The 2011 Chicago Cubs season ends today. Unlike most seasons, there aren’t a huge number of positives to take away from an otherwise crummy year. Starlin Castro and Matt Garza were bright spots. Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena less so, but still quite good. The bullpen, outside of Carlos Marmol, was very solid.

  • Today’s start could be Ryan Dempster’s last with the Cubs. He holds a $14 million player option for 2012, but he hasn’t yet committed to returning.
  • I’m not terribly interested in discussing ‘Catching Hell,’ which, yes, I did watch last night. Miserably. It was at least as painful watching the high points of the 2003 season as it was watching the lowlights from Game Six. Of course I feel bad for Steve Bartman. You’re not human if – after eight years to reflect – you don’t. But I still feel bad for myself. That isn’t going to stop. As I’ve said before, I’ll be writing about the Bartman foul ball in the near future, and will discuss the documentary at that time. Until then, I choose to leave it as buried as I can.
  • Carlos Zambrano is selling his house! He must be conceding that he’s leaving Chicago! … er, well, he’s actually selling one of two Chicago area homes, and people sell their houses for any number of reasons. The predictive value here is low – much lower, for instance, than Tom Ricketts explicitly saying he doesn’t see Zambrano pitching again for the Cubs.
  • Cubs’ pitching coach Mark Riggins discussed the decision to keep Andrew Cashner in the bullpen for the Arizona Fall League, where it had been originally planned that he would start. Riggins says Cashner will be on a pitch count, but could conceivably pitch in two inning stretches. As for starting, it’s something Riggins thinks could still be in Cashner’s future. “Right now, we’re just hoping he has a great fall league,” Riggins said. “I don’t think starting is out of the question. It’s just, what’s best for him.”
  • Riggins also says that Carlos Marmol needs to work on his delivery and his consistency. In other insightful analysis, the Pittsburgh Pirates just need to win some more games.
  • Brett Jackson and Jeff Beliveau have started training with Team USA for the upcoming Pan Am Games. The two prospects will compete with US team starting October 2.
  • Carlos Pena is just the fourth Cub in the last 80 years to walk 100 times in a season.
  • Andrew

    “Riggins also says that Carlos Marmol needs to work on his delivery and his consistency. In other insightful analysis, the Pittsburgh Pirates just need to win some more games.”

    This is why I read this site every day.  Love the Cubs… but I do like it when a writer can also look objectively enough at the Cubs to rip them when needed.  And Riggins needs some ripping.

  • Toosh

    Would Alou have caught that ball? We’ll never know due to Bartman. Had Alou caught that ball, would the Cubs have won that game? We’ll never know.

  • CubFan Paul

    ..i remember a “Talkin Baseball” interview on August 6th with Andrew Cashner and even then he said he wanted to come back & start, so that he could start the stretching out process before the season ends. Cashner has to be pissed about the kid gloves he’s being handled with ..i would be

    ..even if he’s the 5th starter next year, they’ll probably put a 150inning pitch count on him

  • Mike Foster

    I am soooooo tired of this BS excuse, it was game six, it was the 8th inning, it would have been the 2nd out. NOTHING stopped the Cubs that year but themselves….and the whiny Alou (a player I liked a lot, till then), and the piss poor managing of Baker. Get over it!

  • ricosanto

    Dempster will take and should take his 14 mill option. He is worth about 7 mil per year, he loves Chicago. Maybe the Cubs will tack on a year at 7. Closers are the most over-rated position in the game according to Moneyball and Bill James. 1/2 through the season we could have got 2 mlb ready youngsters for Marmol now NADA. The cubs now how to devalue players better than any team.They never sell high.

  • joeydafish

    How ironic and “Cub-like” if next year while pitching for the Ozzie Guillen lead Marlins Zambrano knocks the Cubs out of a play-off birth in a tie breaker game.

    • Brett

      Please don’t make me imagine such things.

  • chris margetis

    That foul ball was one of the most horrific Cub moments I can recall, but let’s not forget, Alex Gonzalez booted a birthday hop double play ball moments later that would’ve ended the inning. He didn’t even need to stretch his “two feet in either direction” range for the belt high gimmie he kicked.

    Game 7 was even more horrible too….

