The Rundown: A New Decade of Cubs Baseball, Ross Anxious to Get Started, Happy Birthday to Theo Epstein

I hope the end of this year finds you all in fine fettle. We have much to be thankful for, and as Cubs fans, we enter a new decade having finally been quenched of our thirst for a championship. Baseball is truly trivial in the bigger matters of the world, but it serves as an often joyous, if not confounding, escape from the realities of life.

As bloggers and professional scribes wax, opine, and debate about best-of-decade lists, the crowning achievement for Cubs fans is celebration for and with the 2016 World Series champions. There is no debate as to which event sits atop our lists, and for that we can rightfully say that the 2010’s were our best decade ever in a baseball sense. In fact, I’ve yet to see an all-decade Cubs team that includes a single player that was not on that championship team. The closest debate is probably Kyle Schwarber vs. Alfonso Soriano in left field, and, even if the outcome is steeped in recency bias, I haven’t seen Soriano as the choice.

We enter the next decade with waves of uncertainty, still unsure as to which players will remain with Chicago and which will depart. While we stood in unifying love of the sport just three years ago, we now understand the realities of the business side of the game, watching players who make salaries we can only dream of have their fates dictated by the owners that make substantially more. The championship was nice and will never be forgotten, but investors and shareholders are slaves to the bottom line more so than the thrill of victory. To the winner goes the spoils, and fans are likely to feel that punch to the gut more than those holding the purses.

The Cubs finished the decade with an impressive array of accolades, even if their cumulative record was just 817-803. Lou Piniella was in his final season as manager with the 2010 Cubs and David Ross will kick off the Roaring 20’s as the team’s new skipper. The high water mark for the team was 103 victories in 2016, and the low point was the 101-loss 2012 season under Dale Sveum. Since then, the Cubs have won a World Series, gone to the league championship series three times, and made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons while capturing two division titles. Quite an impressive resume, even if it includes those dark years at the start.

I suppose the difference between now and then is that Theo Epstein came charging into Chicago in October 2011 with a plan to get the team exactly to the point where it is now. He promised that the organization would eventually field a team capable of winning the World Series in any given year and he has successfully executed that plan. Many of us would have sold our souls for a championship 10 years ago, now one is hardly enough. Expectations changed, and that’s the best thing about Cubs baseball in the present. We demand to win, and we will never, ever go back to being lovable losers.

Still, most of us wonder what the plan is going forward and when it will be revealed. That walk through the unknown is a painful reminder of the ghost of seasons past. The memories of the Piniella-Mike Quade-Sveum years that started this decade are a tough flashback for all of us. Certainly nobody wants to relive that again.

Cubs News & Notes

Monday Stove

Baseball is experiencing an odd offseason. On one hand, the free agent market has been as robust as it’s ever been. On the other, some of the game’s most revenue-rich teams, such as the Cubs and Red Sox, have been open to possibly trading signature players to reduce payroll.

Before they signed Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays did have internal conversations about the possibility of trading for David Price.

Price was recently drug tested for the third time this offseason and he’s not too happy about it.

Rob Manfred claims the league is committed to saving minor league franchises, which is why he feels they need to eliminate some.

FanGraphs projects that the Mets will have the National League’s best bullpen in 2020.

Apropos of Nothing

The last time the Yankees had a sub-.500 season was 1992, and you’d have to go all the way back to 1912 to find a 100-loss season by the Bronx Bombers.

On Deck

I will be absent from The Rundown tomorrow and New Year’s Day, but will be back to my regular schedule starting January 2.

Extra Innings

Never knew that Epstein shares the same birthday as my father!

They Said It

  • “I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. It’s a lot of thinking through things and trying to be prepared as possible to make sure your vision comes through. But I am ready. I am tired of talking about it. I am ready to put it into action.” – David Ross
  • “It is not Major League Baseball’s goal to eliminate any club in these negotiations, and MLB currently has a plan for every club to continue operations with some level of support.” – Rob Manfred

Monday Walk Up Song

Zoot Suit Riot by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. The Roaring Twenties are just about here. Happy New Year, friends and fans. Make smart choices during your celebrations, please and thank you.

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