Monday, August 22, 2005

Cubs should look across the diamond to see a franchise they should copy

The Atlanta Braves beat the Cubs tonite 4-2. The formula for the Braves win was simple: great starting pitching, a couple of timely hits and good defense.

In the top of the ninth, I was talking with Soupy in Atlanta. He said that he thought the Cubs would win this one. I assured him he had very little to worry about. The 2005 Cubs don't win these ballgames, come to think of it, very few Cub teams do. The Braves on the other hand have been doing this since 1991. The cast of characters has changed-- with the exception of Bobby Cox, Leo Mazzone, and John Smoltz-- but the results have not. The results are mind boggling and awesome.

Sid Bream celebrates the Braves Pennant win in 1991. Atlanta has won their division every year since.

A couple of years ago, Ron Santo told me that the Cubs were going to be like the Braves. They'd be there every year. The Ever-Optimistic old third baseman was probably looking at the Cubs core of young starting pitchers and comparing them to the Braves staff of the early 90's. That was easy to do. Many of us imagined years of the Cubs winning with the great Prior, Wood and Zambrano. What Ron (and many of us) missed was the fact that the Braves have a great GM in John Schuerholz, a great Manager in Cox, great scouting, and great player development. Do the Cubs have any of these? I haven't seen it.

Following the Braves surprise "worst to first" climb in '91, their system would develop position players Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Ryan Klesko, Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal (just to name a few) to go with the great starting staff. These players were surrounded by prospects that the Braves would turn into players like Fred McGriff, Marquis Grissom, Gary Sheffield and the like. The Braves organization led by Cox and GM John Schuerholz gets winning ballplayers, schools them in how they want them to play, and Bobby Cox puts these players in position to win baseball games. It's a simple formula...but it sure isn't easy to do.

The current Braves roster is filled with a bunch of kids that started the year in the minors. When the Braves had injuries Kelly Johnson, Ryan Langerhans, Brian McCann, Wilson Betemit and Jeff Francouer came up ready to play and win. The Braves scout kids that they think have the tools, they train them how they want them to play the game, they give them that opportunity. Some of these kids will be part of the nucleus the Braves win with over the next 5-7 years, others will be traded to get the pieces that make that happen. The Braves train will role on.

As a Cub fan, I tip my cap to the Braves Organization. I am envious.

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