On October 13, 2011 it was reported the Cubs had agreed to a deal with Red Sox GM/Executive Vice President Theo Epstein. When Epstein was introduced as the Cubs new President of Baseball Operations he said they were going to build the best baseball operation and best baseball culture in order to construct a foundation for success. The goal was to have a team for the long-term. A team that more often than not would make it to the playoffs and give themselves a chance at the World Series. Despite a lot of losing and a much maligned first few seasons the Cubs made it to the NLCS in 2015 and this year finished with the best record in baseball. They are considered by many to be World Series favorites. And Epstein just signed a new 5-year deal to remain with the team.
Robin Ventura was hired to be the manager of the White Sox on October 6, 2011 in what many considered to be a surprise move. Ventura had never been a coach at any professional level and had never really even expressed much interest in coaching. But he was put in the middle of the Sox’s seemingly perpetual “win now” mentality. During his tenure Ventura was consistently defended by the front office despite losing records. He weathered the Adam LaRoche saga. The team added high profile players and had two of the best starting pitchers in the AL yet never made the playoffs under Ventura. On Sunday Robin Ventura officially announced he will not be returning as White Sox manager next season. He will be replaced by current Sox bench coach and former Cubs manager Rick Renteria.
In the five seasons since Theo Epstein took over the Cubs they are 400-409, according to Baseball Reference. They have now made the playoffs two times. Under Robin Ventura the Sox were 375-435 over the same time frame. The Cubs’ record improved every season while the Sox were remarkable in their consistent mediocrity. The Cubs were purposefully bad for the first three years under Epstein. 2015 was a surprise; a year ahead of schedule. The White Sox have been trying to win the whole time.
Will the Cubs win the World Series this year? The MLB playoffs are a statistical crapshoot, so who knows? But they are in the playoffs, and that’s the key. That was Epstein’s stated goal. Get to the playoffs as many times as possible to maximize the chances of World Series success. And for the foreseeable future the Cubs will be the best in their division. They will be one of the best teams in the NL. They will be one of the best teams in MLB. They will be in the playoffs.
The White Sox are not in the playoffs. Following an improbable 23-10 beginning of the season the season went severely downhill. There was never much hope for the playoffs. There remains little hope for the playoffs. Maximizing for each and every year has not paid off. That’s not to say it can’t, see 2005. But everything has to go right. And it’s been seven years since the Sox made the playoffs. Hoping for the best, realizing the worst. And it would be wrong to place all responsibility on Robin Ventura. The win-now strategy was in place long before he became manager. He merely steered the ship, he did not build it.
Maybe the Sox can rebuild once again this offseason, Rick Renteria can push all the right buttons and the Sox will make the playoffs. But would you bet on it? Or would you rather place your bet on the Cubs? The team who built for the future in order to consistently make the playoffs and increase their likelihood of winning a World Series. The team who purposefully lost for three years, only to have the better record in the long-run.