What they should be
Today's debate over the the possible value of pricey shortstop Michael Young when compared with inexpensive Ryan Theriot touches on a very interesting point.
Basically the argument can be summarized as this: while drastically more expensive, Michael Young would be a moderate upgrade over Ryan Theriot as he is a better offensive producer and defensive shortstop. Additionally, the Cubs are one of the top money-making teams in baseball, and yet they fall toward the middle of the pack in terms of team payroll. Therefore, since they are richer than Oprah, the Cubs should be able to throw piles of cash at players like Young and Peavy without it affecting their ability to upgrade later on.
We can debate the actual value of Young, but I think that the Steinbrennerian approach of Money Burn doesn't really work. Very rarely does the team that spends money the most haphazardly actually win anything, and while I support upgrading at shortstop if at all possible, I'd rather see the Cubs hedge their bets and wait for a better player to be made available via either trade or free agency, especially since the Cubs already have what might be the best offense in the National League. So, Theriot can stay.
But that's really not the point of this article anyway. The point is this - the Chicago Cubs are one of the best franchises in all of baseball. One of the very best. The problem is that not many people realize it yet, and so our expectations remain moderate even as our hopes fly wild.
But here's the thing. In terms of a national following, only the Yankees have as many fans. In terms of money made, as Rob pointed out, the Cubs are one of the top draws in all of baseball. In terms of legacy teams, there are only a handful of organizations that we should expect to be competitive every single year, and believe it or not the Cubs are one of them, too. The others would be the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, and maybe the Angels. All these teams - including the Cubs - should win more than they lose, reach the playoffs more often than they don't, and avoid long streaks of 90-loss seasons.
The Cubs should be one of the best organizations in all of sports. That they've gone for so long being meh-diocre, that they have crushed us with one crappy season after the next, that we've come to accept it should practically be a white collar crime.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to us that the Cubs are a consistently competitive team. It should never shock us that they sign the best free agent, or land an epic trade. It shouldn't phase us when they overpay for a player who makes them minusculey better, so long as it actually does make them better.
The objective in baseball is to win. The Cubs can afford to win at any cost. Going out and acquiring a player like Michael Young isn't necessary, but trading for a player of his expense shouldn't surprise us at all.
After all, the Cubs aren't just rich. They're beyond rich. They have F*ck-You Money. Let's not get our undies all bunched up in a wad just because they might - ::gasp!:: - spend too much money on a guy. As long as jabrones like you and I will continue to buy our tickets, fill Wrigley Field to the brim, and walk around in incredibly expensive Cubs swag, then it's acceptable.