Part 1 of 5
Well I promised it, so I guess I have to deliver. The 2005 Season Review. This was a season none of us ever want to live through again. Too many injuries, too many mistakes and not enough winning.
I will admit that I did not see the 2005 Chicago Cubs going to the World Series or even making the playoffs. When Alou was allowed to leave and Sammy was traded, I wondered where the offense was going to come from. (I do agree it was time for both of them to leave Chicago) When the Cubs signed Jeromy Burnitz, after releasing Sosa, I did not like that move. I never thought that much of Burnitz and I thought they were paying to much for a player his age (36 years old/$4.5 million). Then out of Spring Training, Dusty announced the platoon of Todd Hollandsworth and Jason Dubois. I never thought this would work.
Hollandsworth was (and is) a bench player at that point in his career and a platoon with Dubois would impede the progress of Dubois, it turned out I was right. With the 2 corner slots in the outfield changing and the uncertainty of that, Corey Patterson would have to have a great year to make those changes work. Well we all know Patterson had the worst year of his professional career. By the end of the year, Hollandsworth was traded, Dubois was traded and Patterson spent a month in Iowa. Burnitz was the only bright spot in the outfield (but I do not think he is the answer for the future).
Dusty tried all he could to hide the problems. Burnitz was the only constant the entire year. At one point the following players all played games for the Cubs in the outfield: Jody Gerut (traded to Pirates), Matt Lawton (traded to Yankees), Jose Macias, Jerry Hariston, Jr., Ben Grieve, Matt Murton and Adam Greenberg.
Nomar had a great spring and I thought he might pick up some of the slack. Well as soon as the Cubs left Mesa, his bat got cold and then he went down for the majority of the season. Neifi Perez did a fine job, but with losing Sammy, Alou and Nomar’s offense how was this team going to score?
Derrek Lee had a great year, as we all know, and carried the Cubs for the first part of the season and gave us all hope of the playoffs. Aramis Ramirez had another good year, but you cannot say great, because he missed the last 6 weeks of the season. When Lee and Ramirez were in there, the Cubs played O.K. That is too much dependence on 2 players.
When the offense played as inconsistent as it did, the pitching staff could not withstand the heat and they had problems of their own. The pitching staff that was planned out of Spring Training NEVER pitched together. The Cubs left Mesa on March 31st and the pitching staff was as follows: (Starters) Zambrano, Maddux, Dempster and Wood (Prior started the year on the DL) (Relievers) Cliff Bartosh, Chad Fox, LaTroy Hawkins, Jon Leisester, Mike Remlinger, Glendon Rusch, Todd Wellemeyer and Michael Wuertz (Joe Borowski and Scott Williamson started the year on the DL).
By the time the season was over the pitching staff was as follows: (Starters) Zambrano, Maddux, Prior, Jerome Williams and Glendon Rusch (Wood finished the year on the DL) (Relievers not counting the Sept. Call-ups) Ryan Dempster, Roberto Novoa, Will Ohman, Jermaine Van Buren, Scott Williamson and Michael Wuertz.
The bullpen was inconsistent, at best (I am being VERY nice) and the starters pitched too many innings. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior spent significant time on the DL. A healthy pitching staff might have helped cover up the problems the offense had….notice I said might.
The 2005 Cubs could not play enough fundamental baseball to string together a winning streak. They had 3 different 7 game losing streaks and when you play like that you will finish under .500. Dusty Baker and Jim Hendry both thought their pitching staff would carry them (the Cubs) through the transition (with losing Sosa and still having to pay $11 million dollars of his salary) this team had to go through and it did not. The offense they thought they could get went on the DL and the offense they got should be the league’s MVP.
Hopefully the problems and transition of the 2005 Chicago Cubs will help this team be a winner for years to come and the Summer of 2005 will become a distant memory.
2006 Outlook – The Cubs Brass have to change their philosophy. For the past 2 seasons they thought starting pitching was what they should build their team around and they were wrong. The Cubs must build a team with good starting pitching. Injuries are going to happen and the guys that are on the bench are just as important as the starters. Get away from middle-of-the-road players and sign veterans that can fill in for the youth the Cubs must play in 2006.
I see many changes on the horizon, a new middle infield, a new right fielder, possibly a center fielder and a new bench. One of the rumors floating around is Rafael Furcal, the Atlanta Braves shortstop. I think the Cubs should work on a younger team with quality vets and a strong bullpen. Do not trade the future….build for it. I think they will stick with Patterson (I do not agree) and if they do what about getting Kenny Lofton as a backup? Felix Pie is not ready and if comes back from injury and surprises everyone….cross that bridge then. What about Nomar as a utility player? He can play short, just not everyday. He can play 3rd and back up Ramirez. They have mentioned him in the outfield. Can Nomar play 2nd? Think outside of the box. Going out and spending a ton of money does not mean championships, just ask George.
Major League players have 15 days after the World Series to file for free agency. The frenzy is about to begin. The rumors are already starting to fly. Major League general managers will hold their annual fall meetings November 7-11. The winter meetings will be held December 5-8 in Dallas. December 7th is the deadline for teams to decide if they will offer salary arbitration to players. December 20th is the last day for teams to tender 2006 contracts to unsigned players. Those not tendered become free agents. Spring Training is around the corner. Will the Cubs get their Series fix on ’06? We will find out!!