A couple years ago, Kent Sterling of ESPN Radio wrote a piece on why the 2009 Chicago Cubs would not win. Recall, the 2008 iteration of the Cubs had won 97 regular season games, and looked as good as any team in baseball (until that whole “playoffs” thing, but memory has a way of self-protection), and very, very few people were predicting that the 2009 Cubs would miss the playoffs, let alone struggle as much as Kent suggested.

I took issue with Kent’s position – not necessarily whether the Cubs would win that year (I avoided that question, but if you’d asked me, I would have told you the Cubs would tear it up, and you would have laughed at me for using that tired expression), but because his reasons were laughably absurd. I subsequently beefed in Kent’s article’s comments, and he beefed in mine. Everyone had a grand ‘ole time.

Ultimately, he was right that the Cubs would suck in 2009 (though his reasons remain nuts). And now he says the 2011 Cubs are going to suck, and this time, it’s really hard to argue with him.

How in the hell can a baseball team with one player (Marlon Byrd; Ted Lilly was the Cubs rep in the game in 2009, but is no longer with the team) who has made an all-star team over the past two seasons sit fat and happy with a roster deserving only tweaks?

The Cubs do not have a first baseman.  They don’t have a second baseman.  Their third baseman is on the downside of a solid career, and he can’t stay healthy.  Tyler Colvin is solid in right, but still relatively unproven and has a very limited command of the strike zone.  Marlon Byrd in center is good enough to help any team win.  Alfonso Soriano is a free swinging kook, and the worst defensive left fielder at Wrigley Field since Hank Sauer (Sauer will dispute that).  Castro will be an asset for a generation is he builds on what he showed last year.  Geovany Soto will either be the outstanding backstop he was in 2008 and 2010 or the pathetic stooge he was in 2009.

The starting pitching is okay with Carlos Zambrano pitching well, but what if he’s batshit again?  Then, the Cubs have Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, Randy Wells, Tom Gorzelanny, and Casey Coleman.  The bullpen minus Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall is either unproven (Andrew Cashner) or pitiful (the rest).

Is there another general manager in baseball who would look at this roster and say the Cubs are only a few tweaks away from potentially winning a World Series?  It’s an outrage for the Ricketts Family to continue to ask fans to pay top dollar (the top average ticket price in baseball) for tickets to watch this group play baseball. KentSterling.com.

Pretty much spot on, though it’s a bit easier to be prescient this time around. This roster does not look like a championship-caliber roster. I’ll add the caveat that, if ownership says there’s no money to spend, what choice does Hendry have but to tow the line and say “yup, we just need a few tweaks (because that’s all we can afford), and we’ll be competitive. Please come to the games.”

Still, unless Hendry gets really creative on the trade market, it is going to be very hard to go into 2011 optimistic about the team’s chances. But who knows, I couldn’t have been more optimistic going into 2009, and look where that got me.

  • Tanner

    What do YOU think it will take for the Cubs to “not suck”? What pieces do they need? I want to know what you are thinking.

    • Ace

      I think, given the budgetary constraints and the current players under contract, it will take a few career seasons from guys already on the roster for the Cubs to not suck. I don’t think the realistic pieces they can add – whether it’s a Jon Garland and a Carlos Pena, or a Jake Westbrook and a Nick Johnson – are going to make this team a winner. I do believe the team already has the pieces to theoretically win (would I bet on it? um, no), but it cannot continue the path it’s been on – namely, half-assing it. Either tear down and rebuild, or spend like nuts and go after the Cliff Lees and Jayson Werths of the free agent world.

      The future could be bright, but only if the Cubs stop ceaselessly signing mediocre talent to heavily backloaded contracts.

  • Cardfan

    I take no comfort in this. The 2010 Padres looked MUCH worse coming into the season.

    The only part that truly confuses me is the persistence with Hendry. He should be an afterthought by now. You could argue that, in the history of baseball, no GM has done so little with so much. Is the bar really set that low? Is there such an affinity to disappointment that you would not hold him to a higher standard? I can honestly say that if Cubs ownership came out and stated that they were increasing payroll by 20% in 2011, I would not lose sleep over it knowing that you have Hendry spending the money.

