And it seems like forever ago, especially in a sport that's now barely recognizable compared to what it was even a couple years prior, let alone when Epstein arrived in October 2011.
In one of the first moves in what Epstein foreshadowed as a "reckoning" after three seasons of underachievement, he moved Jason McLeod from his position as head of amateur scouting to a title at the same level as head of player personnel. Epstein called it a "lateral move," and it's clear that it was made to put a new set of eyes on drafting and development.
It had been only a short period of time, but the Cubs are no longer on the forefront of either of those areas, having been outstripped by at least the Astros and Dodgers and perhaps other counterparts ahead of or closer to the curve regarding the image-aided engineering of pitches and swings, pitchers and hitters. So much about what we thought we knew has been changed, with the very concept of talent itself now a subject of discussion as some major league skills are being discovered in unexpected ways and places, at times seemingly built from scratch.
McLeod was one of the made guys, going back with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to their shared days in Boston. It's significant that he's being told to cede his responsibilities to somebody else.
And to be fair, the reasons for the Cubs system's steady slide down the prospect power rankings are multiple and understandable. Their high picks that were the payoff for the pain of so many losses were turned into fast-tracked contributors: They quickly graduated up and out of the minors, even if there has been some disappointingly uneven evolution after that. There were numerous trades of talented assets as the focus has been on maximizing wins by bolstering the big league roster as necessitated throughout the competitive years, and their draft position reflected their dramatically increased win totals. New ru