So far, there have been three iterations of the MLB Daily Dish Front Office Confidence Survey, the third of which we released this morning. And no team has dominated those polls like the Chicago Cubs:
The Cubs have finished first in each of these polls, with fans flocking to praise Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and their leadership teams. In 151 responses last week, 141 of them (93.4%) report being “very confident” in the direction the team has been going, with another six listing themselves as merely “confident.”
And why not? The Cubbies won 97 games last year and made it to the NLCS, and are on pace to finish with 102 wins this year. Despite making major cash outlays for Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, and Ben Zobrist, the Cubs still are still a young team at many key positions, and getting younger with the additions of Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Albert Almora to their roster (to say nothing about Kyle Schwarber). The team’s ownership has proven itself smart and capable, and are willing to spend to upgrade both the major league roster and to maintain a strong farm system.
This poll would have looked exceptionally different if it was taken in the wake of the 2012 season, Epstein and Hoyer’s first on the job in Chicago. Even after moves to acquire Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Hendricks, and signing Jorge Soler as an amateur, 101 losses is a tough pill to swallow. Then that offseason, they inked Edwin Jackson and Carlos Villanueva to a couple of questionable free agent deals. But then they drafted Kris Bryant and traded for Jake Arrieta. They signed Jason Hammel and traded him and Jeff Samardzija for Addison Russell and more, and they drafted Kyle Schwarber.
They would improve gradually and steadily, sticking with the plan, until they felt ready to make a big jump. Finally, when that right moment presented itself, they struck. Before 2015, they traded for Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler. They re-signed Hammel, and signed Jon Lester. All of these moves have been successes. After 2015, they traded Starlin Castro and signed Zobrist. They signed John Lackey and Heyward. Fowler even came back at the last minute. Seemingly every move, except the decision to sign Heyward, has paid dividends, including the one to bring in Aroldis Chapman (from a baseball perspective at least).
Epstein, Hoyer and the rest of their team have earned a tremendous amount of trust. And their composite scores in our survey reflect that.
The narrative feedback is overwhelmingly positive as well, highlighting not just the excellent job they’ve done but the difference between this regime and previous Cubs front offices:
“Because finally we have a front office thats doing it right not halfway but the rightway GO CUBS” – @Mrcub1954
“I love how they have taken a team that was horribly mismanaged and made them very competitive.” - @playmakr882000
“97 wins in 2015, on pace for 100 wins in 2016... Lost 89 games in 2014 and 96 in 2013... Safe to say the plan has worked” - @bRabe13
“They had a plan from Day 1 Theo took control. They have not wavered and have built a powerful team through scouting, drafting and developing.” – anonymous
“Theo and Co. have done a fantastic job on building, drafting and restocking the team, in such a short time.” - @Midwestwholesa
“The incredible talent at the big level, a competent on field manager (and staff), and a loaded minor league system, and they fortified the big league bullpen to make a run at the series. What more can be said?” – anonymous
“Jed and Theo have done an exemplary job thus far. I think I can speak for most Cubs fans and say we are supremely confident in their knowledge and abilities going forward.” - @MLaskero13
Even the fans who can’t quite bring themselves to giving Epstein and Hoyer full marks have trouble explaining why without invoking the team’s ancient past:
“The concern that I feel is best described as Cubs angst. If we were some other team I would be very confident instead of just confident. Giving up so much for Chapman does not hurt our system too much, but I'd prefer to give up the same or a bit more for Miller instead considering what CLE got him for. He is a slightly lesser pitcher in my eyes but contains no baggage and has remaining years on his contract. All in all, I would have parted with Schawrber if it meant getting a true impact player. Between Hayward, Fowler, Soler, and Alamora I am not concerned with long term outfield depth and I think he could have brought back a special piece to bring a miracle to the North Side” - @beers4boozer
Except here’s the thing: If and when (come on, it’s when, and that when is soon) the Cubs do win a World Series, it won’t be a miracle. It’ll be because of the excellent work this team has done at putting together a winner, and how obvious their successes have been. Fans are already immensely satisfied. When the inevitable finally happens, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will own Chicago. And the next time we do one of these surveys, they may wind up breaking it.