  • hardtop

    Next year is shaping up to be downright frightening. I think rebuilding year might be the understatement of the century. Don’t get me wrong, I think we need to show many or all of these guys the door, but when we turn around we will be facing an empty room.
    It’s been discussed here frequently but in next year’s FA market Demp is worth, at a minimum, 2 years for 20. Some team will make him that offer (likely more). If its not the Cubs, I cant see him leaving 6 mil + on the table. With the loss of big Z due to his “antics” we will be down our 2 best pitchers after Garza. And that’s with an already disgustingly thin on talent starting rotation.

    And that’s just pitching. Offensive numbers we will need to replace:
    Fonzie: 28 hr, 88 rbi
    Aramis: 26 hr, 93 rbi
    Pena: 28 hr, 80 rbi

    That’s 82 hr, and 261 rbi folks. That’s a big loss. Even if we sign the big Biscuit at first and he has another career year (unlikely as hell) we’re still short One Hundred and Forty Runs! Again, that assuming Fielder knocks 120 in again, which is absolutely not going to happen. You think Garza lacked run support this year, he’ll have to pitch a shut out to have a chance at a win! I have no idea who starts at 3rd and Left but lets safely assume they combine for 100 rbi… we still score way less runs behind a way worse pitching rotation.

    If we let all these guys walk, which we probably should, we will make the 2011 Astros look like world series contenders. Buckle up for the long haul kids, its going to get ugly. I feel bad for the new GM and Manager.

    • Fishin Phil

      I have endured 43 years, at least 38 years of which were ugly.  I can handle one or two more years of ugly for the promise of a better future.

      • CubFan Paul

        yea Phil, but the attendance at the ballpark can’t handle 2 more years of ugly even with the promise of a better future ..the attendance is on pace to be Less than 3million next year

        the new GM will have to have a plan to win 85-90games or the Marketing department is going to shit themselves in december

        the new GM will have to sell “Hope” like Obama

    • Toosh

      With a competent GM, the Cubs could easily be contenders in that division in 2012. I look at it like this. Fukudome’s contract is off the books. Grabow’s probably will be. Hopefully Pena’s and Ramirez’. That’s a lot of millions the new GM will have to work with. And if he wants to trade Byrd, Marmol or Soto that would create even more payroll flexibility. He can keep Soriano or try to move him too. Zambrano has to go. Factor in what the Cubs have in their player development system, the upcoming payroll room and the NL Central and I can see the Cubs battling it out with the Brewers and Cards.

      • hardtop

        I hate to be Debbie Downer here but…Even with competent GM there isn’t that much out there to acquire. You obviously think we have more talent in the minors than I do, but even with rose colored glasses, I still don’t see there being lots of trade bait to work with, nor do I see many potential superstars, certainly not big league ready for 2012. You’re suggesting a completely new team in 2012 with the exception of Garza and Castro. I dont know what miracle worker you see taking over as GM, but finding 6 position players (are you keeping Barney/Baker/DeWitt?), 3 starting pitchers, and a closer, in order to contend with the Cards and Brewers would be exactly that, a miracle. If you’re thinking Brett Jackson and Tyler Colvin are going to fill 2 of those positions and lead us to a playoff berth, you might want to consult your physician, ’cause you be crazy 😉
        I like your optimism, but I’m seeing 100 losses…

        • willis

          I wouldn’t worry about a closer, we have plenty of internal candidates for that if Marmol is still sucking balls. Least of the worries is the pen. Getting a strong arm to be the #2 in the rotation is the key. Garza is only going to get better. Demp is solid (if he decides to stay) and Wells is a good #5. Cashner becomes key because he’ll either be a lights out closer, or a #4 starter next season…hopefully the #4 starter. Pitching is key because both STL and Milwaukee will have strong rotations next year, so if there is any hope of contending, we have to have a good 1-5 and not trot Coleman and Lopez out there every five days.

          • Fishin Phil

            I agree with Willis.  I think our bullpen will be fine, but we have to strengthen the starting rotation.  That will be the key to next year.

        • Toosh

          The new GM can keep Soriano in LF, put Jackson in CF and Byrd in RF. Keep Castro and Barney in the middle infield and Soto at C. Trade Zambrano for somebody else’s problem SP. I don’t believe the Cubs player development system is as good as other people do, but eventually you have to let guys play in the majors. If the new GM does what I described above and uses the money coming off the books, he’ll need a 3B, a 1B and another SP. 2 if Dempster leaves. Easily doable.

