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Cubs are a franchise with long-term perspective

Updated: December 10, 2013 6:15AM



The Cubs’ business operations and baseball operations came together Friday in a slick sales pitch to season-ticket holders filled with promises about revenue prospects and baseball prospects one day coming together in a glorious October victory at Wrigley Field.

It was as close as those two sides of the operation figure to be for years with their respective plans.

That much became clear to anyone who didn’t already know it before this first-time event for a price-gouged, loss-weary customer base at Bank of America Theatre downtown on Friday.

From business president Crane Kenney’s talking-point explanations for why the Cubs haven’t broken ground on a revenue-producing Wrigley rehab planned as a five-year project, to baseball president Theo Epstein’s admission that the Edwin Jackson signing last winter — regardless of his disappointing 2013 performance — was probably a mistake of timing.

“We got a little ahead of ourselves. We’re not perfect,” Epstein told a fan who asked to explain how Jackson’s four-year, $52 million free-agent deal fit the baseball development plan. “We didn’t fully understand the scope of our situation, the overall situation with the timing of our business plan, the timing of our facilities and the timing of our baseball plan.

“And if we had the full knowledge at that time, if we had done a better job of grasping it and analyzing it, maybe we would have been more patient.”

But the Cubs still needed pitching, he added. And Jackson, 30, should have a reasonable chance to live up to his $11 million average salary the next three years. If the Cubs had been able to sign their first choice, Cy Young finalist Anibal Sanchez, it’s unlikely anybody would be questioning the move.

The larger issue remains a competitive timeline that appears longer-term than Epstein’s department projected even a year ago, before protracted wrangling with city and neighborhood leaders over renovation approvals backed up the starting line for an already capital-sensitive business operation.

It’s why the Cubs are banking so heavily on their top young players that Epstein admittedly felt the need to make the managerial change that resulted in the tough-love, reputed-prospect-whisperer Rick Renteria being hired this week.

It’s why the Cubs won’t be serious players for prized, young Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka. Why the Cubs enter 2014 in a third consecutive season of acquisition mode.

And why Jackson might remain a touchstone for this process.

“It’s important for us to remember the plan that’s in place and stay focused on building that core,” Epstein said. “But if there’s an opportunity to acquire an asset at a fair price, we also have to be aggressive and pick our spots.’’

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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