Ralphy, realizing that he just made a big mistake, struggled up the slide in the Santa wonderland, eventually making it to the top to deliver his true wish. What do you want kid? Masahiro Tanaka to get posted! Phew, almost messed up that opportunity.
Misahiro Tanaka is the best pitcher to become available on the free market this offseason. Scouts gush over his phenomenal statistics and imagine the second coming of Yu Darvish. It isn’t often when a prospect with this much upside lands in the free agent market with no strings attached. Tanaka is a perfect fit for the Cubs right now.
Due to the potential for many more future productive seasons, offering a 25-year old player a sack of money involves a much different calculus than opening up the bank for an established, but older, superstar. The potential duration for future greatness is enticing. This is exactly what the Cubs are selling when they speak of Baez, Soler or Bryant. Young talent, under team control, peaking a few years out, and delivering a dynasty. I’m talking “Three-peat Repeat” here! It’s high time for the Cubs to buy a little of what they are selling.
The Cubs don’t need to give up any prospects to land Tanaka, so their current plan to add and develop young talent is only strengthened by signing Tanaka. The Cubs’ stated strategy has been to renovate the ball park and realize their wealth of farm system talent at roughly the same time. Along the way, the Cubs claim they are willing to ante up and make a few huge free agent signings when the timing is right so that they can become a perennial playoff contender. Signing Tanaka would not deviate from this plan as he would be a mere 28 years old and in his prime when the grand plan comes to fruition.
An added bonus with Tanaka is that he would provide Cubs’ fans with a taste of the future, today. The Cubs need someone like Tanaka to put some excitement back into the beleaguered fan base. Today, many Cubs fans face the choice of grabbing a few rounds in a downtown loop bar after work, or making the 30 minute red line trek to Wrigley Field to buy some of the most expensive tickets in baseball and purchase pricy Budweiser, for the privilege of watching an awful team take the field at the friendly confines. Wrigley Field is a special place, but the Cub’s need to provide games worth watching as well.
Today’s team generates little hope and Cubs’ fans are entering an era of declining nostalgia. The “Believe Meter” is almost on empty. The Cubs know this more than anyone as they must be projecting terrible sales from their nearly empty bleachers again this season. During their season ticket sales campaign, the Cubs marketed the pending ball park renovation and the potential greatness of guys that are still a few years away from making a meaningful contribution to winning baseball on the Northside, if things go as planned. A Japanese invasion of Tanaka’s caliber on Wrigley Field could go a long way toward energizing the Cubs’ fan base, without jeopardizing the team’s long-term strategy.
When the Cubs are good, the Northside turns into the North Pole just after the last toy has been built. Fans dutifully gather around the Wrigley tree to sing, dance, and drink merrily. We have all witnessed the prelude to Wrigleyville utopia in 2003 and a few other miracle seasons. We can only imagine what it would be like if we closed out the World Series at home. My heart is racing just thinking about rushing to Clark and Addison to celebrate!
I find it irksome that we let the White Sox “steal” the Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” — leaving us with “Go Cubs Go” (with posthumous apologies to the great Steve Goodman). It is a testament to the “small market” mindset the Cubs often embody to not claim the song from the mega-band, even when believing is written into to Cubs’ Bill of Rights. Go big, nah, we’re all good, thanks.
The reluctance to play hardball is about to end. I think the Cubs will offer Tanaka the larger contract, for more years, than any other team. Maybe 7 years for $140 million or more. Yeah, $20 million plus for this prospect. Call it the curse of the goat, however, but I foresee Tanaka turning down the Cubs’ superior offer to sign with another team (Yankees and Dodgers come to mind). You see, you can’t be a long-time slacker and then suddenly apply yourself and expect to be successful. The Cubs’ recent woes and long history of futility will not be a selling point in these negotiations.
While Santa delivered and Tanaka is posted, I foresee the Cubs getting their eye shot out. The Cubs have been turning in ‘C’ papers for too many years. The hard truth is that Wrigley Field hosts terrible amenities for players. High schools have better locker rooms. Sure the Cubs have renovation plans, but instead of starting construction fresh off of receiving City Council approval, the Cubs are dishing out excuses. Despite getting nearly everything they asked for from the City, the Cubs Now proclaim that they will not start the renovations unless the rooftop owners promise not to sue them. (Ald. Tunney to Cubs: Start building) For a team to sell the renovation as the rise of Atlantis, then refuse to do it when given the green light is maddening! Is the buffoon Billy Madison running the show over there?
Tanaka is going to receive outstanding offers by some of the best run teams in baseball. I’m here to tell you that the Cubs’ story of a delayed renovation, promising great prospects, and dwindling fan support isn’t what a young player with the world at his fingertips is going to jump at. Coming in, turning around a ball club, and getting a key to the city only happens in the movies. Tanaka script surely is to join a solid team and win multiple World Series titles on his way to the international fame and a trip to the Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ offer hope, but little in the way of actualized major league talent. Take, for example, the Cubs’ current lineup. We are left hoping that Castro’s season was an anomaly. Samardjza’s vision of being the ace will be realized. Rizzo isn’t going to fizzo. Nobody is expecting anything different from last season anytime soon. History is not in the Cub’s favor. I think eTrade actually offers the disclaimer that “Past performance is not a predictor of future success, expect when applied to the Chicago Cubs.” Check the fine print! It must be in there somewhere.
The Cubs can’t paint a championship picture with a straight face, even if Theo Epstein is an artist. We are just so far away. The Cubs should face facts and admit to their fans that they will try but don’t expect to land Tanaka. Soften the incoming embarrassment of losing out on Tanaka. Tell us this is the time to build out the stadium and collect an army of prospects instead. Tell us that in a few years, superstars will be begging to play in Chicago at a discount because of the team’s long-term plan. Explain that the next superstar in three years’ time is absolutely ours. Show us that the days of middling through life as an underachiever are over. Dig a freakin’ hole somewhere near Wrigley, park bulldozers in the player’s lot, and get the renovation going. Geez!
I’d love to see the Cubs land the biggest prospect in years, but it just doesn’t add up. I need to guard against the heartache that accompanies reality. I’m resigned to accepting the plan that has been laid out. Now let’s start executing it without any further punches to the gut.