9:59 AM CDT, June 4, 2012
Welcome to the most important days of the Cubs’ season.
Welcome to the most unsatisfying days of the Cubs’ season.
The amateur draft begins Monday and continues into Tuesday and Wednesday until, I believe, every graduating high school student in America is selected.
This is the week for which Theo Epstein was hired. This is the part of the process on which Epstein’s foundation for sustained success is built. This is the time when the talent in the organization theoretically gets better.
This is also the event when fans roll their eyes. I’m not saying it’s meaningless. Far from it. It’s just that it’s mostly as unknown as whatever’s behind that look on Gavin Floyd’s face.
Everybody who has watched the worst Cubs team in history this season knows how important it is to stockpile talent. And so, your new management saviors will set about doing that this week, and they’ll let you know about the heroes to be named later, and it will leave you feeling like cotton candy.
The baseball draft, see, is as empty as the NHL draft, at least in this country, because teams are building champions by drafting players you’ve never heard of and never seen compete.
When it comes to the NFL draft, you’ve not only heard of most of the players in at least the top two rounds, but you’ve probably seen them play in college, or at least had that chance.
The NBA draft is even more obvious because it’s only two rounds and everybody saw the draft camp known as the NCAA Tournament. Fans have seen entire draft rounds just by mistake in flipping channels because colleges will play anywhere anytime. Make an offer, and you can have one of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge games played at your kid’s bar-mitzvah.
But baseball offers nothing close. The opportunities to see the players likely to be drafted high don’t compare for two big reasons:
One, college baseball doesn’t draw ratings, so it doesn’t have the chance to force-feed familiarity the way football and basketball do, and two, more than half of the 1,200 players selected are high schoolers.
Sure, high school baseball is better than watching the WNBA, but good luck finding it on your cable system.
And another unsatisfying thought: Even if you somehow lucked into watching enough amateur baseball to know the player your team selected with its top pick, he was playing a game involving aluminum bats.
The baseball draft is the place where someone needs to say, “You at home make your picks to click before we show you ours.’’
The Cubs were projected to use their first-round selection on high school outfielder Albert Almora or high school shortstop Carlos Correa. The Sox were projected to choose Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha or high school left-handed pitcher Matt Smoral.
See what I mean. What’s more, not only is draft week unsatisfying, but it’s also never-ending. Forty rounds will do that to you. Yes, 40 rounds. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s 40 rounds of “Who?’’
Former White Sox GM Ron Schueler drafted his daughter in the 43rd round in 1993. Epstein should draft Rahm Emanuel just so Tom Ricketts can get him on the phone.
For Cubs fans, this day and week really are about hope. As in, you hope this isn’t another Corey Patterson. Or Earl Cunningham. Or Luis Montanez. Or . . .
This day and this week also mark the beginning of learning the next class of players that Cubs fans will have the chance to over-love.
But that all comes later, and that’s the problem with the buildup and payoff. This day and week don’t bring the immediate, impactful result that we’re used to in baseball --- ball or strike, safe or out, Old Style or Bud.
We have to wait. And wait and wait and wait until the Cubs’ new saviors draft and develop championship talent. In the meantime, fans are left to root for the symmetry of 104 Cubs losses to match their 104th consecutive season without winning a World Series.
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