Even without Samardzija, Cubs will win WS by 2019 (really)

2014-06-21T00:00:00Z 2014-06-27T16:07:05Z Even without Samardzija, Cubs will win WS by 2019 (really)John Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

As a die-hard(ened) Cubs fan, sometimes you've just got to be grateful whenever the team fails to fail. 

The latest failure at failing to do something remotely intelligent occurred when the Cubs were unable to get Jeff Samardzija to sign a no-trade-clause extension. Knowing things can change faster than Donald Sterling's train of thought, I'm not breaking out the Champagne just yet.

I'm saving that for when the Cubs win that elusive World Series by 2019. If you haven't stopped reading at this point, I'll get to that later.

As for Samardzija, maybe I'm speaking more as a Northwest Indiana sports fan than a Northsider fan. Arguably one of the greatest all-around athletes to come out the region, I much rather see the former Valparaiso High School and Notre Dame star pitch in a postseason or two during the apex of his career than earning the distinction of being the best 5-15 pitcher in baseball.

Sure, Samardzija won't turn 30 until next season, and has less than 650 career innings pitched. But that means you can trade him for more ... um ... prospects.

Of course, that's just a continuation Cubs' not-so-secret secret plan: break everything down and let it grow back up from a blue-chip saturated farm system. Call me a delusional Cub fan (and I'll forgive you for the redundancy), but it's going to work. Believe me.

There's a term knowledgeable pro basketball fans have borrowed from the Catholics: Purgatory. Many Eastern Conference teams are mired in this realm, meaning they're good enough to make the playoffs -- even with less than 40 wins on occasion -- but not bad enough to secure a lottery pick or attractive enough to lure an NBA First-Team free agent.

Thus, they're damned to the repeated cycle of washing out of the playoffs after the first round (maybe second round if they're lucky) year after year after year.

Every once in a while, a franchise will brazenly attempt a Purgatory jailbreak, like the Philadelphia 76ers, by unloading their talent in fire-sale urgency in hopes for more ping-pong balls and cap space.

Back to baseball: to say the Cubs have been in Purgatory for the last 108 years makes Hell seem a little more foreboding. But actually the Cubs haven't been God-Awful during sizable chunks over the past spilled over century. For instance, they hit .400 in regards to post-season appearances during a 10-year span from 1998 to 2007.

The Cubs have had a history graciously opening up their pocket books in the name of immediate results. Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano ... even Milton Bradley will attest to that. But even with the high-profile-and-salary signings and infrequent whiffs of success, there were usually enough holes to keep the Cubs out of sustained contention.

These holes were usually the consequence of a urine-poor farm system, which can be traced back to the inherited reign of Philip K. Wrigley, who took over the club from his father in 1932 and proceeded to cement the team's lovable-loser legacy. Wrigley's view of the minor leagues was unique, and at the time was even considered magnanimous. He didn't believe the minor leagues should be referred to as "minor" but rather "professional" and should eventually compete with the major leagues in terms of procuring top talent.

In such a setting, Wrigley argued, players will be given a much-needed option before signing away their professional lives to a team, who may or may not ever trade their rights away. This was an era before Curt Flood and the coinage of "free agency."

Wrigley imagined the "minor" leagues as not a place to cultivate talent, but as an upstart off-shoot league to snare talent ... away from major leagues much the way the AFL/ABA would do to the NFL/NBA.

Of course, the Cubs have gone through several owners since Phil Wrigley and the family itself, only retaining their name for its home park. And such frivolous interpretations about affiliated minor league baseball have never taken root. Nonetheless, since Wrigley's tenure and beyond, the Cubs have remained a decade or two behind most of the league regarding farm system management.

Until now.

Though there have already been some hits and misses, the Cubs are effectively growing bats and position players, and will most likely try to buy arms in the near future. A good strategy. There are a multiple roles on a pitching staff: starter, closer, set-up, mop-up ... but most pitchers don't settle into these roles until three, four, five or more seasons in the majors.

The ones who effectively establish themselves are the ones to aggressively pursue.

So in spite of the Samardzija slip-up, the Cubs should keep doing what they're doing. Trade valuable parts (i.e. Samardzija) while hoarding prospects and draft picks and keeping the payroll at a paltry 90 million dollars (23rd in the league) before going all in during the heat of the 2016 hot stove league.

I know. Even the most patient Cub fans are the verge of abandoning the team due to the current level of wretchedness. But show me a team who's willing to lose 300 games in three years, and I'll show you a team committed to winning.

Don't laugh Sox fans.

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