Rozner: No time for Chicago Cubs to rest
Much went right for the Cubs in 2015 as they took major steps forward, but not enough to win the World Series.
So where do they go from here?
"Once you reach a point where you have a pretty good team, you approach the off-season in two ways," said Cubs president Theo Epstein. "One is looking for areas to get better, looking for areas of obvious improvement.
"The second is trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong that could get in the way of you being really good again next year, game planning for as many of those things as you can."
Well, this is something different. A Cubs management team is planning ahead.
"You try to create as much depth, as much redundancy, as much versatility as you possibly can so that there's not any one or two bad events that can sabotage your entire season," Epstein said. "We don't go into 2016 assuming all of our players will stay healthy or assuming healthy starting pitching.
"You almost have to go in assuming someone will go down, there will be a freak injury or that someone will fade away. It's really hard to attain, but set the goal for having enough depth that it has to be a long list of things going wrong to sabotage your season and keep you from getting back to October."
As for areas of improvement, the Cubs knew they needed more starting pitching long before they ran into the New York Mets.
It feels like they need at least two starters, one of which they'll find on the free agent market. Let's say they add David Price, Zack Greinke or Jordan Zimmermann. With Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, that's a formidable 1-2-3.
You could probably live with Jason Hammel or Kyle Hendricks as a No. 5, but Joe Maddon and Hammel hardly love one another and you wonder if he doesn't become a trade piece, even though Epstein said he believes Hammel will bounce back next season.
Epstein doesn't want to subtract from his position player depth, but Starlin Castro's value might never be higher than it is right now and he could bring some starting pitching depth in return.
The back of the bullpen wasn't the issue in the postseason, but an eighth-inning specialist would be a good add. The middle relief doesn't seem to be a problem because Chris Bosio is able to take guys off the street and make them serviceable parts.
Come playoff time, the Cubs will need to control the running game, which makes catcher an issue again, though Price -- who has never won a playoff game -- allowed one stolen base in 243 innings in 2016.
As for the offense, it figures to be even better in 2016, with an eye toward a more versatile offense in October.
"I don't have any worry whatsoever that having accomplished so much this year, that our young players will show up complacent next year," Epstein said. "I think the opposite is true.
"Watching them watch the Mets celebrate, they're gonna come back extremely hungry and focused and in great shape, and ready to take it to the next level.
"I wish Opening Day were next week."
As do many, at least the ones who understand from whence the Cubs have come and where they intend to go, with multiple chances over the next 10 years to win a World Series. There's no guarantees, naturally, but with multiple chances the odds increase.
That's the plan, difficult as it might be for some to comprehend.
The champagne in the Mets' clubhouse wasn't even dry when the crustiest resumed a hopeless misunderstanding of the program with the same tired refrain.
Yup, Tom Ricketts only wants to make money.
The Cubs would have reached the World Series if Kris Bryant had been here on Opening Day.
And if Epstein cared at all about winning, he would have traded Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell for a rental, giving them a chance at a single wild-card, coin-flip game.
Never mind they wouldn't have made the playoffs without the kids. Never mind they can sign a pitcher this winter and keep Schwarber, Bryant and Russell. And never mind that the Cubs were 10½ games out of first on July 31.
Yeah, trade all the kids for a coin-flip game. That's baseball brilliance.
The truthers still believe six is greater than seven. The world is flat. Black cats lose baseball games. Jeff Samardzija for Russell was a disaster.
Yes, there are people walking free among us who actually believe such absurdity, unable to remember where the Cubs were last winter, in spring training or at the trade deadline, not to mention the last 50 years.
They can't be helped so you simply let them walk around with crumbs on their chins and stains on their shirts and look ahead to what might be next, which is another busy winter for the North Siders.
The hot stove has never been more inviting.
• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.