Ever since reports surfaced last week that the Chicago Cubs will undergo a "complete and total rebuild" the response from Cubs fans has been mixed. Some of them applaud the decision and say that it is long overdue while others say they hate it because it means a longer wait for a championship. Count me in with those who applaud the decision and say that it is long overdue. Of course I want to see the Chicago Cubs win a World Series in my lifetime, but not the way they have approached it in the last decade.
I believe that Dallas Green had the right idea back in 1981 when he became the General Manager of the Cubs. He brought in a lot of people from the Philadelphia Phillies organization including former Phillies director of scouting Gordon Goldsberry, former coach Lee Elia who was hired as Cubs manager and several former Phillies players to round out the team in '82. The 1981 Chicago Cubs were a forgettable team that had one infielder who hit over .200 and that was Bill Buckner. They finished 38-65 overall in a strike-shortened season, but things changed in 1982. Not only did the team have new ownership in the Chicago Tribune and a new GM and manager, but WGN became a "superstation" broadcasting nationally and they had a new broadcaster in Harry Caray who replaced the retired Jack Brickhouse. Though the team struggled in '82 and '83, they won the division in '84 and captured the hearts of millions of Cubs fans across the country who discovered the team thanks to WGN. Dallas Green traded several players to acquire new guys and many of them played for him in Philadelphia. One of them was Larry Bowa who was acquired for his leadership and he helped to mentor a young Ryne Sandberg. He also brought in guys like Keith Moreland and Dickie Noles. Some Cubs fans and media criticized Green at the time for turning the Cubs into the "Phillies West". 30 years later, most Cubs fans credit Green for making the Cubs into a winner and bringing them oh-so-close to a World Series in 1984.
Now we are in 2012 and the Cubs have assembled an impressive front office staff with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer leading the way. These guys know how to win, having won two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox. Their job in 2003 to get the Red Sox to "the next level" was an easier task than what they have to do now with the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have been on a downward spiral since the 2008 NLCS where they were embarrassingly swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in three games. Somewhere along the way, this team lost its identity and its way. A change of culture was long overdue and it had to start at the top and now has to work its way to the rest of the ballclub. The consensus is that the Chicago Cubs are not done dealing players yet and by the time spring training comes around, the players might have to be assigned nametags because of all of the new faces.
I don't like the word "rebuild" in reference to a team like the Chicago Cubs. I prefer to use the word "build" because that is what this team needs to do. Build a farm system that has largely been depleted in the past several years. Build a team with winners who are team players and take pride in wearing the Cubs uniform. Build and instill a winning, never-say-die attitude that spreads from the clubhouse to the fanbase. Build a future that puts the past where it belongs and establishes new heroes, new traditions and, most importantly, new championships. And, yes, I said championships with an "s". This won't happen overnight, but this team's failures didn't happen overnight either. It took time and the warning signs were there, but for whatever reason they were ignored and that is precisely why this team wound up in the predicament they were in this year. The good news is that the previous regime is gone and the new one is doing things that no other one in the past has ever done. And while Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will get their share of criticism for "rebuilding" the Cubs, I think it takes guts and it is a sign to the team and the fans that "business as usual" is a thing of the past. The Chicago Cubs might take their share of lumps over the next two years, but if that means that for the next eight years in a row they are either in the playoffs or the World Series I'll gladly take short-term pain for long-term gain.