Lack of Respect

As we have alluded to once before in this space, many in the Cubs' front office admit they never felt the club's farm system was quite as strong as some of the so-called experts were boasting several years ago when the organization was frequently ranked in the upper echelon of minor league talent.

Many of the same gunslingers who did the rankings then are the same ones compiling rankings today, and now feel the system is not what it used to be.

In a recent story by ESPN.com's Keith Law, the former Toronto Blue Jays special assistant to the general manager ranked the Cubs' farm system in the mid to lower pack of the 30 major league clubs. Without going into much detail, Law said there is not a lot to get excited about in the Cubs' system with the exception of five-tool talent Felix Pie.

Additionally, in the past few years the Cubs' system has also been on the outs with Baseball America, who annually releases their own rankings of the top 30 farm systems in major league baseball.

But for every player who hasn't panned out as well as those and other publications predicted, there is a new wave of players coming into the spotlight.

Familiar names such as Brownlie, Blasko and Hagerty are now overshadowed by the likes of Veal, Pawelek, and Gallagher.

Alas, talk is still cheap.

"You always hear that a lot of guys weren't as good as everybody thought they were," said Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita. "They said that about Detroit a few years ago and those guys went out and picked up some much needed major league experience."

The Cubs aren't comparing their current situation to that of Detroit's pre-2006, nor do they find inspiration from the young team that found just the right leadership and advanced to the World Series as consensus favorites. Cubs players, coaches, and instructors alike all say that winning is self-instilled by everyone in the organization – no matter the level of play.

Just how much are the Cubs winning at the minor league level anyway? The organization finished tied for 13th overall in winning percentage at the minor league level in 2006 (they were 387-375 overall for a .508 mark). The New York Yankees had the highest winning percentage with 468 victories to only 358 losses for a .567 mark overall.

Overall, the Cubs feel they have been able to combine some winning with the development process.

"I felt we were as good as anybody at any (minor league) level last year," said Fleita, who is entering his eighth season as Cubs Farm Director. "Every one of our affiliates was in [the playoff race] at the end."

In every sport, winning is the only thing that counts. But as far as the farm system goes, many if not most are quick to point out that the minor leagues are more about the development of players rather than winning and losing as a whole. This is not to say that the Cubs undervalue either one.

As for the respect (or lack thereof) from some of the sources referenced above, the beauty is that the success of players, in their quests for championships alike, has never quite been determined by those who only write about such matters. Just ask that Manning guy.


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