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updated: 4/22/2013 10:31 PM

Less than year into Epstein plan, some Cubs fans panic

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  • Cubs president Theo Epstein isn't likely to waver from his long-term plan, even if many fans don't like what they're seeing.

    Cubs president Theo Epstein isn't likely to waver from his long-term plan, even if many fans don't like what they're seeing.
    Associated Press


It's been a grand total of 10 months.

Not even a year since Theo Epstein's first draft, just about 322 days since the Cubs began rebuilding the baseball side of an organization that has not had a plan in place for several decades.

And there is already panic in the streets, despair over the lack of progress, demands that the team show improvement in the very near future.

For the love of Ty Waller and all that's holy, what is taking so long?

It has to make Epstein laugh -- or wonder if he had any idea what he was getting himself into.

If he didn't walk away upon seeing Ronnie Woo-Woo on Day 1, he's probably not going to run away screaming now.

But you wouldn't blame him if he did.

It seems a majority of Cubs fans understand what Epstein is doing and support the effort toward putting together an organization that can compete for a playoff spot -- and therefore a World Series -- annually, though I could be wrong about that majority.

And some already have abandoned ship.

The fact that the Cubs are so bad is further proof of how much work they need, not a call to start spending money on patchwork free agents that will merely serve to middle the Cubs again, something they've done unsuccessfully for dozens of years.

This is not an indictment of every Cubs executive of the last 30 years. Poor decisions made above the level of GM have forced some bright men to make equally bad decisions.

And some were just bad at what they did, throwing good money after bad and attempting to salvage seasons with acquisitions that did little to help the short term and much to harm the long term.

Some Cubs fans, though, want precisely that again. They see reports about how much money the Cubs are making and they want Epstein out there buying free agents so that the Cubs can finish .500 again.

That's how the Cubs got here, trading young players and spending money for the opportunity to be mediocre.

Oddly, people seem to have forgotten that they didn't much care for that approach either, accusing the Cubs of trying to sell tickets and filling the park by doing a little of this and a little of that.

And a little of this wouldn't even get the Cubs a little of that right now.

When you see them signing every arm they can find on the scrap heap, changing the roster daily in an attempt to find major-league caliber players, it drives home the reality that they are incredibly far away from competing, not proof that Epstein has failed.

Epstein arrived intending to overspend and over-slot in the draft, and pour resources into the international market, but those tools were removed in the latest CBA. Only weeks after taking over, Epstein knew the process would be extended.

Look, it's painful and unpleasant. Obviously, no one wants to watch this, and few enjoy paying for it.

The suggestion here is not that anyone who is upset about it should enjoy this baseball or pay for it. If it offends you, don't watch, don't go and don't pay.

The people I know who continue to spend their money on the Cubs see it as an investment, believing that there will be a day somewhere down the road when they'll be glad they kept their season tickets.

That day will not arrive this year and it will not be next year. There's no promise that it will be the year after that. There's no promise that it will ever happen, and there's no law that says you have to like this plan, believe in it or ever watch the Cubs again.

But there is at least a long-term plan in place, and Epstein has been given the opportunity no Cubs boss has been given since Dallas Green.

Green's mistake is that he won too quickly, attempted to go for the big prize fast and eventually got fired in a power struggle with ownership, and here we are some 30 years later waiting for someone to try again to build a baseball team from the bottom up.

Theo Epstein is trying, and he doesn't seem likely to buckle to the pressure or the anger over a particular season.

He may yet have to change his plan, as he sees teams locking up their young stars earlier than ever, afraid to let them near the market with skyrocketing prices, especially for pitching.

It's why he paid for Edwin Jackson last winter, years ahead of actually needing Jackson to pitch for a winning team. Jackson may be here then, or he may become a valuable trade commodity long before that.

Either way, Epstein has a plan and he won't be forced into changing it by an angry fan base, even if he respects and understands the resentment.

The day he accepted the job here, Epstein reminded us of the Bill Parcells line, when the Hall of Fame coach said, "If you listen to the fans in the stands, pretty soon you'll be sitting with them."

That's just one of the many reasons it's been 104 years.

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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