I have called you all here today to lay to rest the latest installment of the lovable losers of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs.
It was a year where almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Cubbies. Every move management made in the offseason fell flat on its face. The 2009 Cubs had a few things go right, but it was mostly a year of unmet expectations and underachievement.
The ghosts of Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa haunted Waveland Ave. It took the Cubs three-quarters of the season to figure out that Kevin Gregg wasn't going to replace Wood. When Mark DeRosa returned to Wrigley as a Cleveland Indian, he got a standing ovation, as the Cub faithful truly missed the consistent, high-character infielder.
Things just didn't go well for the Cubs in '09. Alfonso Soriano looked lost in left field all year. The bullpen was a crap shoot night in and night out. Aramis Ramirez, the only true RBI hitter on the team, still can't shake the injury bug. The only thing Geovany Soto hit this season was the bong.
It was a terrible year.
We all knew what we were getting with Milton Bradley: a guy with great numbers and history of attitude problems. All we got was the attitude. Bradley showed some life in recent weeks, but when the Cubs were actually in the race for the division, he was pitiful at the plate, citing the fans and the day games as excuses for his poor play.
As big as a disaster Milton Bradley was for the 2009 Cubs, I would have to give the biggest disappointment award to Alfonso Soriano.
Soriano might be the most overpaid player in the MLB this season, making $17 million and batting .241 with a measly 55 RBI. You just can't have a marquee player like that under-perform to that degree and expect to be successful. Perhaps the drawn out sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family kept the team from making the midseason moves they wanted, but that doesn't excuse the play on the field.
What's depressing is Ramirez has the second most RBI on the team, behind Derrek Lee, and he missed half the season. Lee can't be blamed for the poor year, as he's having a great year batting .300 with 31 HRs and 96 RBI.
Another bright spot was Ted Lilly, who turned out to be this season's most reliable arm, ahead of Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Rich Harden. Lilly's current ERA of 3.17 is the best of his 10-year playing career.
Another bright spot in the rotation has been newcomer Randy Wells, who has the lowest ERA of Cubs starters at 2.84. Ryan Theriot has played his role adequately at shortstop, batting .286 and knocking in 50 RBI.
Should Cubs manager Lou Piniella lose his job after the disappointment that was this season?
I don't know how you fire a guy when in his first two seasons the Cubs won the division. I know that Cubs fans expect victories now, but looking back at the history of the organization, two division titles in three years is pretty damn good. Lou deserves another year to right the ship.
Management needs to make better moves this offseason. The team needs another RBI hitter that isn't a head case (i.e. Milton Bradley). I'm not sure Zambrano can be the ace the Cubs need him to be, as he continues to battle with inconsistency.
One could hope that with the new ownership in place, some smart moves will be made that will revitalize the Cubbies, but people on the north side of Chicago have the right to some healthy pessimism. There still may be a few weeks left in the season to play, but Cubs fans will have to look to next year to break the now 100-year curse.
Goodbye, 2009 Cubs. You won't be missed.
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