Goatriders of the Apocalypse

How to build a winner - take two

Yesterday I wrote a fairly long post on this topic, only to witness it disappear to the etherealms.  Basically, there are a lot of ways to build a winning team - certainly more than the three-or-so I mentioned in yesterday's post.  But to outline them a bit...

The Yankee Method: Throw as much cash at it as possible.  With apologies to Jason, I don't think this one really works so well.  The Yankees have spent more money on free agents just this year alone than what most third world countries spend in a fiscal year.  I'm sure they are playoff bound - or at least, they'll be in competition to be for a long time - but throwing mounds of cash around has been proven to not always be the most successful way to win.  Lucky for them, the Yankees also have a good farm system despite their decade-plus of winning.  With players like Cano and Joba developing well and delivering at the Major League Level, it's not always about the biggest contracts for the Yankees.

The Red Sox Method: Similar to the Yankees, the Red Sox have mounds of money and they use it well.  Also similar to the  Yankees, the Red Sox have a strong farm system - again, despite being competitive for better than a decade now - and they have developed their fair share of talent.  But something the Sox are doing that the Yankees don't is signing Risk Players... guys like John Smoltz, who are relatively affordable and, if even half of them pan out, then the Sox will be in the plus column.

The Rays Method: They are a poor team who play in the same division as some of the wealthiest in baseball, and yet it was the Rays who reached the World Series last year, beating the Red Sox in the ALCS to do it.  They've benefited from prime draft slots, but their method has been admirable - they've grown a ton of talent while signing low-risk high-reward players on the free agent market.  It will be hard for the Rays to repeat as AL East Champs in 2009, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see these guys make the playoffs again.

The Cubs Method: The problem with the Cubs situation is that Jim Hendry has been general managing with a sense of urgency ever since he should've been fired at the end of the 2006 season.  Because he wants to keep his job, Jim Hendry has not afforded the Cubs time to take chances on home-grown talent like Felix Pie.  Consequently, the Cubs have filled most of their biggest vacancies with expensive free agents like Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, and Lilly.  It's worked - the Cubs are back-to-back central champs, but the farm system remains in shambles.  Luckily for Hendry, nobody seems to care.

There are a lot of ways to get to the playoffs, and that appears to be as much as anybody can ask for.  Once a team is in, anything can happen.  It's just been the misfortune of the Cubs that "anything" has so far consisted of "get swept in the first round."

My problem with The Cubs Method is pretty simple - it's not cost effective and it doesn't take advantage of the system.  Probably the best way to win, at least in this jay-brone's opinion, is to learn the system and exploit it.  Unfortunately for the Cubs, they're still treating their farm system like it was the 80's - they're drafting toolsy players with a ton of athletic ability, and they're hoping that these guys grow into their potential.

The only problem is that they aren't taking advantage of the wide array of statistical tools out there which can help outline the cheapest way to get the most wins, the best way to get the most from your hitters.  He's still stuck in this old school way of thinking, and the problem is that old school is not always the best school.  When it comes to developing talent, the Cubs are playing the game with their hands over their eyes and ears, ignoring modern ways of evaluation.

And that's why the Cubs are playing at a disadvantage.  It hasn't stopped them from competing, and they are likely to three-peat, but as a Cub fan the frustrating thing is knowing that with this franchise, and with their money, they could do so much more and be so much better, which leads us back to this roulette game of finding a new owner.  Will the next guy be modern?  Will he have any clue about winning baseball? Or will he continue this cycle of overspending for immediate results while ignoring the need to create a foundation of future success?

Lots of questions, no answers so far.

I'm not quite sure what

I'm not quite sure what Yankees farm system you're looking at. Joba has been the only even mildly consistent player to come out of that system since the Jeter/Mariano/Posada surge. They've got lots of young guys with potential to be either incredibly middling or very disappointing at the major league level, without much on the horizon as a result of their consistent lack of regard for whether or not they will lose draft picks for the people they sign. They've started to turn things around a bit, but it'll be a good long while before anything of any real value comes out of their farm system again in my opinion.

Red Sox farm is way better.

Red Sox farm is way better. That's why they're my #1 organizational pick.

Robinson Cano?

Robinson Cano?

Sucked last year if I

Sucked last year if I remember correctly. Which I might not be doing, admittedly.

Lester > Joba, Pedroia > Cano, then there's Ellsbury, Youk (right?), Masterson, Buchholz, Jed Lowrie.

There isn't

just one way to have a productive farm system and there are a couple of things to note when clubs take different approaches. The minor league system is designed to help the big club and the players they develop can either grow into roles on the big club or they can be traded for complimentary pieces to add to the big club.

