Tuesday, March 6, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

2011 Record: 71-91

Key Additions: Theo Epstien (President), Jed Hoyer (GM), Dale Sveum (Manager), David DeJesus (OF), Ian Stewart (3B), Travis Wood (P), Manny Corpas (RP), Andy Sonnanstine (P), Chris
Volstad (P), Anthony Rizzo (1B), Paul Maholm (P), Gerardo Concepion (P), Nate Robertson (P), Adrian Cardenas (2B/SS)

Subtractions: Sean Marshall (RP), Carlos Zambrano (P), Aramis Ramirez (3B), Carlos Pena (1B), 2 Players to be Named Later (for Epstein/Hoyer), Jim Hendry (GM)

2012 Outlook: It seems strange to look at the Chicago Cubs offseason, because there are a lot of significant additions and only a few real subtractions. That kind of imbalance can signify a couple things, but in the Cubs case it signifies the start of an overhaul of the entire Chicago Cubs system by the new dynamic duo in charge. The Chicago Cubs made their two most significant additions off the field over the winter in the form of a new President of Baseball Operations in Theo Epstein (formerly of the Boston Red Sox) and a new General Manager in Jed Hoyer (formerly of the San Diego Padres). There are good things happening in the North Side of Chicago right now, but the unfortunate part is that these changes will take time. The easiest comparison is undoubtedly to how things changed in 2009 with the Blue Jays. When Alex Anthopoulos became the new GM, there was change in the atmosphere surrounding the Blue Jays, and everyone was suddenly on the same page. That is very much where the Chicago Cubs seem to be. The Cubs have the right guys at the top making the decisions and now the fans are giving the team the time to rebuild the system, find the right players, and build the team into a winner, and the fans will endure the road it takes to get there.

It’s all too easy to say that the Cubs haven’t won a World Series Championship since 1908 or been to the World Series since 1945, so waiting shouldn’t be that hard, but that really discounts the recent successes of the Chicago Cubs. They won the Central Division in 2003, 2007, and 2008 and have had very promising line-ups that just didn’t deliver, and most heart-breaking of all was the astronomical payrolls that accompanied some of the more disappointing seasons, but this is a new era. Epstein became GM of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 and two years later ended the Boston Red Sox 86 year World Series drought. If anyone can end the Chicago Cubs 104 year drought, he may be the guy. But that’s all of the stuff that happens off the field, what is going on, on the field?

Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez were huge parts of The Chicago Cubs 2011 line-up. Together they combined to hit 54 home runs and lead the team, and their bats are gone now, not to mention the arms of Sean Marshall and Carlos Zambrano as well (and the bat of Zambrano off the bench). However, as Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein begin rebuilding this team, they aren’t replacing veterans with other veterans, they are replacing them with future all-stars, and players will may become cornerstones of a championship team for the future. Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall were replaced by Travis Wood and Manny Corpas, and Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez were replaced by Anthony Rizzo and Ian Stewart/Adrian Cardenas. Travis Wood had one of the most impressive outings by a pitcher in just his third career start. He flirted with a perfect game for eight flawless innings before giving up a double in the ninth. What was most impressive about this outing was that he was facing Roy Halladay and was matching and in some innings out-dueling him. Anthony Rizzo is another key player in the future of the Chicago Cubs and has been following Jed Hoyer from team to team, so it’s obvious they expect big things from him down the road.

The team will also need players to step up and continue to development. 2012 will be a big year as they evaluate what they have on their hands. They need to see if Starlin Castro will be the franchise player they believe he will be. They need to see if players like Ian Stewart and Bryan LaHair can have productive seasons. David DeJesus has some added pressure to perform, as he was the Cubs biggest offseason acquisition as far as a financial commitment goes, and Matt Garza will need to anchor the rotation as questions about his status will continue to circulate until the day after the trade deadline as everyone will wonder if he is going to be traded away or extended.

The Final Count: 71-91, Fifth in the NL Central

The hard truth of the matter is that the Cubs are just at the start of a serious rebuild and it will take time. Win or lose, this season’s fate is almost predetermined. If the team is struggling then the young guys coming up through the minors will get a shot earlier than anticipated, and if the team is playing well up to the all-star break, successful pieces will be moved to improve the team for the long-haul. It’s most likely that players such as Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster will be trade chips by the deadline, as Epstein and Hoyer look to build the farm the old-fashioned way. It’s because of the path that the team is on that I predict the Cubs will finish with the exact same record as last season, but it will be an improved team. Must like Toronto’s 2011 record doesn’t accurately reflect what is really happening in Toronto, the Cubs record won’t really reflect Chicago’s situation. The Cubs will have a losing record and that’s okay, for this year at least. The future of the Chicago Cubs is bright once more, but there will be some bumps along the road to success.

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1 comment:

  1. As a Cub Fan, I hope you arew wrong. I see Cincinnati as a fluke, with the three main teams contending in the Central being the Cubs, The Cardinals and thwe Breweres. Pitsburg is going nowhere again, and Houston needs to do some serious rebuilding. Those are my feelings, and we shall see what the season brings.