would be: Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis and Casey Coleman.


Closer - Kyle Farnsworth
Set up - Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Al Alburquerque, Juan Cruz, Michael Wuertz
Long - Jeff Samardzija, Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre

Notable Bench Players

Robinson Chirinos, Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Brandon Guyer, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Tony Campana, Lou Montanez. In fact, feel free to grab any of these guys, plug them in the lineup and play around with it. There's really no wrong answer, because it's one marquee player (and he's only 21) amidst a heap of mediocrity at this point. Maybe Guyer proves a good player, McGehee bounces back and/or Colvin becomes a good everyday player, but we have to go on what we've seen up to this point.

What's Good?

The bullpen is really strong. It's well-rounded with righties and lefties, depth, power pitchers and specialists. Of course, there could be an issue with the lack of a reliable closer when it comes to either Farnsworth or Marmol, but a new-age manager might just abandon that idea and use whoever makes the most sense in the ninth.

What's Not?

The starting rotation doesn't have a true ace (or No. 2, for that matter). The infield defense sorely lacks range and the outfield isn't great either. The team speed is minimal, there isn't a good option at leadoff (or in the two-hole, or cleanup, or fifth ... you get the point) and who is the best power hitter? Colvin? Soto? Basically, everything other than the bullpen and Starlin Castro is lackluster.

Comparison to real 2011

You have to give former general manager Jim Hendry credit for scraping together a team good enough to win three division titles in six years, considering this bunch. Then again, he was in charge as the organization was assembling nothing more than a mediocre foundation (Baseball Prospectus now says the minor-league system is "not bad" but is more "depth than starpower."). Let's leave out the excuses, because there are far more bad picks (Montanez at third overall as a shortstop, for example) than there are instances of bad luck (Mark Prior, for example).

The amazing thing is that the 2011 Cubs were 71-91 and I actually think that team was better than this Homegrown unit. When we do the Homegrown rankings in mid-December, expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom. That probably changes in five years, but we're doing this exercise in the present. And this team would probably win somewhere in the ballpark of 65 games. Maybe fewer.

Up Next: Seattle Mariners

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Since: Aug 10, 2012
Posted on: August 10, 2012 1:27 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

One statistical fact has remained constant for many years. Teams with the highest payroll make the playoffs more often than teams with lower payrolls.  Of course there are the odd years when this does not hold true but over the long run this is fact.  Until we started making all these trades of players with higher salaries our payroll was around $77 milion. It has to be significantly less by now. Last year we had a payroll of around $130 million so have really cut payroll to the point that we have a "small market" type payroll. Until our payroll rises the odds are we will not make the playfoffs until our payroll rises to a level that puts you in the payroll brackett of teams that statistically make the playoffs. 

If you have a small payroll and by luck or whatever make the playoffs you will not be there for long as your good playrers will be gone as soon as they are elgible for FA and you will not have enough revenue to hold them.  I think the Cubs have had over 3 million in attendance for 6 consecutive years. They have sold a lot of advertising and gear so should have a large market payroll but as of now we are one of the lower market payrolls. It will be interesting to see what the new owners will do with payroll in the next few years as in the end it will determine if we will be a constant contender or just another Cubs team of the past. Hendry has taken some big slams about the mess we are in. Perhaps deservedly. Perhaps not. He did take us to three playoffs which for the Cubs is nothing short of amazing. The odds of having a largely home grown team have vanished with all the new prospects we traded for. Actually the goal should not be to grow all your own players but to win no matter how you do it.  Chicago is a good city if you put a good team on the field. If you consistenly put a losing team on the field the revenue will fall accordingly. Fortunately we have WGN Superstation which takes the Cubs everywhere and helps with revenue. Many think Theo has a great plan but in the end it will come down to ownership who ultimately will decide how good or bad we will be. Personally I am not a fan of Theo's philosophy of putting together a winning team in 5 years. Fans generally do not stay fans very long if you lose for 4-5 consecutive years.  I do no have any idea of the owners goals. Of course he wants to win which equates to profits but is he willing to sacrifice some profits today for some possible future profits? That is basically what he is asking the fans to do. Be happy for 4-5 years while we rebuild and lose. In my sports world I want my team to take the field every year thinkng they can compete. Can you imagine George Steinbrenner having his GM tell him be patient for in 5 years we will have a winnerr? I will always be a Cub fan as I have been for nearly 70 years. I saw my first game in 1943. Having 5000-6000 in attendance was not unusual in those days.  $.50 for a bleacher ticket could work for me. Now I own a $250 brick in front of Wrigley with my name on it.

Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:27 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

i would just like to debunk this great myth that the cubs have sold out every game since 1908 and that every ticket is always sold.  its completely untrue.  up until the cubs made it to the NLCS in 2003, you could get season tickets simply by asking for them.  as a kid, we never bought tickets in advance and simply walked up to the gate.  in the summer of 2000 i lived a block away from wrigley and would buy a $10 ticket to a night game that night.  since the cubs started winning the division regularly?  yes, tickets got very scarce and very expensive.  last two years when they were out of it by august?  you couldn't give away tickets.  the brokers snapped up a lot of tickets, so the cubs did get their revenue, but they were standing outside the ballpark with fist fulls of tickets they couldn't get rid of.  do the cubs have a loyal following?  yes.  did tribune make some nice revenue by having a national following because the cubs were on WGN?  yes.  will the cubs sell out every game this year?  not a chance.  this idea that they do not need to have a good product to sell tickets is completely false.  i have been to pirates games in the last couple years that were far more crowded than some of the cubs games i've been to.

Since: Feb 18, 2011
Posted on: December 11, 2011 5:42 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

It's so unfortunate that Wood and Prior both had career altering and in Prior's case ending injuries.  This rotation would look a lot better with Wood, Prior, and Zambrano as the top 3 guys.  As for the offense... good God.  This is what the Cubs have been dealing with.  Crappy drafts from crappy GMs.  All I can say is Theoyer better have a solid draft.  Not overly thrilled with the Stewart and garbage MiLB player for Colvin and LeMaheiu.  Two bench players for a crappy 3B man.  I'd rather have the two bench players IMO.  Oh well, maybe Stewart will live up to the potential he had when he was coming up through the Rockies farm system..... one can hope.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:58 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Not to veer too far off course, but Soviet factory managers were adroit at telling the Soviet politburo bosses what they were supposed to say ... "ahead of our quota, Comrade!" That lie began in 1929 and got worse with each successive telling until Gorbachev decided to do an inventory.

That is when the USSR became the Cubs.

Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 10:14 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs


Maybe not apathetic to failure, but immune. This was my basis for the comparison to the Soviet Union; management-wise the Cubs have had more in common with a Soviet factory manager than they've shared with the management of the White Sox or Mets, for example. Or maybe it would be less hyperbolic to compare them to the DoD. The Cubs haven't had to produce a winning team in order to draw paying fans to the park. But the Soviet comparison is not about how effective the management is on its own terms, since Soviet managers were very effective at producing what they were supposed to, just that it wasn't what the end customer actually wanted.

Cubs fans are like citizens of the Soviet Union, hoping and praying that this year the shoes will actually fit their feet, but whether they do or not is irrelevant to the factory management, who got their Christmas bonus (again) for beating their production quota.

I can remember sitting in the stands at Wrigley when the upper deck was closed, and there were a couple thousand in seats at most, too; but even in those days the team was still run on business principles first. And I know I'm not forgetting the days of the free-spending Wrigleys, because those days never happened.

I mentioned the book Scorecasting before- check it out if you're aren't already familiar with it. The authors have a web site I believe with the same name, so there might be some of this discussion available for free there.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:25 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Well, I suppose that by failure, you mean a bad team means playing in an empty ballpark, then I'd agree ... the Cubs management isn't being threatened too much with missing that sort of meal. But I think you are depending a little on hyperbole. The Cubs management and the lure of Wrigley Field are vaguely connected. I would guess 50,000 people go by Wrigley every day with nothing else to do but see a ballgame. That isn't true in some cities.

But since I don't know their management personally, I can only say from having observed this franchise since the 1950s, I can remember when a weekday crowd of 800 was normal at the ballpark and until the early 80s, closing the upper deck was common.

I still have trouble comparing Cubs failure to the demise of the Soviet Union.

If you insist that the Cubs front office doesn't do anything to move the team out of its history of failure, I'd argue otherwise. They made a number of trades that were designed to end the drought, in 2003 and again in 2007. That it didn't result in a World Series title is not the same thing as saying they didn't try to win.

I will say their 2011 version was an exercise in tedium and it seems they aren't going to easily overcome that.
But they are giving the appearance that they are trying.

I just don't agree that they are apathetic to failure.


Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:07 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

I have seen suggestions that the management of the Cubs doesn't care about winning so long as they make a profit. I find that opinion to be stuck in the middle 20th century and far from the reality. It would assume that Cubs management lives atop a mountain in Tibet and never hears from any of its fans. Hell, you just need to stop for gasoline in the suburbs and you will get a Cubs fan's opinion. No shortage of that going on in Chicago. Tune into any AM radio station, day or night. Somebody will be aiming their vitriol at the Cubs management.
Far from reality? Not at all. Perhaps Cubs management would like to win, because then they can feel good and be big shots around town, and not have to avoid looking at the papers, listening to TV, radio, etc. But that doesn't change the fact that the Cubs management has no fear of failure. You're missing the point- it's not about what they'd like to do, or what they care about- it's that there is no punishment for failure on the field. Fans buy game tickets regardless; there is no team in MLB, maybe all of pro sports, where the result on the field corresponds less to paid attendance. When you effectively take away any penalty whatever for failure the results are pretty predictable- you get Fannie Mae, or the Soviet Union. If you repeatedly show the Cubs management that the results on the field have little effect on the bottom line, you'll end up with whatever product they give you.