It has often frustrated me to see so few position players drafted by the Cubs develop in to quality MLB players on the team or when traded. Still I think Hendry's plan has been to draft pithcers when in doubt, based on the assumption that their future value will always be in greater demand.

If the Cubs were a small market team, they would most certainly need to change the way they identify talent in the draft and may very well need to replace some in charge of development. But as of now, our biggest concern should be the owners willingness to continue spending, down economy or not.

twins method

What about the Twins method? They have exhibited a pretty decent amount of success the past decade or so. The Twins have won four division titles in the last seven years, and have had only one losing season over that span. That organization has smart development, and seems to be managed with a focused and balanced philosophy. I'd say the Cubs should be looking at them and the Red Sox as two organizations that can simultaneously compete now and develop for the future.

Si

The twins drafting and player development is top-notch, and I agree with the Red Sox as a great example too. The only other element I would add to what you got here is increasing the team's international reach, much like the White Sox have done in recently signing the Cuban players they boast on their roster (Ramirez & Vicaedo).

I think the Twins method is

I think the Twins method is probably very similar to the Rays method.

If the Cubs could adapt the same method as the Red Sox, not just in how they spend their money but how they evaluate and develop talent, then we might be following one of the best franchises of the early 21st century.

But it's a big if ... especially with a new owner coming in.

difference between rays and twins

The Twins remained competitive while they have developed new talent. The Rays have been in the gutter for their entire history, stocking up on high draft picks garnered through losing. Now, in the more recent past, the Rays have used their high draft picks intelligently; however they weren't even remotely competitive for a long time. The Cubs could certainly learn from the recent scouting and development abilities of the Rays, but I sure hope I don't have to watch a decade of awful baseball in order to have future success.

I think that you're

I think that you're overestimating the degree to which the high draft picks served the Rays. The Rays are where they are now because of the way their front office has built the team around their successful draftees via smart free agent signings and used those who didn't pan out to make trades that greatly benefited the team. This is especially evident in the signings of Iwamura and Pena and the trades for Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, JP Howell, Dan Wheeler and Jason Bartlett. All of those moves were ABSOLUTE STEALS, and I think it's unfair to their front office to say that their team is successful now because of having high draft picks. The situation their team is in now is a result of a long, well thought out plan of player development, trades and free agent signings, most of which has nothing to do with the lack of success the Rays saw in their first ten years of existence.

yes and no

I'll grant you that Kazmir was an absolute steal. Wheeler and Howell were certainly very useful bullpen pieces that were acquired at low cost. However, I think it's worth pointing out that Garza and Bartlett came over to the Rays (ironically, in a trade with the generally respectable Minnesota Twins) when number 1 draft pick Delmon Young was included in the deal.

Interesting side notes on the Garza/Bartlett/Young trade- Brendan Harris went from the Rays to the Twins in the trade. He was also involved in the 4 team trade of July 31, 2004 that landed Nomar on the Cubs. And Jason Pridie, originally drafted by the Rays, bounced between the Rays and Twins organizations before finally hitting the big leagues in a Twins uni as a September call up in 2008.

totally agree on this.

totally agree on this.

farm system

Didn't the Cub's try the Twins system when they hired Mc Fail? That just shows how bad the farm system is. There is something totally lacking and I don't know what the answer is.

At this point, the twins are

At this point, the twins are 13 years removed from McPhail ... any success they've had isn't from him

Wow

That's the first time I have ever seen the 2 words "McPhail" & "success" used purposely together in the same sentence.

Dude

I still don't see how anyone can argue with the Yankee's method, whatever you want to consider their method to be. They have, like, half the total championships in history. How can you argue with that?

Lets see

No one is arguing with their previous success. However, its pretty simple, no team in baseball has the resources that are available to the Yankees and I don't see any team catching up to them anytime soon.

What about the A's?

If Billy Beane had the half the piles of money that any of the upper teams had, I'd pick Oakland.

Be smarter than everyone else?

Definitely not a bad method. I'd have to agree with that.

Which make me wonder...

Why doesn't a team like the Cubs, try and get a guy like that? Seems his talents are squandered since he's handcuffed.

Didn't

The Red Sox try to get him (and almost succeed)? Maybe he likes the Bay Area. Maybe he likes the challenge of finding the next market inefficiency and exploiting it.

Mc Fail

Kurt,that is my point. If you double check the press releases when the Cub's hired Mc Fail it was because of his work with the Twin's farm system. I think we just proved both of our points. Mc Fail could not repeat the sucess in Chicago and the Twins have continued to keep rolling along. The Cub's farm system is rotten to the core. The Cub's best course of action would be to sell/trade the farm system to whoever is on a hot streak now.

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