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Measure success in baby steps

Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 11:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 12:07 a.m. CDT
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(MCT)
Cubs starting pitcher Matt Garza learned patience this offseason while parenting his three young children. Cubs fans will need the same sort of patience while waiting for success from the organization.

CHICAGO – Matt Garza arrived to the big leagues in 2006 with limitless potential and little patience.

It’s funny how life changes people.

Now a father of four, including three young daughters, Garza has tons of perspective to go along with all of that natural ability to fling a baseball.

“If I wasn’t going to learn patience, then it was never going to happen with those three,” Garza said with a smile recently. “This offseason was a good test. I had to fight a 7-year-old to wipe makeup off. I had to fight a 3-year-old to go to sleep. And I had to fight a 5-month-old to eat.”

Take note, Cubs fans.

Be patient.

It won’t be easy as more losses accumulate in 2013, but the Cubs eventually will grow up into a consistent playoff contender.

Amid last week’s blitz of Bears hires and Bulls games and Blackhawks buzz, the baseball team from 1060 W. Addison St. gathered for its annual 3-day fan convention. The White Sox will do the same this weekend when they invade the many ballrooms of the Palmer House Hilton for SoxFest.

“I feel great,” every player will say.

“I can’t wait for spring training,” every player will agree.

“I like how our team looks this year,” every player will conclude.

The Sox have many reasons to be optimistic heading into next season, although it’s debatable as to how far they can advance. They won 85 games in Robin Ventura’s first season as manager in 2012 but staggered badly down the stretch, losing 11 of their final 15 games and missing the playoffs.

But let’s be honest about the Cubs.

They remain much closer to 100 losses than 100 wins. The expensive, aging mess that was left behind by Jim Hendry could require a few more years for the Cubs’ new regime to clean.

So far, the Cubs mostly have stuck to the rebuilding plan implemented by team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod.

It starts in the minor leagues, where top prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler will spend the summer trying to become better hitters in between their bus rides across the country. The Cubs’ new affiliation with the Kane County Cougars of the Single-A Midwest League will provide fans with a closer look at some of the next-generation stars.

In the meantime, the Cubs’ major-league roster will feature relatively low-priced veterans such as David DeJesus, Scott Baker and Ian Stewart. The signing of pitcher Edwin Jackson (4 years, $52 million) seemed excessive, but the Cubs hope that he can be a part of the transition to winning.

As for when that will happen? Not this season. Probably not next season, either. Think 2015 or 2016.

New motto: Wait til’ next, next, next year.

Hoyer knows as much is true.

Consider his careful wording as he described how he would measure success this season.

“I think there’s really two different fronts you’re talking about,” Hoyer said. “From a major league standpoint, I think one of the comments that was picked up the other day was, ‘Playoffs or bust.’ Ultimately, that isn’t the truth. When you get judged on going to the playoffs, when you get judged on championships, it’s hard to feel really good about a season that doesn’t end up in the playoffs.”

In other words, the Cubs aren’t going to the playoffs.

“At the same time, we are building something long term,” Hoyer said. “We feel like our goal ultimately is to get to the point where we’re a team of great young players [and] we’re going to make the playoffs every single year or 8 out of 10 years.

“There’s a lot of things you can do over the course of a summer to increase that. Having great years in the minor leagues for some of our prospects is success for us. [Having] our young players in the big leagues taking a step forward is a success.

“But those are like small successes that we talk about internally. Externally, ultimately, success comes down to playing October baseball.”

That’s not going to happen for a while. And that’s OK.

Staying patient will be difficult.

But it can’t be as tough as battling a 7-year-old who likes makeup.

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