Epstein impressed by fans' commitment

ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein isn’t surprised by his team’s drop in attendance this season. In fact, he’s impressed with those who have come out to watch a last-place team.

“You can look at it both ways,” Epstein said before Friday night’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals. “We’ve traded 40 percent of our rotation two years in a row now and 2.6 million showed up to watch us play.”

The Cubs saw their paid attendance drop for the fifth straight season, drawing the lowest numbers since 1998. They're assured of a second consecutive last-place finish under Epstein as they rebuild the organization from top to bottom.

“All we can ask of our fans is to trust us we are working as hard as we can to make it happen,” Epstein said. “I would never spend someone’s money for them. But I will say the experience will be more rewarding if they’re around for the whole journey.”

That’s a sentiment Epstein has expressed before, asking fans to jump on board as the Cubs restock the system with talent.

“It’s a huge asset we have as an organization,” he said of Cubs fans. “I don’t doubt and will never doubt the dedication of our fans.”

Epstein likes to talk of the “health” of the organization and believes it’s better now than a year ago and the year before that. While he can’t say for sure when the team will turn the corner, he’s committed to a plan that will include spending money -- once it’s realized from new television deals and the renovation of Wrigley Field.

“That’s coming in the future, but we’re not exactly sure, yet,” Epstein explained. “The general business plan and the general baseball plan for the organization are more or less synced up.

“Do we have it down to an exact year we’re going to achieve a certain amount of wins or when we’re going to have X amount of additional dollars to spend? No. We’ve had to remain flexible because there are a lot of variables involved.”

What that means is developing the prospects, then finding the holes on the field that need to be filled. By that time money should be available to spend on specific free agents.

At least that’s the plan.