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A different look back at the Cubs 2018 season, and forward to 2019

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The Cubs weren’t the best team in the league in 2018. Perhaps they will be going forward.

Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs 2018 season is over. I’m supposed to be all tears, remorse, and regret. For whatever reason, I’m not particularly upset the Cubs lost. This is my look at the 2018 Cubs season.

The 2018 campaign was largely successful for the first four months. The Cubs had the best record in the National League, until it mattered. However, when the season concluded, it was time for it to be over. It would have been nice if it continued, but better teams are still playing.

A bit more than a week ago, I had flipped. The Brewers were a better team than the Cubs in late 2018. The Dodgers were, likely, as well. Once the minor league season ends, I tend to listen to other games rather regularly. Other lineups seemed more imposing than the Cubs. Other pitching staffs seemed deeper than the Cubs.

When a team is better, in my eyes, than my team, I don’t get greedy. I’m perfectly capable of saying “They’re the better side.” This isn’t a popular trait in communities, it seems. The colors and stylings of the uniforms are supposed to be important. For me, they aren’t as important. If the better team wins, so be it.

A team is worth following, and worth closely monitoring, if they’re worth learning about. I am a student, like that. If you show me an author, a musician, or a teacher that gets people to be better than they were yesterday, they are worth tracking. Not because of what they wear, but because of what they represent.

***

Remembering back to July 2011, when Jim Hendry was fired, the Tom Ricketts-led Cubs had a decision to make. Who was going to be put in charge of remaking the organization. If it was going to be a lukewarm “leader,” I was completely willing to walk away from committing an iota of time to the Cubs. They had done a relatively good job of bringing in “good dudes.” Those “good dudes” were getting pantsed in the minor leagues. And in Wrigley, too often. As the minor leagues were what really interested me, I wanted to see who was incoming.

Theo Epstein played to my interests. He committed to upgrading the pipeline. Not only did he retain the “bringing in good dudes” premise, he used that as a prerequisite for players his organization would draft. The executives and scouts he hired bought the same premise. The minor league pipeline became a fun follow, and some even seemed to become jealous that the minors were purring along more smoothly than the parent club.

In the end, the Cubs won a title, largely off of the quality of the pipeline. To get the desired World Series, the Cubs traded for Aroldis Chapman, who had been suspended by the league. It was less enjoyable winning the title with a player I considered unsavory. However, adding him was likely a necessary evil. However, I considered it an evil.

The reality is, I’m still a minor league guy. As such, I’ve attached myself rather closely to tracking college baseball from my chair in my room in my place. In this world, you either fill an existing role, or create one of your own. I’m not a follower, like that. I want to learn.

Tracking college games educates me on how much of a likelihood there is that a player who fires at 94 with very little command, has at being a MLB success. And other similars. I look to learn. As the MiLB season begins, I listen to Cubs pipeline games. Not as a sycophant homer, but as a student. For instance, the Rays have a good system. Not because Baseball America says so. Because thy have really good players, and plenty of depth.

I’m a Cubs guy, though. I still believe in the Cubs’ general formula. However, when the Rays and Padres have a much better system than the Cubs, credibility gets me to note the Rays and the Padres have a better system than the Cubs. And, if the Milwaukee Brewers are a better team than the Cubs in September, I admit to that, as well.

***

Other seasons have been more enjoyable. The Cubs played well. Eugene won a championship, to extend “the string” that extends back to 2012. And, the parent club will continue to do well, as long as the right players are signed in the draft, and through the international sectors. Especially, when paired with a good development protocol.

“But what about Joe Maddon? And Chili Davis? And Bryce Harper? And... ?”

At some point, I begin to feel like a county lawman, being dragged into a case in a different county. Or a different state. The questions people want me to have expertise in? I don’t have that expertise. I think Bryce Harper is a poor defender. He also hits baseballs really far. Is he a “good dude”? I have no idea.

Should the Cubs cut bait with Tyler Chatwood, paying his entire contract as he leaves? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about contractual situations in a de facto salary cap league. However, that isn’t my decision to make.

Between now and next time around, I want to get more educated on the pipeline. I want to become more aware of who might be eligible and worthy for the Cubs draft class in 2019. Which leads to my favorite parts of 2018.

I quite enjoyed players in the pipeline being traded to other systems. Presumably, there, they will have better chances for success than they would have with the Cubs. The Cubs system is very deep. That’s still a positive.

Another thing I enjoyed about 2018? Players who the “experts” thought would be very mediocre players, that had good seasons. That Miles Mikolas, Jhoulys Chacin, and other afterthoughts did well, proved, yet again that spreadsheets get it wrong too often to be a sole source for projections.

While Cubs fans coast to coast are dismissive of this coach or player, or covet other coaches or players, I want to learn more this offseason. Besmirching people or players won’t accomplish that. Have a swell time spending Tom Ricketts’ money, or whatever.

I’m very much looking forward to February, when college games get going. And April, when the minor league season begins. Then, I can learn more, listening to games of players I’m unfamiliar with, and accomplishing my version of baseball sketch art.

I want to learn more about baseball. I’ll still be checking in on the rest of the postseason. I’ll read this or that through the offseason. More so, I have pipeline games from 2018 to review, and a draft class to prepare for. I know of quite a few things I don’t know. I’d rather account for a few of them than argue about who should stay, go, or be brought aboard. I’m staying in my lane.