Seems like there is a lot of denial about the fact that the Cubs are a business and have responded to incentives like any other business would. Maybe that will change with the latest management change, we'll see, but historically the Cubs have been like the pretty girl who treats you bad and will never change since you keep paying for everything regardless how she treats you. Sure, she might have a good day now and then and you think that's the real person, but what's likely is you'll continue to get a lot of bad hair days, and crying jags, and shoes thrown at you, because you, as a Cub fan, keep buying her jewelry and paying the rent. She knows you'll never leave her, and history shows she's right.

Imagine if when Coke launched New Coke that Coke drinkers complained but continued to buy not only as much Coke, but often bought more Coke, even while complaining they liked the old stuff a lot better. What would you say the message is to Coke management? Hint: the message is not 'give us what we want or we'll stop buying your product'. The message is,"piss in the bottle if you like- we'll pay for anything that says 'Coke' on the label".

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 5:34 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

I have seen suggestions that the management of the Cubs doesn't care about winning so long as they make a profit. I find that opinion to be stuck in the middle 20th century and far from the reality. It would assume that Cubs management lives atop a mountain in Tibet and never hears from any of its fans. Hell, you just need to stop for gasoline in the suburbs and you will get a Cubs fan's opinion. No shortage of that going on in Chicago. Tune into any AM radio station, day or night. Somebody will be aiming their vitriol at the Cubs management.

The point being: Bad decisions in personnel can't be established as done through apathy or ignorance. In the case of the Cubs, their strategy has been more to build from the top with veterans and work a few rookies in as permitted. It hasn't worked, but not very many teams have done just a whole lot better in post-season. That does not excuse Cubs management for making poor choices but it doesn't set them in a league alone from the rest of baseball.

Winning a divisional title here and there isn't much of a yardstick when we consider that the Cubs were divisional winners in 2007 and 2008 -- not ancient history.

Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 5:08 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Paid maybe, because people pre-paid for seasons tickets, or brokers bought them hoping for demand that has not been there, but there have been a ton of people dressed up like seats the last two.  Also, tv ratings are relatively awful.  My point is, the only way fan support would contribute to the team being bad would be if management sat on their hands and just pocketed the money they made.  AS of late, that has not been the case.  The real core issue is that the people put in place to make baseball decsions are, often times, not baseball people and, when they are, they still make bad decisions.  The Soriano contract is a perfect case, President of baseball opertaions John McDonough, who was promoted from the PR department, had to make a splash, and because of that artifical need, they gave Soriano way too many years on his contract.  That is n ot to say that Hendry is blameless, particularly in the Milton Bradley debacle.  It is silly to blame the team's failures on fan support, just as it is silly to blame it on goats, Batman, etc. 

The bottom line is that the main reason they have been bad is because they do not have baseball intelligent people making baseball decisions.
Not silly at all. You are dismissing the most important form of measuring demand, which is dollars spent. Also, ticket brokers are not stupid- they wouldn't buy tickets if they didn't have a good reason to think they could turn a profit. Do you believe any other franchise in MLB sells such a large number of tickets regardless how the team performs? Simply put, there is a lot of demand for mediocrity on the North Side.

You're right about having intelligent people making intelligent decisions, yet you are focused mainly on the results of the team rather than the results of the business, which is a mistake, because any business or industry that has the kind of inelastic demand for their product that the Cubs have will probably produce something mediocre. You ignored my example of the Mets, so how about the White Sox? When they put a winning team on the field, fans buy tickets; when the team loses, people stay home. The White Sox are rewarded for making smart baseball decisions and punished for making bad baseball decisions. There can be some lag in terms of how long White Sox fans will pay to see a loser, or how long they'll wait to get on board with a winner, but this is pretty typical of almost every other baseball team, but not the Cubs, because, again, the Cubs are just background, part of the entertainment of going to a game at Wrigley Field.

You are right in that it would be bad if the team was just pocketing money, but missing the point that it doesn't matter in terms of what happens on the field. If Cubs fans want to see improvement on the field, they need to stop buying tickets when the team is losing. The entire history of the Cubs management has been to be rewarded as long as the team was profitable, and this was definitely true as long as the Wrigleys owned the team. Just as with any other team, or any other business, give the management incentive to reward you and you'll get a better result. Right now that doesn't exist.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:43 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

It is true that teams often draft and groom players mainly to be traded later, and not necessarily to be stars. But I don't think that is the case with the Cubs players mentioned here. Jeff Samardzija was given a huge contract to pitch for the Cubs, rather than to play football. Several players on this list were groomed to be Cubs for a long time, such as Pie, Fuld, and Colvin. Garland, Willis and Rich Hill were projected to be star pitchers. But most of this projecting was by Cub front office, and when they actually played a respectable amount of time, it was obvious what the flaws in their game were.

For that matter, when the Cubs actually DO produce a good player, such as Castro, Wood, Marmol, Marshall, etc. they are quite hesitant to trade them, for fear they will become stars. The better players on this list are almost all current Cubs; the best non-Cub on this list is Al Alburquerque, who was traded for the great Jeff Baker. (For sure they released Kerry Wood, but that was after his value was long gone; there was a time in history when Wood was untradable, even well after 2003).


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