          • MichiganGoat

            I agree with Toosh.  Baseball is hard to predict especially when new blood is infused.  The Cubs will have a new GM, new Coach, new Pitching Coach, and possibly a new Hitting Coach and we will be down some of the dead weight negative players (Zambrano, Ramirez) and with a new coaching staff and healthy pitching the possibility of success is quite possible.  There are multiple mid-level FA and possible trades a new GM could use to create the right environment in 2012.  I’m not expecting for us to win the division but I do see us being better than this year in both record and excitement.  Lets not be Chicken Littles and allow the new management to rework a broken team.

          • Cheryl

            The new GM may have no choice but to keep Soriano but Byrd? LaHair has cooled off some but he’s still a possibility for 1st and part/time in the outfield. I wouldn’t waste the money on 1st base. Get LaHair and Baker to platoon for a while. If Flaheerty can adjust he might be a temporary option at 3B. Put most of the oney coming off the books in starting pitching. There may be one pitcher coming off this year’s draft that will be in the bullpen.

        • Ian Afterbirth

          I agree with hardtop –

          Who exactly is out there to replace all the parts we need to replace?
          There may be some upgrades here and there but a new GM can’t spontaneously create available players who don’t actually exist.

          Our shortcomings are too profound to turn the Cubs into a legit World Series contender next year (sure we can cobble together a team that could have a chance to win the division but I want a team that can stand the test of time and be somewhat dynastic).

          In 2 or 3 years we could have a team that dominates this division the way the Bears did theirs for so long.
          I prefer that to having a chance of winning such a weak division next year.

          • Toosh

            There are always players available every offseason that the public doesn’t know about. Myself included. Once the new GM gets his staff in place, I believe he’ll make a lot of personnel moves that make the Cubs a contender for their division next season and for more glorious things in the years to come.

            • SirCub

              “There are always players available every offseason that the public doesn’t know about. Myself included.”

              Are you hinting that you will you be available this offseason, Toosh?

              • Toosh

                Too old to play MLB. Would love to be the Cubs new GM, though. Who wouldn’t.

            • MichiganGoat

              Agreed again, there are always those fringe players that a good GM finds and puts into successful roles, that’s what all those sabermetrics do- they find undervalued players.  So if we get a GM that is the opposite of Hendry  (a player’s GM, sign the big name for a big splash, go-for-it-now mentality) the Cubs will be in better shape even if us lowly fans can’t see a successful recipe.  As for competing in the division its possible since the Central may be extremely bad next year the Brewers (lose Fielder), Reds (without major moves they are what we see this year and Dusty is their manager), Pirates (enough said), and Astros (rebuilding mode) will not be as good next year.  This leaves the Cardinals as the de facto winners, but thats assuming that Pujols returns, Berkman doesn’t slump, and Wainwright comes back strong.   So being able to contend next year is a strong possibility.

              • willis

                Yeah, I think we can be better than the Reds, Astros, and Pirates with the right moves. As far as the Brewers, losing Prince Fatty will hurt but they will still have a very good pitching staff that will keep them in it. Same with STL, even if Pujols leaves. They have a 1-3 in their rotation that will keep them around. But think of 2003…the lineup kinda sucked until the trades but the arms kept us in it. Which is exactly what we need to try and do this offseason. Find arms. Lots of FAs next year that teams may think they have no chance of resigning. Could always trade for them on top of making a hard run at Wilson. The lineup will come together. But you lose before the bell rings without a strong rotation.

  • Polar Bear

    Unfortunately, this is the corner that the Cubs (or should I say Hendry) have painted themselves into over the last few seasons. The bad contracts, the bad coaches…its all finally catching up. We, as Cubs fans, are looking at the real possibility of more than a few seasons of “minor league” baseball until they can sort out what we have from what we need. The worst part is we need a lot more than what we actually have at this moment. Worrying about attendance and other things of that nature shouldn’t even creep into our mins right now. This process is necessary for the future success of this team. So, lets continue to show up, give our donations to the team through ticket and beer prices, and be supportive. Cause remember…this is what everyone asked for.

  • willis

    I was bored last night and refusing to turn on the TV for fear of temptation to turn on ESPN. So, I erased Soriano, Pena, and Ramirez from the team and began jotting down possible lineups. It wasn’t easy. Even plugging Fielder in there. Still some holes, depending on how you think people like LeMahieu or Flaherty may do at this level. But…if Brett Jackson is as good as we think he will be, if you can get Fielder, you then have three strong pieces to build a lineup around. It’s not just impossible to tinker here and there and make a lineup respectable if those three were in there.

