Maddoning Scapegoat

This week came
with the unsurprising announcement that Joe Maddon will no longer
lead the Chicago Cubs. It seemed fairly predetermined after the
Chicago collapse last season that it was going to take another World
Series to even consider having him back. Now, Joe has had his fair
share of criticism along the way but he is being passed as a
scapegoat.

Coming in to
the season most fans were frustrated when Tom Ricketts came out and
same there wasn’t money to help the team. Now, injuries plagued the
collapse of last year, which left some of the criticism of on Maddon
unfair, but with a very talented team you don’t want to hear them
pinching pennies. If it wasn’t for the personal issue for Ben Zobrist
they wouldn’t have had the money to get Craig Kimbrel.

I applauded
the Kimbrel signing but the payroll issue isn’t only on the owner.
Maddon being released is meant to deflect criticism from the front
office. When Theo Epstein was brought over to the Cubs, he was a
hero. In Theo we trust and he broke another World Series curse, but
those years are starting to seem way behind us.

Epstein put
together the brain trust of Jason McLeod and Jed Hoyer. They
immediately tore everything down with the goal of building up a
powerful farm system that would make the Cubs a World Series team and
constantly turn out young talent to replenish the roster and give
them ammo to make the necessary trades.

Kris Bryant,
Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, the signing of Jon
Lester, the brain trust built a World Series roster. A ton of
homegrown talent and smart moves were made to put the team in a
position to win a World Series and go to three straight Championship
Series. So why couldn’t they sustain success?

Where have the
pitching prospects been? In all this time running the Cubs there have
been no notable homegrown talent to take the mound for the friendly
confines. Instead it meant a ton of money has been sunk in the
rotation; Lester, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Jose Quintanna, Tyler
Chatwood, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis all costing a bunch of dollars
or prospects. Any GM will have swings and misses but the pressure
gets ramped up when you can’t develop your own pitchers.

The Chapman
trade brought you a World Series but where would you be with Gleyber
Torres? Look what Jorge Soler, admittedly a player in need of a
change of scenery, is doing for the Kansas City Royals. To save money
Chicago traded Eloy Jimenez for Quintana instead of the cheap
prospect capital to bring Justin Verlander to the Windy City. It’s
hindsight but how would Verlander and Jimenez look in Cubs’ uniforms?

Any winning
team is going to trade prospects for top players and maybe they’ll
turn in to something, but ideally you keep turning out prospects as
cost efficient talent and trade bait. What happened to the Cubs’ farm
system? What started as one of MLB’s smartest front offices perhaps
bought their own hype and stopped performing like it. How is it the
Houston Astros or Los Angeles Dodgers continue to be at the top of
every rumor mill but yet still have high rated prospects? No
pitching, a weak farm system and no more international prospect
injection either.

The Chicago
Cubs have under performed the last two seasons, despite being one of
the winningest teams in the majors, so a change of voice could be
needed but that doesn’t seem to be the only changes coming to the
Cubbies. Epstein has already hinted players like Kris Bryant and
Javier Baez could be on the block if they can’t agree to long term
extensions. Lester is in his last year of a contract, Zobrist and
Hamels contracts expire and Nicholas Castellano will also be a free
agent. Addison Russell could be on the block as his career has taken
a dive after his off the field issues also.

Several have
already suggest a min-rebuild in the form of the Yankees. In 2017
they traded several big players, mostly from their bullpen, to reload
and build the foundation of the team that is a threat for a World
Series this year. While it would be tough some of those faces of the
franchise to go it seems like changes are in order for the Cubs to
re-open their window. It would be a way to try and get the payroll in
order while finally finding some solid pitching prospects. Could
Lester, Bryant and others find themselves in other uniforms when the
2020 season starts?

There have
already been reports that reorganizing should be coming to the front
office, a sign that perhaps Esptein and company have seen the error
in their ways, but how will they handle this tricky off season? Will
it change how they develop and draft to build up the farm system
outside of the potential trades that could be made this winter?

A lot of the
moves were worth it to break the World Series curse, but only one
appearance feels like a failure with how talented this team is. Could
the World Series window already be closed just a few years later?
With a new TV network deal and plenty of talent, not to mention still
seemingly one of the best front offices in the game still, you would
hope this is just a minor down season.