Yes, you read that correctly.
And no, I haven’t lost my mind.
I’m absolutely thrilled to see the Cubs drop over 100 games this season, despite the constant heartache and barrage of insults from my peers for cheering on a “loser ballclub”. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.
There was a strong sensation at the beginning of the season amongst all of Chicago that the Cubs may have had poor results in 2012 – and they were right on the money. The Cubs were atrocious, even causing manager Dale Sveum to confront the media after games and admit in front of the entire world that he was managing a bad baseball team. Once was bad enough, but I can recall more than ten situations where this was the case.
This was the stuff that nightmares are made of. Better yet? The worst was yet to come.
By the mid-point of the season, it was looking obvious that the Cubs would be unable to reach the post season even with the outstanding performances of Bryan LaHair and Darwin Barney, at times being the only thing keeping the team afloat.
This was indeed a pleasant surprise which gave fans some hope and frankly made watching such an awful baseball club somewhat tolerable. Not that many of us die hard fans were noticing anyway – by the third inning, most of us had drank ourselves numb to dull the pain.
The season continued, the losses piled up. It was a lovely dance as the upward trend between “games played” and “total losses” became clear. Some cried, some sought out shelter….
I began cheering. Obnoxiously loud cheering.
Hell, I started cheering so loudly that the other teams probably could have heard me. While my conscious inside was fighting against the treason that is wishing nothing but losses on the Cubs, logic dictates that it was best in the long run.
Cubs fans need to stay positive and see the benefits of being the second worst team in all of basbeall in 2012 because under the new CBA, there are some serious perks.
Other than the obvious second overall Rule 4 draft pick in the 2013 season, there are some financial up-sides too. The new CBA collectively deals out a signing bonus budget on a gradient scale of worst time/highest bonus pool budget to best team/lowest bonus pool budget. This means that the Cubs will have roughly $6.2 million to spend during the first round of picks alone.
This is a significant amount of cash, considering that Cubs’ 2012 first round pick Albert Almora signed for $3.9 million dollars. Almora wasn’t going to be had cheaply either, and he’s now a significant prospect within the Cubs system. If the Cubs can “buy” (read: sign) a better prospect while budgeting roughly $5 million on their first pick alone, they can afford just about anyone they want, and the draft in 2013 is expected to be much stronger in 2013 comparative to 2012. That remaining million or so bucks would be more than sufficient to cover the rest of the Cubs’ picks, even if they do sign.
This could never have come to fruition if the Cubs hadn’t lost enough games to finish second last.
Starting to see the perks? It gets better.
The international signing pool budget also changes under the new CBA. Last season, each team had $2.9 million to spend on international players who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for an MLB contract. This has now changed in the same fashion that the Rule 4 budgets have, and are evaluated based on a W-L record (worst teams getting the most cash).
The Cubs are looking to have their international signing pool budget clocked in at roughly $4.5 million bucks, which is a HUGE jump from $2.9 million. Consider that in 2012, the big international signing (counting against the budget pool, Jorge Soler was signed pre June 2nd didn’t count against the tally) was Juan Carlos Paniagua, who signed for $1.5 million. He’s a significant prospect who is expected to crack the big leagues at some point within the next few years, and if the top international prospect can be had for under $2 million, then the extra $1.6 million the Cubs now have to play with could mean the signing of another potential impact player and future star.
Other than the financial perks, there were lots of other benefits to the Cubs being so awful:
Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger were able to both show off their skill sets with playing time for both men. They’re in direct competition for the starter spot behind the plate and both of them are extremely capable of being impact players at the major league level. Having them scrap it out will ensure the long term success of the catching position for years to come.
Anthony Rizzo was able to be called up sooner than expected, placed in to a relatively low pressure environment, and still blow the socks off everyone. Imagine the pressure if he was called in the midst of a pennant race to a stadium he’s not familiar with and a team who doesn’t know his tendencies… the pressure on him would have been tripled.
Guys like Josh Vitters, Dave Sappelt, and Adrian Cardenas (who I absolutely think is a part of this club’s future) were able to see some playing time late in the season. This actually showed off how valuable waiver claim Luis Valbuena has been to the franchise, something that the Cubs would have missed without playing some of these other guys. This also leaves future room for players like Javier Baez and Daniel Vogelbach to slot in to similar roles in the coming years.
A complete minor league overhaul was implemented, including a class A switch from the Peoria Chiefs to the Kane County Cougars. Coaching and management staff have changed at all levels, including an overhaul of the Cubs’ major league and international scouting staff. This move would not be possible if the Cubs had a winning record (or would have been faced with great controversy). Its the start of significant changes that will turn this club into an eventual World Series Champion.
Jeff Samardzija was able to be shut down without any real repercussions after having a career season. He pitched 174.2 innings this season, significantly more than any other season he’s ever played. Preserving his arm is a priority for this team as he could be the future ace of this ball club. Shutting him down would have been a much harder decision if the Cubs are in the mix, as he’s been such an effective tool this season.
Alfonso Soriano has looked outstanding in comparison to the rest of the team (and he’s actually been pretty good, not just looking good by comparison). His trade value has never been higher…. so someone…. anyone… take him. Please.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
This season was never going to be hinged on a W-L measure of success. This season was about making change, acquiring impact talent, and especially exposing some of the future stars of this team to the major leagues. The shock is huge for these young guys, and giving them a small taste of the show is often all the motivation a player needs to work even harder to get there.
Now that its game 162 and the Cubs have secured a spot as the second worst team in ball, there’s nothing more to gain.
You can bet your ass I’ll be rooting hard for that white W flag to fly at Wrigley one more time.
Want more? You can always follow me on twitter @Denny_CubsCrib for Cubs analysis, news, humor and updates.