By Paul Sullivan, Tribune reporter
7:04 PM EDT, October 12, 2012
I understand that the Cubs want to build the team the "right way" by building the farm system. What I do not understand is why they can't both build the farm system and try to build a winner right now. I think it is wrong to ask the fans who have waited forever to wait an unspecified amount of time longer to maybe have a winner in the future. -- John Vece, Waukegan
When you see the success of Oakland and Baltimore, two young teams with low payrolls and no real superstars, it's easy to wonder why the Cubs can't compete and build the system at the same time. The answer is obviously pitching. The Cubs have few real options to bring up from the system for 2013, which is why they acquired journeymen like Jason Berken and Justin Germano to end the season and rushed both Brooks Raley and Chris Rusin to the majors before they were ready. They've made drafting pitchers a priority, but this is a problem that can't be remedied quickly. Unless they go out and sign some relatively expensive free agent starters, it'll be more of the same in 2013.
Theo Epstein & Co. have done a good job of purging the roster of overpaid, underperforming veterans. However, we are left with a roster that is a long way from competing for the pennant (if ever). Is it time to be more aggressive in the off-season about signing free agents to fill in some of the team's glaring needs? To expect fans to put up with another two or three seasons such as the current one is unrealistic. -- Bruce Domazlicky, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
They should have money to spend, but we'll see. Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a letter to season ticket holders their "number one goal is to reward loyal generations of Cubs fans with a World Series, and we're reinvesting every dollar spent by our fans into the franchise to achieve that goal." He didn't say they are reinvesting every dollar spent by our fans into the Baseball Operations department, which would then have to increase the player payroll significantly to make that "every dollar" statement ring true.
I've been following the post-mortem on the 2012 season. I think the changes made, and being made, are necessary. Two things are obvious to me. One, the Cub farm system was totally lacking any impact players. Watching Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters play said it all. It also shows you where this organization was. Two, chasing high-priced free agents is risky, at best. The Angels and Marlins are perfect examples. High risk, no reward. I can't help but feel the track the Cubs are now on is the right track. I want to see improvement, but not at the expense of the future. You were around the team and organization. What is your take? -- Dan Pawelski, Granger, Ind.
Yes, the farm system was lacking, as I believe everyone can agree on at this point. And yes, chasing high-priced free agents is risky and doesn't guarantee a playoff appearance, as the Angels and Marlins proved. I think the new regime has the right idea, but the execution of the plan is the key. A mix of quality free agents and improvement by the kids should make the Cubs more respectable next year. This offseason will be telling. They can't strike out again at third and in the rotation, as they did with Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad, both coming off bad years and continuing on the same path.
The Cubs say they will be active in free agency. I think many of the players they sign are only so they can flip them at the trade deadline. What do you think? -- Jim Pedigo, Chicago
Wouldn't surprise me, and actually, they flipped Paul Maholm and got a good return, so perhaps that's their real strength. I have no problem with that strategy if you get a good return, though not sure why any respectable pitcher would sign with the Cubs knowing he might get flipped, especially if they expect the Cubs to have a losing record again.
The Cubs need an influx of talent, but are short on trade assets. Would they consider trading Carlos Marmol for prospects and then turning around and signing Ryan Madson as a free agent, essentially buying prospects by replacing Marmol with a comparable free agent. I understand the injury risks with Madson, but when healthy he has been tremendously productive. -- Nick M., Des Moines, Iowa
Answer: Marmol wants to stay and it sounds like they want to keep him, though they'd be crazy not to listen to offers. Not sure about Ryan Madson as his replacement. If the team isn't expected to compete, might as well give James Russell a shot if they do indeed deal Marmol.
I just read Matt Garza's comments on the difference between the 2011 season under Mike Quade and this season under Dale Sveum. Garza said every day as miserable under Quade while this year was bearable. Would you be so kind as to comment on the differences in managerial styles? Quade seemed like a fairly standup guy who was fundamentally an interim manager. -- Brian Eisenmenger, Winfield, Ill.
I was unaware of any problems between Garza and Quade, and he didn't want to go into why he was so "miserable" under Quade in 2011. I do recall Quade joking that Garza was a "lunatic" and telling him to strike out in the final home guy to ensure Starlin Castro would get a chance to get his 200th hit in front of the home crowd at Wrigley. (Garza ignored him and swung away.) Quade was basically a good guy put in a bad position, especially after Hendry was fired. He wasn't a guy who conversed with his players as much as Sveum does, but he certainly wasn't to blame for their miserable 2011 season.
I know it's only been three seasons, but is it too soon to declare Ricketts one of the worst owners in Cubs' history? Or at least the worst in the last four decades? Check out the stats. William Wrigley owned the team from '77 to '81. His teams had a .455 winning percentage. The Tribune owned the team from '81-'82 until 2009 and posted a .488 winning percentage (including a .494 mark with a postseason berth in their first three seasons). The Ricketts brain trust has put up a staggeringly bad .425 winning percentage in three seasons. Am I wrong? -- Jesse Wells, Oklahoma City, Okla.
It's a little early to put the Ricketts family in the pantheon of bad Cubs owners, though the Cubs have gotten progressively worse in their first three years at the helm. Give them three more years and e-mail me again if you still feel the same way after 2015.
It seems like the Cubs ownership and management can't win when it comes to money and public perception. The Ricketts get nailed for asking the city to help renovate Wrigley, but also get crushed when they add seats or keep ticket prices high (even though there is more demand for Cubs tickets than the crosstown team that was in a division race). Winning cures all, and I think Cubs fans would be happy about all things if they had a winning team. But it takes money to build a winning team whether you are bringing in free agents or re-signing homegrown stars. It also takes money to maintain and keep modern a ballpark that is a century old. Do you think fans should get off the Cubs' back about raising revenue, or is the club gouging its long suffering fans? -- Joe C., Chicago
Actually, they didn't get much grief at all about the new expensive prime box seats. As for ticket prices, if you have the third highest ticket prices and the second worst record, you are basically asking for people to complain about the ticket prices. But you are correct in that they will charge what the market bears, and if fans continue to pay those prices and accept an inferior product, the Ricketts can't be blamed for charging so much. Theo Epstein said fans are paying for the Wrigley experience, not just the baseball, which was the first time anyone in the organization was honest about their reasoning for the high prices. The warm weather and tourist business ensures the Cubs they will fill the park from mid-May through August, so they really only have to worry about April and September.
When the Cubs finally play in the World Series, how much do you think tickets will cost? What would you estimate for decent seats, for bleacher seats, and for standing room only? -- Eric, Indianapolis, Ind.
Well, I'm no economist, but I believe we were still on the gold standard the last time they won a World Series in 1908, so it may take returning to the gold standard sometime later this century. I assume it will take a couple gold bars for bleacher seats, and a few gold coins for standing room. Thanks again for all the relevant questions this season.
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