Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bring Out Your Dead

For about a month and a half, the Cubs seem to have been enacting their own little Monty Python bit:

After weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, hooked up to tubes and various machines, the Cubs' 2009 playoff hopes flatlined as Fatman David Weathers served up a nice juicy pitch to Chris Ianetta in Colorado and he quickly deposited it into the right field bullpen area to beat the Brewers 7-5.

What we knew from the moment the Cubs got smacked around in Los Angeles in mid-August finally became a mathematical reality. The World Series-less streak is now officially 101 years. The Chicago Tribune will pass the team on to a new owner without delivering the championship that Dallas Green promised us 28 years ago.

As I pondered everything that went wrong this year for the umpteenth time, I'm still bewildered at how all this came to pass.

If you had told me at the beginning of the year that Rich Harden would make more starts this year than all but one of his previous years, Milton Bradley would not go on the disabled list, Fukudome would maintain a reasonable batting line throughout the season (.260/.375/.423), Derrek Lee would hit 35+ homeruns and set a career high in RBIs, and Angel Guzman would emerge as a reliable force out of the bullpen, I'd have asked how far ahead of the Cardinals did the Cubs finish?

But a devastating injury to Aramis Ramirez, the poisonous presence of Milton Bradley, the failed Mike Fontenot experience, the utter uselessness of Aaron Miles, the propensity for allowing late-inning homeruns of Kevin Gregg, the staggering decline and fall of Alfonso Soriano, the Mitch Williams-esque wildness of Carlos Marmol, the weight and drug problem of Geovany Soto, the delusions of power-hitting grandeur of Ryan Theriot, a broken toe by Ryan Dempster, a wasted roster spot known as David Patton, and the utter flammability of the rest of the bullpen combined to torpedo the season before Labor Day.

The fingers have been pointed all season long at Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella, the individual players, Sam Zell, the baseball gods, and whoever else the pissed off fans can think of, but this was a true team effort. Its nice to believe that Lou Piniella has "lost his fire" or that the simple presence of Mark DeRosa would have been the difference between futility and greatness.

This was a perfect storm of events that hit a pretty decent, but not perfect baseball team. The team may not be that far away from actually being a true contender. The last few weeks (even before Milton went away), showed a team with mostly healthy players performing and winning like we thought they should (17-10 so far this month).

Of course, this season may simply be a harbinger of things to come. Soto could be a one year wonder. Derrek Lee's neck might start bothering him enough to slow his bat back down. Aramis Ramirez may simply not be able to play a full season without significant missed time. Soriano may never get any better. Zambrano may finally implode completely and get driven out of town.

Hell, we have no idea what the new ownership group is capable of doing with the roster. Will they eat the contracts of the players that need to go? Will they be able to fill the holes with marginal signings to strengthen the bench? Will they try to make another big splash with a major signing? Will they just cross their fingers and hope to hell that Hendry's master plan will finally come to fruition in its current form?

No one really knows, hence the countdown to the Winter Meetings when we should have a better feel for how the new ownership will want to go forward.

Rest in peace, 2009 season. So much potential.... (sigh).


Anonymous said...

I think we're not out of the woods. We'll still come back. Volorado will lose today, as will the Marlins. The Cubbies will win the twin-bill with Pittsburgh.

cubsrule2 said...

The Cubbies can come back. It'll take some work, but I really think that the Cubs can get a playoff bid. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Rockies get beat later today.

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