Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rox Talk - GM Thoughts Part II

Seems like ages ago I criticized Dan O'Dowd for his trading of Matt Holliday.  This past season I somewhat capitulated on this because of the value we got in return for Street and CarGo.  Then I took a wait and see attitude about the Ubaldo trade.  Now with the Seth Smith deal and the merry go round of players that have been dealt this Winter, I have to question what is the Master Plan? Death Rays anyone?  I feel like my relationship with O'Dowd has fallen into some twisted high school romp when every week I'm either liking or disliking him!  If there was only some consistency in what he did year to year.  He's been at this for quite'd think he would know what it takes to win here (?) 

To begin this rant, I will start with saying the Rox had a solid core from 2007 - 2009.  We went to playoffs twice, we were a solid contender.  Some might have said we hung onto some of these pieces (i.e. Atkins and Hawpe) a little too long and didn't allow the younger players to take over.  We then brought the younger players in and none of these panned out.  So this Winter we got rid of these pieces, brought in older pieces, with proven track records (and possibly better chemistry), to try and bridge the gap until another set of unproven talent emerges (i.e. Arenado).  Meanwhile Rox team salaries have stayed somewhat static meaning we aren't really throwing in the towel (like Florida has always done) and we tend to push for some high value free agent signing (Cuddyer).  While this plan seemingly worked in 2007 - 2009, one has to wonder if this was due to luck and timing or is this a sustainable plan from year to year.  I call this the "Twin" model of team building (I know not very original).  At its core, its premise is solid, if and only if...young players pan out and that you dump your stars and not fall in love with them.  The real Twins fell in love with their stars, signed them to long term deals and now with commitments to these players they can't bring in new talent.  If your stars play like them then you are golden, if they struggle (i.e. Mauer) your season is sunk.  Fortunately our Rox stars have played well, but our new talent has sucked.

The Twin model works (well fairly well for one team...the TWINS!) but I think it relies on a lot of luck and crossing fingers that all the young ones have awesome, unexpected years.  The Rox have shown some pride and aren't willing to just dump salary, gather as much talent as we can, and try to pinpoint a year where we think we might be good.  Although I might suggest this would be far superior then just making random free agent signings but not address what it will really take to win the NL West.  Rox management seems content to win 75 - 83 games and fans seem OK with that.  We aren't terrible, we aren't great, we are just a middle of the road team hoping to find a four leaf clover every 10-15 years.    

My problem with O'Dowd and management is we seem to be on the fence and we don't seemingly have any identity.  Some years we seem to be a low income team stockpiling young players and hoping for a few break out years and sometimes we are a mid market team with some young talent and the ability to sign a free agent or two.  Either plan relies on a core group of successful young players coming up through the draft.  The graphic below shows Rox success at doing this since our inception.  Each dot is a player the Rox drafted in the first round.  Green is a player who has made the big leagues and red is a player still in the Minors.  The green dot size is based on WAR that player has produced.  Not a whole lot of success especially since 2006.

I can't find the website to give credit for this graph!  I will keep searching...
And this is why I conclude, again, that O'Dowd must go.  If a stable of young players is needed to make your plan work and you fail miserably in six years of drafting and then you have to trade the best pitcher in franchise history to restock your failures then to me that is a leadership failure.

Of course all of this is contingent on a home town crowd that cares about winning.  Wrigley Field West is just happy to have baseball, a cold beer, and one perennial All Star (Galarraga to Helton to Tulo).  When will we demand and expect excellence from our front office?   I bet if you ask Tulo and CarGo...they want a plan and to win!

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