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Blueprint Blues

Did you know the Cubs are looking at the success of the Nationals as a blueprint for their own rebuilding?

Also, the Orioles and the A's.

And the Cardinals, the Reds and the Red Sox.

Oh, don't forget the Rays and the Pirates.

Why not throw in the Braves, the Giants and the Tigers?

Guess what: It's not really useful to look at other franchises for winning formulas.


Because every franchise (and every market) is governed by a unique set of circumstances.

And that's why their formulas are all different.

For example, the Cardinals have always had a strong farm system built on glue guys that can be plugged into the major league lineup and perform. But the idea that letting Albert Pujols go means they don't spend richly is a fallacy - they signed Carlos Beltran and extended Yadier Molina, for example. (And they badly tried to bring Pujols back.)

The Tigers built their team through a variety of means, but most importantly signing Prince Fielder to complement Miguel Cabrera in a monster lineup that now includes Torii Hunter hitting second, behind Austin Jackson, who came over in a trade with the Yankees. That's not to dismiss Justin Verlander, but an ace can't win a World Series on his own, as history shows.

The Giants have been sustained by the crafty moves of general manager Brian Sabean, probably the most underrated in the game.

Walt Jocketty, who helped build the Cardinals, has rebuilt the Reds.

Among small-market teams, the A's and Twins, for example, didn't take the same approach as much as some folks think they did; Billy Beane thought for quite awhile that defense was overrated and pioneered the Earl Weaver school of sabermetrics, while the Twins believed in defense so much they trained their staff to pitch-to-contact. They were also, in their successful days, free swingers (at least until at-bats when they became situational hitters).

Beyond that, teams must tailor their formulas to their home ballparks and their payroll potential. If you have extra money to spend, you can take chances in free agency (see the Yankees) as well as not having to work so hard trying to eke out games with the fundamentals. Power pitchers and monster hitters can then be your friend if you have enough of them to overwhelm your opponents.

The Cubs have never really figured out a formula, veering back-and-forth between trying to play Wrigley Field as a hitter's park and pitcher's park (it's both, depending on the weather) and utterly disregarding even the most simple of advance statistics like OBP for a long time. Now they are more data-oriented, even if the product on the field doesn't show it. And they are also the most profitable team in the majors, and generate the fourth-highest revenue, even if the front office doesn't show it.

The team has also, in more recent years, veered between building a farm system on a five-year plan (paging Andy MacPhail) and spending recklessly in the final years of Tribune Company ownership after years of cheaping it out.

Nothing has worked - and the latest plan doesn't show signs of being any better.

Unfortunately, the Ricketts' have a debt service to pay incurred when they bought the team from Sam Zell, and a father who apparently is demanding (or a son who is intent on showing) the kind of short-term economic return that we're not allowed to expect on the field in terms of performance.

The Ricketts' want short-term assets in their pockets today, while preaching long-term assets on the field years away. No baseball philosophy can overcome that kind of formula.

Week in Review: The Cubs beat the Rangers in a make-up game, split two games with the Cardinals, and took two of three from the Nationals in Washington to go 4-2 for the week. But don't get your undies in a bunch - it happens to the worst of them.

Week in Preview: The Rockies and Mets come in for three each. Wednesday is Law Enforcement Appreciation Night. On Friday, the first 20,000 fans get Budweiser Pitchers and/or Mugs. On Saturday, the first 10,000 fans get a Silicone Scoreboard Slap Watch, whatever that is. On Sunday, the first 10,000 children 13-and-under get mini-Starlin Castro figurines courtesy of Pepsi, which is trying to build childhood brand loyalty by sponsoring giveaways at baseball games in order to increase profits by through the unhealthy eating habits it hopes your kids adopt.

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin "Ian" Barney went 2-for-15 in five starts. Luis Valbuena got the other start. Barney is a smart ballplayer with all the right instincts (unlike his middle infield teammate), so we here at The Cub Factor have always thought he'd learn to take walks and drive up his OBP, but now he can't even hit for a respectable average. (Well, I always thought that; Cub Factor founder Marty Gangler was never much of a fan.) Barney is hitting .154 with a .275 OBP. That's Ian Stewart territory, and the shame of it is that they both have golden gloves.

The Not-So-Hot Corner Valbuena and Cody Ransom each got three starts. Dale Sveum has a huge man-crush on Valbuena, and with a .385 OBP, a relatively solid glove and a penchant for clutch hits, it's not hard to see why. But let's never forget that he's Luis Valbuena, whose career OBP is .301 - including this season.

Likewise, Ransom, who at 37 is 10 years older than Valbuena, is hitting .394 with an OBP of .444. His career numbers are .225 and .310 - including this season. So enjoy it while you can, Dale. But if you drink too much of it, you're in for a nasty hangover.

Prospect Joshua Warren Vitters is hitting .121 with a .193 OBP in Iowa. Maybe he should be moved to second base.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: In one start he went 0-for-4 but notched a ground-out RBI; in his other start he went 2-for-3. He was not called upon to hit a pinch-hit home run this week.

(With a slash line of .282/.327/.369, the not-so-legendary Welington Castillo has come down to earth.)

Deserted Cubs: Tony Campana has his batting average up to .235 with a .262 OBP at Reno. Erstwhile Cub Randall Delgado took a no-hit bid into the sixth for the Aces last week. Eric Hinske is stinking it up for the D-backs, but still.

Bullpen Bullshit: Kevin Gregg hasn't given up a hit in 9 1/3 innings. Be fooled at your own peril.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: If anyone's buying shares of Kevin Gregg and you happen to have some left over from, say, a birthday gift from grandma at some point over the last 10 years, sell immediately.

Sveum's Shadow: 8 p.m. Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow recedes to 7 p.m. after pushing all the right buttons against the Nationals on Sunday - if pushing all the right buttons means Castillo deflecting Kurt Suzuki's throw to third with his bat without getting called for interference.

Shark Tank: Smarge gave up seven runs - five earned - in five innings and 73 pitches on Friday. Next: Dead arm (see Over/Under).

Jumbotron Preview: Six thousand square feet of the loudest commercials you've ever heard.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2016.

Over/Under: Games until Jeff Samardzija enters a dead-arm phase: 2.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that keeping Edwin Jackson in the rotation upon Matt Garza's return because of his big contract is just the sort of thinking we thought we were getting away from.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.


Contact The Cub Factor!

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