MESA, Ariz. There are so many X-factors that will go into this before it really matters, but Cubs fans looking for signs of hope got one with the extra wild card.
Theo Epstein isnt wishing for a championship. The front office will rely on the cold, hard logic of advanced video analysis, scouting information systems, and research and development to find the next cutting edge.
But there are elements of luck and randomness in the postseason. It just got a little easier to get into the tournament. The two wild cards in each league will play an elimination Game 163.
Its not something (the historians) care for, manager Dale Sveum said. But things change over the years and the more teams you can get in the playoffs, the better. You can fight longer (as a team). The organization can fight longer and put you (in position with) a couple other teams in the running to make a trade at the deadline to pick things up.
I know its a little strange, the way its going to be done, but for the most part I think its good for baseball. Theres so much parity going on now in baseball. That extra team is great.
To finally hit that World Series target, general manager Jed Hoyer has used metaphors like taking shots on goal and having more arrows to fire. You just have to keep making the postseason.
The Cubs were surprised by the restrictions on the draft and international market imposed by the new collective bargaining agreement. They cant spend unlimited amounts on those signings, which were supposed to lay the foundation for sustained success.
That development wont help clear the path to October, but the labor deal does set a lower bar for the playoffs. Looking back on the past 10 National League seasons, the second wild card would have averaged almost 89 victories. That includes multiple teams that finished in third place.
The agreement also moves the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013. In the past, Cubs officials had grumbled about the postseason odds of playing in a six-team division.
As much as the Cubs are cautiously optimistic about this season the rest of the division didnt get much better, and things cant get much worse than last year this change could really be felt in 2014 and beyond
Thats when Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo are supposed to be established forces and emerging leaders. The scouting and player development machine will be rolling out an assembly line of impact players.
Sveum could be growing into the job and becoming the next Terry Francona. A renovated Wrigley Field and new television deals would be juicing the Cubs economy.
For now, the trade deadline got more complicated what happens with Matt Garza? and there will be more urgency to win the division. It shouldnt hurt ratings and ticket sales across the country.
Theres no such thing as a perfect setup that satisfies everyones interest, but I think they thought through it very well, Epstein said. Its going to certainly provide a guaranteed night of drama that we wouldnt have had otherwise. It will probably create more races than it takes away in the long run. Thats probably a good thing for the game.