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.