In a few years, when the Chicago Cubs win the World Series (yes, I said when), we will look back to today as the day when things finally started coming together. Today is the day that the Cubs took that first step towards once again contending not only for a division crown, but for the whole enchilada.
Today, Javier Baez joins staples of the Cubs lineup Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, along with Arismendy Alcantara and the light at the end of the tunnel is not only becoming visible, but damn near potentially blinding.
Of course we could go back to about three years ago when Jim Hendry was relieved of his duties as General Manager and Theo Epstein was hired, but today is when we can finally start seeing everything that we have been waiting for all these long years. Today is the start of something new.
While Baez, Alcantara and Castro are technically products of the Hendry era, they fully developed under the watchful eye of Epstein and Jed Hoyer. We will never know if these players would have developed as well under Hendry as they did under Epstein, and I am not sure how much that matters to be honest. We could play the what if game forever and never really know the truth. All we can do is live in what we know. What we know is that they did thrive in the system after Epstein and Hoyer took over.
The Hendry well has now been tapped, as the next prospects to get the call will all be Epstein guys. Kris Bryant leads the charge, but will be preceded by Jorge Soler and followed by Albert Almora and Addison Russell. The flow of talent has begun, and those thay have other players on their tail.
Obviously chances are very slim that all these prospects will work out to be as dominating in the majors as they have been in the minors, but there is absolutely no reason not to be excited right now. This is the perfect time to be drinking as much of the Cubbie Blue Kool-Aid as you want. Of course there are realists who will wait to get excited about Baez until he proves he can hang with the Major Leaguers, but I see no reason to be a downer until you have reason to be. Cautiously optimistic sure, but to write off a player before he does anything would be a mistake. If you are waiting for him to fail, you will not enjoy the rise to possible superstardom (if he gets there) because you are waiting until he proves something. But how long will you wait to get excited about someone? What do they have to do to get excitement out of you?
While the Cubs may be potentially stacked with some very hyped thumpers, their obvious flaw is in the pitching department. Even if all the hitting prospects work out (pipe dream I know), they still lack a very important part of a championship contender. That could be seen as problematic going forward, but they have the money and the assets they need to acquire the pitching to seal the deal.
The Cubs do have a few pitchers to get excited about like Jake Arrieta, possibly Kyle Hendricks and if he can return to 2013 form Travis Wood, but the Cubs need to go out and find that dominating ace type pitcher.
I am reminded of the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s who primarily had a team built from the farm, minus the pitching. That is pretty much where the Cubs are. Like the Braves, the Cubs need to go out and find the pitching to seal the deal. This is a great off season to find they pitching with Jon Lester, Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer just to name a few. There will be others available in free agency and via trade as well.
If the Cubs can find that starting pitching I see no reason why the Cubs cannot take that giant step forward next year in their quest back to contention. Perhaps just a .500 record, but that would be a giant step forward compared to where they are today!
Overly optimistic? Perhaps, maybe even very likely. But there is no better time than now to be so.
After all, today is Javier Baez Day!