So I was inspired by Joe’s post today to write a humble disagreement to the premise of his post about expected wins by starting rotation. (Joe knows more than me. Joe runs the site. Joe is a Cub baseball guru and I don’t like Wrigley Field. Now that I have those confessions out of the way…) Some years ago, prior to joining a fantasy baseball league, I would not have thought that a chart like that held much water. For example, I still have major concerns that Ted Lilly could greatly under perform this year since he had just entered a new league last year and gained the benefits of having hitter who were mostly unfamiliar with him. I would have thought that the numbers of one year do not really mean much guarantee for the numbers for the coming year. Now that I have read Moneyball and been in a fantasy league I have begun to appreciate that statistics and averages are extremely powerful and consistent, barring injury and age regression and steroid pops and on and on. So I accept the premise that on paper the numbers look good for how the Cubs rotation will compete.
But here is my major qualm. I don’t know about you but I would like to win the World Series. And quite frankly, I would be pretty content with going stones out and trying to win one…not worrying about how set we will be for the future. Does anybody have any doubt (barring what happens with this whole sale of the team thing) that if the Cubs did what they could to win now, and maybe emptying some of our farm system to do it, that the Cubs have the money to quickly rebuild the team. Think about this, the Cubs have enough money that if they were wise they could replace parts every year. This does not mean breaking the bank on everybody. But the Cubs do have the money to go out and get a Soriano when you need a Soriano and a DeRosa when you need a DeRosa. They can get a big name when they need one and a role player when they need one.
Think about how quickly a system can be rebuilt when a team sets its’ mind to doing it. The Marlins won a World Series in the 90’s broke apart their team, rebuilt their team and won a World Series in 2003. They even were surprisingly close a few years ago. Then they had good players that they traded away and are using to rebuild their team now. And they are playing with little money, an atrocious ballpark situation, and a nonexistent fan base. Think about what the A’s have gone through over the years. They have lost star after star and they continued to compete. The Indians were one of the dominant teams in the 90’s and now they are back there again. You can rebuild a team and the system of a team if you are smart.
The contention that the Cubs would be foolish to trade a bunch of prospects for Bedard confuses me. First, at what point did the Cubs develop this illustrious farm system that does a real good job of developing can’t miss prospects. Think year after year about the prospect that we just couldn’t part with because they were going to become a star. Name the last one that did. Every time you pass on the chance to win this year because you are preparing to win for many years you are trusting that those guys will be who you think they are. That just hasn’t happened…almost ever- and now Felix Pie teeters on the edge of breakout or bust. Another guy who no one could have. How often does this need to happen?
While I agree that the Cubs have a better staff than most, and that we have a good one, two, and three in the rotation when did it become wrong or illogical to have two number ones on a staff? Bring in a second number one and your old number one now becomes better than everyone’s two. Then your two becomes better than everyone’s three. Think about it this way: How much more confident would you be in a rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Bedard, Lilly, (Name your guys Marquis, Marshall, Dempster) than the rotation of Zamrabano, Lilly, Hill, (Name your guys Marquis, Gallagher, Marshall on and on). I could be crazy but one of those competes for the division, the other competes for the World Series. The rumor was that the trade was proposed as a two (Roberts and Bedard) for seven (Include Cedeno, Murton, Hill, Gallagher and a few others) which seven guys that would have been included would have diminished the team’s chances to win the World Series this year. I don’t that is what would happen. Maybe a few years down the road, but hasn’t a few years down the road always had the same result for a century now?
Now think about the team and think about who you will need to replace soon. Soto will be here for years- if he does well- and you’re not trading a catching prospect anyway. Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano for three to five more years each (Soriano for more). You were trying to get Roberts for some years. You might need a new shortstop anyway, but you’re not trading Theriot who everyone expects to start this year and if he does well would start for many years. Fukudome for years. So the only position players you would need to replace would be a centerfielder which we have little confidence in right now anyway. You could have Zambrano, Lilly, and Bedard for at least three years together now, and I don’t think you would trade all of the pitching prospects anyway. All stories say that Peter Angelos would not have approved the deal anyway, but I just get tired of protecting prospects that are not guaranteed to try to get guys to win this year.
Think about the teams that are trading away their prospects in the off season or at the trading deadline; what is true about all of them? They are in the position to try to win now. They deal to try to win this year. That is all I am asking for the team. Do I wish we could be the Braves that build from the ground up and went to the playoffs for a decade? Yes. Have we ever been close? Maybe and then two guys had their arms fall off and one guy become too combustible. There are no guarantees.
So I understand the chart (and that is a surprise because I usually don’t get any of this chart stuff) I just don’t get the philosophy.