  • Butcher

    The best thing for the Cubs would be for Hendry to truly commit to a rebuild. Trade Dempster, Fukudome, Ramirez, and Zambrano — basically anyone who won’t be on the team in the next two or three years. Bring in the youngsters and trim the payroll way down. Look ahead to 2012 or 2013.

    Unfortunately, Hendry probably feels (rightfully so) that his job is on the line and has to at least make an effort to win with the current roster.

    The Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, and probably Astros don’t have to worry about the Cubs in 2011.


  • Willis

    Can’t agree more cardfan. There is 0% accountability with this ballclub right now. The owners are too worried about a noodle and upgrading the bathroom to even realize the hell that is going on beneath them. They care much more about randomness and their bottom line than building a winner. If they cared, they would have brought in their own regime and turned this front office upside down last year. But…

    They didn’t. And it seems to me they are very happy with the staus quo. So definitely don’t lose any sleep over it. 70-75 wins is the ceiling unless some major trades are accomplished. Which with Hendry is a possibility, but not much in terms of proven assets to use as trade bait.

  • CubsFanatic

    We haven’t even seen what they do this off-season guys. Seriously. Where is the cubbie faith? I’m waiting till after all the players I hope they get or anyone good is/are gone. My hopes are Victor Martinez, Orlando Hudson, Adam LaRoche and Adrian. But I don’t want to give too much up for Adrian for just one year unless an extension is guaranteed. And even if then, he could still end up sucking. Lets just wait a little bit longer shall we guys? :)

  • pfk

    Spot on! They will still be below the Reds, Cards and Brewers. I’d rather the owners (Hendry only speaks what he is told) be straight and call a spade a spade and say, “Look this franchise needs all new infrastructure: minor league player development, scouting, vastly improved players facilities at Wrigley, vastly improved spring training facilities, etc. We will surely try and improve but we’re not trying to sell you we are going to the Series. Support us because we ARE moving in the right direction: Triangle building, new Mesa facility, increased minor league player development budget, etc. We’ll get there and we’ll have some exciting youngsters you’ll want to see.” THAT I can get behind – not this, “We only need to tweak….” They will stink in 2011 but I think they are doing the things to be solid down the road – just be upfront about it.

    • Bric

      Great points. We all know Hendry is feeling the heat, but the question is how is he going to respond? Now that Lou’s gone he’ll be the one fielding all the questions at the Cubs convention, which looks to be brutal. That, I suppose, provides a little optimism. If there’s one thing the guy is good at, it’s protecting his job, so I imagine he’ll have a little more gas in the tank to make some moves before then. Too bad A. Gon doesn’t play for the Orioles. Do you think he’s still got another sucker of a GM out there to sell his used cars to? Unfortunately not. It seems the economy has effected every team but the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees. “Up next is Baseball Tonight, with former GM Jim Hendry…”

  • art

    I predicted the Cubs would be bad in 2009 and here’s why.

    Louie and Hank.
    1. Louie’s bad managing, he didn’t adjust for the playoffs after the poor September. everyone looks at the playoff disaster in 2008. what people never have mentioned is September of 2008 they were a bad 500 (12-12) team, they were the worse playoff team going in and he didn’t adjust. Fukudome was very bad from mid May and Louie kept playing him right through the playoffs. he played the guys who were bad and sat the ones he should have played. then late last year he told an out of state writer that “they (players) blew the playoffs in 2007/2008”. remember this is the guy who quit on Tampa, than blamed the owner.

    2. Louie telling Hank he needed more left handed hitting and Hank listening and breaking up a 97 win team. I believe Louie quit in mid 2009, I believe he wanted to get fired.

    they lost the 2008 playoffs cause Louie didn’t adjust. when something isn’t working you fix it. despite Fukudome and Louie’s bad managing they won 97 games. hell Reed Johnson was better than Fukudome.

    as far as 2011, hell we all expect them to suck. tell us something new, lol.