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SportsMonday: Dunk Tank

How's that tank job working out for you, Theo?

As the Cubs go down in flames in spectacular fashion to wrap up the fifth season of their post-tank era, it is time to assess many of the assumptions that have surrounded the team and its management during the club president's eight-year reign.

First and foremost, it was assumed that if the Cubs didn't do their best on purpose (you could also say "lost on purpose" but "didn't do their best on purpose" is more accurate) for three bad ridiculous seasons, it would result in a long stretch of contention at the highest level.

It turns out the Cubs were competitive with the best teams in the league for three seasons. The run ended when their lineup sucked for the last month of last year's regular season, eventually choking away a division title in Game No. 163 and then bowing out of the playoffs immediately with a wild card single-game elimination loss to the Rockies.

Speaking of the best teams in the majors this season, only one of them has engaged in a full-scale tank job. I suppose the A's are always engaged in a certain amount of tanking (as are the Rays for that matter) but they aren't as obvious about it as the Cubs were and they seem to have legitimate, major financial restraints.

The Cubs have no such restraints and they have spent like it. I've got no beef with Tom Ricketts' payroll. But Theo has botched his last few big-money free agent signings (in particular Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish and possibly Craig Kimbrel) and that has tied his hands. The only thing worse has been the team's miserable record of drafting and developing talent under Theo.

The team that tanked even worse than the Cubs was the Astros, of course. And they certainly seem like they are ready to roll to another World Series crown. But the other powerhouse big-revenue teams such as the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox, have done no such thing. And while the Red Sox won't be in the playoffs this year, the Dodgers and Yankees stand to have the best chances at a World Series outside of Houston.

It was assumed that if Cubs augmented a team filled with homegrown young stars with key big-money free agents, they would solidyif their spot as a member of the best of the best. It didn't work.

It was assumed that once other teams saw how well multiple-year tank jobs worked, it would force them to follow suit. The Cardinals refused and find themselves way ahead of the North Siders as this season comes to an end. The Red Sox are the defending World Series champs.

The Yankees kind of tanked for half a season. I say "kind of" because they remained in contention. It was as though they were tanking but general manager Brian Cashman didn't tell manager Joe Girardi and New York almost earned a wild card in the Peoria native's last season at the helm.

It seems clear at this point that multi-year tanks are anything but a sure thing. And it is also clear that a team like the Cubs, with so much revenue pouring in year after year, should never tank for more than a season.

By the way, if the Cubs had ended their tank after a one season they still could have drafted Kyle Schwarber in 2013. They probably would have lost out on Ian Happ in the 2014 draft and they probably wouldn't have traded for Addison Russell later that year, but otherwise they could have constructed a club that would have been very similar to the present day's lineup and rotation.

And they wouldn't have embarrassed themselves with two atrocious seasons in those years. In so doing, they bought three years ('15 to '17) of contention.

Seems like a terrible trade-off to me.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Feb 14, 2020