This post is probably two or three weeks late, but the inspiration for it happened today.
Today is a warm, humid day in SE Wisconsin. I was driving home for lunch with the windows open and had stopped my radio on the Lake Geneva FM station, which played "Jump!" as I was nearing home. The song will always remind me of the 1984 Cubs, and the weather is what I associate with summer -- especially from when I was a kid -- even if that memory is inaccurate. I started thinking about how exciting that season was and how much fun it is to be at a game when the Cubs are relevant. We're all looking forward to games like that happening once again on a regular basis.
I didn't even listen to the whole song, because I was in my driveway before it was half over, but a lot of thoughts went through my mind. The trades that Green made just before and during the season and the over-performing of a lot of players. I think that he thought he'd get a serviceable starter in Eckersley, but I don't think that he really thought that the Cubs were contenders until a few weeks later when he picked up Sutcliffe. While they didn't win it all, they did get a monkey off their backs ending the post season drought, and it was a hell of a lot of fun -- even if I wasn't old enough to really appreciate what was going on.
I also wasn't old enough to really understand the mess that Green had inherited. A barren farm system, outdated facilities and a horrible parent club, which had just been acquired from disinterested ownership.
However, the thought that stuck with me after I turned the car off was a quote from Green, I think in 1988 or 1989, where he acknowledged that the run was probably two or three years ahead of schedule. I doubt that he regretted going for it when he did, but I also doubt that had the Cubs occupied the position that Montreal did on June 13, that Green trades Carter for a shot at winning that year.
Of course, once the franchise and the fan base got a taste, there was an expectation of more in 1985. The Cubs were probably the best team in the National League in 1985, having brought back three starting pitchers that were free agents in the fall. No one could have reasonably foreseen the entire rotation being on the DL at the same time. The team suffered a 13-game losing streak, dropped out of contention and never really recovered. In 1986, the team got off to a poor start, Frey was fired and it was the beginning of the end for the Green regime at Clark and Addison.
There is no doubt that Green's assertiveness hurt him with his bosses after that, but I have been convinced since the early 1990's that had he been allowed to do his job that the Cubs would have won multiple World Series championships by now. Frey quickly gutted the farm system (and made some bad deals for the parent club), yet the team won in 1989. And after a Hendry-like spending spree in 1991 led to a mess, Frey was out and Himes was in to alienate arguably the best pitcher of the last 50 years, among other things. And so it goes.
Frey dispatched the team that drafted, in no particular order, Greg Maddux, Jamie Moyer, Rafael Palmeiro, Shawon Dunston, Mark Grace and a host of other players that made contributions in MLB.
In no way would I suggest that going for it in 1984 was a mistake, nor do I think that it was the root cause of the mess afterwards. What I do believe the root cause was is the TribCo not letting Green do what he thought was best for the team. Do I see parallels here? You bet. Not with ownership that has clearly signed off on a plan, but with a fan base that has become more vocal and looking to go all out to win 78 instead of 70 games in the second season of what clearly was a project that required a minimum of two full years and probably three. There is no guarantee that this will work, nor is there a guarantee that Green's plan would have delivered despite my conviction that it would have. But to abandon the plan midway through because it's not a full year ahead of schedule would be shortsighted, foolhardy, etc.
This current front office is not beyond reproach.
For those of you that refuse to read anything even neutral about them without claiming that the writer is saying otherwise, I'll say it again.
THIS FRONT OFFICE IS NOT BEYOND REPROACH.
But something had to be done. Maybe they keep Garza, after all. I doubt it, but I'd be cool with that. And if Cano actually hits the market, I'd say go all in on him. But to go after players that would make them only incrementally better in 2014 and spend big money that could be better used in 2015 or beyond would be flat-out stupid . . . and the difference between the current regime vs the previous one.
I hope that the Cubs are actually ahead of schedule and legitimately believe that they can make a run at 85 or more wins next year. But if they think that the ceiling is 81 and they have to overspend to get there, it's asking for trouble. I don't think that Ricketts is looking for that despite how vocal the fan base may get . . . and even if he is, there's no guarantee that dumping Epstein in 2014 or 2015 would bring a repeat of Frey, Himes, etc. But I'd prefer to give this a bit more time to see where it goes.
Incidentally, Green wasn't beyond reproach, either. All that Rick Reuschel asked for in 1985 was an invite to spring training, and Green said no.