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Ivey: Rebuilds pay off for patient teams

| Monday, August 31, 2015

The race for October in Major League Baseball is heating up, and several teams are fighting for playoff spots — and with the addition of the second wild card spot, the race is more exciting than it has ever been.

The New York Mets, Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays are all teams that missed the playoffs last year that are currently in a playoff spot, a couple of which were among the worst teams in baseball last year. Yet here they are on the cusp of October.

How might this be, you ask? Several of these teams have been going through a rebuilding process over the last couple of years that are finally coming to fruition.

Let’s start with the Cubs, whose championship history, or lack thereof, is very well known. They had some memorable seasons nearly a decade ago under manager Lou Piniella, but both the 2007 and 2008 campaigns ended with postseason disappointment. After three bad seasons from 2009-2011, management decided they’d had enough, and owner Tom Ricketts cleaned house, hiring Theo Epstein to become president of baseball operations.

Epstein, who led to Red Sox to two World Series crowns as general manager, promised fans that the Cubs rebuild might be long, but worth it. He then hired Jed Hoyer to be the Cubs’ general manager and Dale Sveum to be the new manager. In the first three years of Epstein’s term though, the Cubs finished last in their division. However, during that time, Epstein made many executive moves that focused on the future. He completely rebuilt the Cubs’ minor league system, which is now considered one of the best in baseball, through great draft classes, trades and free agency.

After two years of Dale Sveum and one year of Rick Renteria as manager, in October, the Cubs hired former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon to take over the same position. Maddon is notable for his easy-going personality and unorthodox ways of managing, but still, the Cubs weren’t picked to be a playoff team by many before this season.

It is now September, and the Cubs have the one of the best records in baseball, even though they are currently in third place in their division. Several of their top prospects have made their major-league debuts this season and have made big contributions to the Cubs’ playoff run. It looks like after three long years, the rebuild is finally starting to show some results.

The Astros are a similar story. They finished with the worst record in all of baseball for three straight years before finishing last season with the fourth-worst mark. But they spent that time working on their youth, and their bad records allowed them to make several high draft picks that have completely changed their minor-league system. They’ve also made several trades and free agent signings and currently sit in first place of the AL West.

The Blue Jays, who haven’t made the playoffs since their World Series crown in 1993, are another example. Nearly six years ago, the Blue Jays appointed Alex Anthopoulos as their new GM. During his tenure, Anthopoulos has made several notable trades, including sending Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and acquiring players like José Reyes, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Donaldson in other trades.

In July, Anthopoulos traded Reyes and prospects to the Colorado Rockies for all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. A couple days later, he traded for all-star pitcher David Price. Those moves revitalized the Blue Jays, and they went on a tear in August to overtake the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.

Rebuilds come in all shapes and sizes. Most are long and seem like they take forever. But if you’re patient enough, the wait eventually pays off. The second half of this baseball season is proof of that. So if your team is struggling, just be patient. Good things come to those who wait.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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