Worst Moves of the Epstein Era

Since opening day is here (well, not here, but somewhere), it seems like an appropriate time to catalog the numerous failures of the Cubs under The Epstein Regime. Sure, no actual games have been played, but it’s never too early to make like mb and don your three wolves tee and start excoriating optimistic chumps. After all, future blogging historians will surely one day glorify the prescient among us who sagely pointed to the moment when the plane diverted its course towards the mountain. What’s that? …Well, sure. Most people don’t care, but there must be a core few that tirelessly track the forecasts of anonymous internet users… Nobody, you say?  Yeah, but still.

By way of reassuring readers regarding my temperament, none of these moves have put me into a full Ted Lilly-, Carlos Zambrano-, or H.L. Mencken-type fury. And objectively, these moves range probably range from “practically meaningless” to “that definitely only bothers you.” Nonetheless, annoying.

10. The bunting contest. How about a home run derby? When did that become out of the question?

9. Moving Samardzija to the rotation. Not likely to end well (and I needed ten of these).

8. The rise of the Regulartron. Yes, there is undoubtedly some money to be made here. But color me completely unconvinced that it outweighs the brand value of that time machine on the North Side. And nothing drives me crazier than the constant blather of these things.

7. Leaving WGN. Hasn’t happened yet, obviously. I am among those out-of-staters dreading paying for MLB Extra Innings because the Cubs left the sole remaining national affiliate in favor of a glorified SportsChannel/FoxsportsChicago/CSN. If they can work out a deal with the new NBC network or find another way around the regional restrictions, I will promptly redact, but there is a lot of downside here among casual fans in particular.

6. Trading Zambrano. Yeah, I know, the veterans were tired of him and that was the last straw and all the rest. But couldn’t we turn the page on The Hendry Era by getting rid of someone like oh, say:

5. Reed Johnson. No? OK, fine.

4. Caving on Theo’s compensation. I’m sure that some folks are completely enamored with Kurcz and Carpenter, but I’m not one of them. However, Bud was obviously reticent to step in here, due to the future consequences of his decision. Why not call his bluff? We know that Theo put on his lawyer pants and drew up a pretty good case, complete with the glaring absence of any precedent. What’s the worst that could happen? Losing “uberprospect” Josh Vitters? It would have been worth it on the off-chance that Bud decided to tell Lucchino and Co.: “You will take Michael Brenly and like it.”

3. Ryan Flaherty. There’s no space on the 40-man for a 25 year-old lefty-hitting middle infielder with some pop? Did all of Koyie Hill’s detached appendages require their own spot?

2. Sitting out free agency. A wise man once said, “The bottom line is you can’t go out and buy young players, there is no opportunity to do that anymore.” So, what exactly is the plan? It’s nice to say that the organization needs to rebuild from the ground up, but what does that really mean in practice? Developing homegrown talent takes years, especially if your current minor leaguers more or less stink, and your only hypothetical advantage is scouting and developing marginally better than everyone else. Sure, free agents are expensive. Thing is, they are likely to get more expensive as their supply dwindles due to teams increasingly coercing young talent to sign long-term deals. It’s not like the Cubs were reluctant to spend money this offseason, as they seem to have offered in the neighborhood of $100 million dollars for three Cubans (allegedly), a McDonalds, and a vocational high school in the Dominican Republic. It would have been nice to sign a few vets likely to still be contributors if and when the young talent starts coming up, instead of the Maholms and DeJesuses of the world.

1. Failure to put a specialized strategist on the bench. As far as I can tell, “smart” front offices around the majors swooned over Dale Sveum for his tendency to pore over spray charts. That’s all well and good, but is it so out of the question to put someone on the bench who is actually numerate? It’s not like no one has ever considered the effects of various individual strategies on seasonal basis. There would still be plenty of room for leader-of-men types that inspire confidence by instigating bean-ball wars. Theo and Co. had the capital to really take a chance here, and instead they went traditional with Sveum et al.; the bench remains sacrosanct and decidedly quant-free. What we did get was a voluminous manual full of corporate speak, to be read and digested by a group of functional illiterates. The Cubs Way indeed.

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