Thanksgiving: Looking Down the Road

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Ok, now that we all have a well deserved day off to kick back, relax, and in my case spend about seven hours driving, lets give a moment to be happy for something that Cubdom has seen too little of in the past few years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Chicago Cubs have a very productive minor league system. Stop and think about this for just a minute. In 2008, Soto won Rookie of the Year. In 2010, Starlin Castro was a Rookie of the Year calibre player who just happened to arrive in a year loaded with high quality rookies. Tyler Colvin quietly went out and took a job in spring training, then came off the bench to take a starting job, and now is basically guaranteed a starting job for 2011. Name the last time the Cubs minor league system was that productive over a three year span.

And lets not forget Randy Wells, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Carlos Marmol, and just about the entire 2010 bullpen, all of whom arrived or had break out season in the past three years. While that next Kerry Wood like ace has yet to arrive, the Cubs minors has been cranking out a steady stream of pitchers who show up and (mostly) throw strikes. They do the job. It isn’t always pretty, but the biggest knock on the Cubs bullpen this year wasn’t a lack of talent, it was a lack of experience. That is a good problem to have and bodes well for the future.

Nor is the farm system depleted. If you’ve been reading along in the past month you’ve seen me talk about several players, and I have by no means covered the list of guys who could take an everyday job in Wrigley Field someday. The Cubs system does not have very many spectacular looking prospects, but what it does have is a lot of depth in terms of guys who could emerge as everyday players. That’s not a bad place to be. If the Cubs farm system can keep producing Ryan Theriots, the Cubs will be in excellent shape for years to come.

Optimism is not in fashion among Cubs fans right now. The “in” thing to do seems to be pointing fingers, criticising a lack of spending here or an over spending there or the wrong signing somewhere else. All of that misses the point. In baseball, teams do not championships nearly as often as organizations do. The Cubs are not building to be a Florida Marlins style one shot wonder. They are building to be an Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox style dynasty. They are building an organization that could become the standard by which every other team in the league compares itself. That is not an overnight process, and it is not what the Cubs have always done, even recently. It is what I think they’re doing now. In the minor league system they have a significant part of what they need to make that plan a reality.

Be happy Cubs fans. Unlike a lot of teams in baseball, the Cubs don’t need expensive free agents of flashy trades to improve. Given time, they’ll get better without that. So relax, rest up, and enjoy the entirety of the holiday season. The Cubs are in good shape for the long term, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.