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Friday, May 2, 2014
Cubs trying to build like the Cardinals

By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- In applauding the way the St. Louis Cardinals have done business over the years, Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer gave a subtle reminder that building something that lasts takes time.

"This (the Cardinals team) wasn't built in a year or five years or 10," Hoyer said before the Cubs played St. Louis on Friday. "It's been built over 20 or 50. It's a culture of winning."

It's a culture that Hoyer and his boss, Theo Epstein, want to bring to the Cubs. But at the moment they're in the transition phase of their rebuilding project and it's brought out the critics, from fans to former players.

Recently, Matt Garza, and to a lesser extent Alfonso Soriano, expressed their dissatisfaction with the rebuilding organization. But that's low hanging fruit to pick. What else would a veteran say in the midst of a youth movement? No 37-year-old wants to go through that. You don't hear Mike Olt or Junior Lake or Welington Castillo or even Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro complain -- publicly or privately -- about "The Plan." That's because they're at the center of it. The veterans are not.

"(The Cardinals) seem to be able to hand it down from generation to generation," Hoyer said. "(Chris) Carpenter hands it to (Adam) Wainwright who's probably going to hand it to (Michael) Wacha someday. ... (Mike) Matheny to (Yadier) Molina."

Using that logic the Cubs don't have a "first" generation to do any handing off from. That's what they're trying to build.

"It's not built overnight but it's something to aspire to," Hoyer said.

In the meantime the Cubs are left with months like April where there were some good individual performances by core players but the team went 9-17. That's pretty close to April 2013 when they were 10-16 and 2012 when they were 8-15.

"In three consecutive years we've fallen on our face right out of the gate," Hoyer said. "It's been groundhog day. It's been closer issues. Bullpen woes. All the years we've had a better run differential and lost a lot of one-run games early."

Hoyer doesn't need to make excuses. All he has to say is "we're right in the middle of our rebuilding project so by definition we aren't going to be good." But of course he can't say that for fear of losing the 25 players in the locker room. He even invoked the "we're better than our record" line that gets tossed around when a team loses an inordinate amount of close games. The Cubs are 2-10 in one- and two-run contests.

"We should be better than our record but ultimately you are what you are," Hoyer stated.

Right now, that's a rebuilding team. Everyone knows it, including Garza and Soriano and any other former player that's been traded. Instead of lamenting it they should be thrilled they've moved on while the team that signed their paychecks got better for it.

"Being traded is a hard thing," Hoyer said of Garza. "Even in a situation where we had a good relationship with him there is probably a feeling of rejection, for lack of a better word."

But Garza or any other traded veteran should realize this isn't about them -- it's about the Cubs. And anyone that wants them to be the Cardinals has to remember one thing: It's going to take time.