Championships at any level, in any sport are rare, and when you have the opportunity to get one that can bring all sorts of excitement. That is where the Iowa Cubs found themselves this season, vying for a championship. The team was dominating the minors and looking as though they were going to run away with the title, bringing a championship home to the Chicago Cubs organization and their faithful fans in Iowa.
That is where everything started to go wrong for the I-Cubs. The parent organization started poaching the top talent, bringing them up to the major leagues. First was Arismendy Alcantara before the All Star Break. This was a loss for the I-Cubs, but they were able to carry on without losing too much ground. Then came the promotion of Javier Baez, and that might have been a wound they could not overcome.
Anytime a team loses one of their best players, they are going to have a major setback, I do not care how much depth you have or how great your coaching is. If you lose an important piece of your team you are going to struggle.
The death blow for the I-Cubs chances came last night when the Cubs announced they would be promoting Jorge Soler to the major leagues, leaving only Kris Bryant to carry the load. As good as he is, I doubt he will be able to carrying the team on his shoulders all the way to the championship. While one player can carry a team in basketball or maybe even hockey if you are a hot goalie, one dominating hitter cannot carry a team all by himself.
Say what you will about the Cubs hiring of Manny Ramirez to be a player coach for the I-Cubs, but he began working hard with the younger players who were developing their craft. With the addition of Bryant and Soler to the team that already have Baez and Alcantara the I-Cubs looked unstoppable. Baez, Soler and Bryant all learned from Ramirez how to approach every at bat and what to watch for. Whether he had his great success with the aid of steroids or not, Ramirez always had a great approach at the plate. He passed along his knowledge on to the young core, and that helped the three young kids each earn their shot in the big leagues.
While the goal of every team at every level should be to win championships and develop players, I do feel bad for the fans of the Iowa Cubs. They are of course Cub fans, and they want to see the players have Major League success, but they also want to be able to see the team they watch day in and day out, and attend frequently due to being unable to attend Cubs games at Wrigley have success. I can fully understand that the I-Cubs fans are disappointed as they sit idly by watching the big league club dismantle their championship dreams.
One on hand, there is something to be said about a player gaining playoff experience and chasing down a championship; even if that experience comes in the minor leagues. Feeling the pressure of postseason play can be very rewards and benificial to a players development going forward.
The question is, will that minor league post season experience be more valuable to a players development than experience at the major leagues, facing tougher competition.
There are benefits to both, but if the overall goal is to develop the players to be Major League players I think the best place for them to be is in the majors this year, polishing their craft. While the Chicago Cubs are not contending for anything more than a draft pick, and the I-Cubs had a legitimate shot of winning the championship, I think the right move has been made. Gaining major league experience is very valuable to a player, even in a lost year. Let them get accustomed to the major leagues and what they have to offer when there is nothing to lose by struggling. Learn to play the game at the big league level now, so that when things possibly get serious for a contender (maybe even as soon as next year) they are that much closer to being a serious contributor at the major leagues with less of an adjustment period.
For all I-Cub fans who are now suffering through the end of what was once a promising season that is now fading to black, I am sorry. Getting that close to the promise land and falling apart is rough. Sadly, that is a feeling the parent club has felt far too often. In 2008, 2007, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1969, 1945……… Not to make light of the situation you now find yourselves in, but this is something you should be used to a Cubs fans.
Just be glad that the excitement you have witness at the minor league level might soon be starting at the major league level.