Ron Cey not a fan of trade-deadline sell-offs
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter August 26, 2013 10:48PM
Updated: August 27, 2013 9:39AM
LOS ANGELES — Ron Cey doesn’t claim to know a lot of details about the Cubs’ expansion-looking overhaul of the organization or how long it might take to produce a winner.
But 30 years after he joined the Cubs, he has a strong recollection of how successfully and how quickly the Cubs did this thing the last time a new owner hired somebody to do a culture-changing overhaul.
“We gave Chicago fans something they hadn’t seen in quite a while,” said Cey, the slugging third baseman on the storied 1984 Cubs. “Maybe ever.”
Granted, the means available to Dallas Green when he took over the baseball operations in 1982 was Apples and oranges compared to what team president Theo Epstein has.
“Everybody uses a computer these days,” said Cey, a six-time All-Star who now works with the Dodgers’ community-relations and marketing departments.
Green also had a different free-agency landscape, different player-acquisition rules and a different ownership dynamic.
The one thing Cey can see that he doesn’t like is the wholesale shipping out of veteran players with value, what he called “giving up early” on seasons.
He didn’t realize how much he understated that Cubs process —which presumed a trading-deadline sell-off before the last two seasons ever began as a means for stocking the farm system more quickly.
“You can’t continue to do that,” he said. “Loyal Cubs fans are going to continue to come out, but you can’t do that with the fans. There are a lot of people who’d love to see [the Cubs] getting into the postseason. And I think it would be great for baseball.
“Hopefully, your fans are going to get the best of what you have to offer. If it takes time to develop that, that’s fine. We’ll see what happens.”
It may sound easy to say from where Cey sits — as a member of a $2.1 billion franchise with the highest payroll in major-league history and a blank-check mandate from ownership to win.
“Our [plan] is pretty simple,” he said. “We’re going to be competitive. We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to assess our needs, and we now have the money to be competitive in bidding for a free-agent player.”
Nobody at the executive level in baseball — and few knowledgeable people in the bleachers — suggests the Cubs go throw money at free agents as a rebuilding method, especially with as few quality players in their prime getting to the marketplace these days.
But giving away seasons, or even “giving up early”?
“I don’t see it,” said Cey, who recalls a time when he was a free agent and Wrigley Field was not exactly as desirable as it seems to many players today.
“I rolled the dice a little bit with Dallas,” he said. “He promised me that he was going to get after this thing in a hurry.”
That involved raiding his old Phillies team for veterans Larry Bowa and Gary Matthews.
“None of us wanted to go over there and just finish out our career,” said Cey, whose Dodgers had battled those Phillies for pennants in recent seasons. “We wanted that to happen in Chicago, and Dallas said he was going to make it happen. And he did.”
Green also rebuilt the sagging farm system at the same time he put a winner on the field by his third year in charge, Cey’s second with the team.
“That’s hard to do,” Cey said, “very hard to do. . . . But Dallas was good to his word. He said he was going to do everything in his power to make this thing better.’’