    I do think with the money coming off, if Ricketts wants to spend it, Fielder and Wilson could be had. That changes things in a big way. Problem is I have zero faith that will happen and this team will probably suck next year. But until the GM is hired, it’s hard to predict what may go down. But in this division, especially if Fielder and Pujols are bye-bye, it isn’t impossible for a good GM to get this thing headed in the right direction and quickly. But it all depends on the boss man and if he wants to spend nothing and build from within, or let’s the new GM have some fun with the cash available.

  • rocky8263

    Have not seen “Catching Hell” yet but was at the game in my seats section 209 row 15. very close to the action that night. The thing people missed watching on TV was Alou doing a Tug Mcgraw with his mitt glancing back over his shoulder as Stevie was escorted out. That really riled them up. The crowd then chanted “asshole” for a minute or so. I’ve often wondered why Baker didn’t go out to calm Prior down, keeping in mind he was just a kid in a huge and still winnable game.leaving the park that night was like leaving a funeral with 40,000 people. Everyone sensed it was over. There was no “we’ll get em tomorrow”. Alou is a wuss and what the f@@k was baker thinking? Like you Brett I hate revisiting this and the one funny thing was my then six year old daughter asking me the next morning at breakfast “whats an asshole daddy?”.

  • jim

    The CUBS are a “JOKE”!
    I hope that CUBS fans will
    come to reality that this years
    team deserves a “D” minus!
    I am a CHICAGO native & a
    CUBS FAN but living in ARIZONA
    where the DIAMONDBACKS “don’t”
    have the great players BUT they
    last, this year THEY WON THEIR DIVISION!
    DON’T & the CUBS have NO LEADER!

    • TWC

      Is that a haiku, Jimbo?

      I think your meter’s off.

      • JulioZuleta

        I THINK FROM now on we SHOULD ALL TYPE OUR comments alternating FROM UPPER case to lower CASE WITH NO apparent pattern

        • Brett

          And without punctuation?

    • Ian Afterbirth

      Which Cubs fans would give this year’s team better than a D- exactly?

      What is wrong with your keyboard exactly?

      Thank you for having the guts to say what we’ve all been saying for at least 5 months…

  • RY

    Alex Gonzalez is the real asswipe in this whole thing; field a freakin ball like most little leaguers would have and the inning ends. People need to wake up and stop blaming bartman and move on. he did what most any fan would have done. maybe the pitcher could have thrown better pitches, but the bottom line is bartman didnt allow 8 straight hits or whatever the hell it was, put it to bed and move the hell on! Gonzalez is the real goat! Oh and so glad alou and aram had already bought plane tickets back to the DR because they knew they would lose game 7, wow, that might have been the worst thing heard in the whole show last night

  • Brent

    I watched the whole freaking thing last night and screamed at the TV for the better part of an hour (did they have to show Durham’s error too? Sheesh). Anyway, I agree with you, RY, on the Aramis and Alou going ahead to buy tickets home BEFORE game 7. I hate Aramis that much more.
    That would’ve been a tough double play for Gonzalez though. That ball was hit pretty slowly. I don’t think Gonzalez gets the runner at 2nd. Regardless, Gonzalez, Prior, Alou, etc. helped get the Cubs get to the NLCS. What did Bartman do for the Cubs except steal an out? Whatever.
    The best thing to happen to Bartman was Soriano’s contract so all Cubs fans have someone we can hate even more. Seriously, three more years at $18 mil a year? His batting average and on base percentage falls every year. And his postseason batting average in 6 games with the Cubs? .107. I hate you Soriano. Had you been out in left field in 2003 Bartman wouldn’t have been an issue because we KNOW you would not have caught it.

  • RY

    Well played Brent. I love it!

  • RY

    I give the cubs an overall D- or a fat F! Never seen a team do so much less with so much more!

  • fearbobafett

    i was at the game and to me prior didn’t look sharp warming up that inning and baker didn’t go out there, nor did he have anyone up in the bullpen. I know he didn’t trust the pen that much but you still had vets out there ready to come in, just in case Prior got in a jam.

    I also have to agree that the place was dead silent after the game. I don’t think i said a word the whole trip home.

    i was able to view the L and the street was jammed packed and after that inning it cleared out pretty darn fast.