Seems like just yesterday I stood with Neil, just 10 rows or so off of the first base side of home plate. We were in Mesa, catching a Spring Training game, and the air was filled with hope, and the fans were draped in blue. I turned to Neil as we watched batting practice, unsure of the player I saw hitting at the time. “Who’s that?” I inquired. “That’s Angel Pagan” Neil replied.
It seems like I spent the rest of the season saying “Who’s that?”…
The Sun Has Set Long Ago….
My favorite bedtime book to read to my son has a line about the sun having just set. In the case of my beloved Cubs, their season truly ended almost as soon as it began. The shaky character and laughable depth of this team was instantly palpable in the days immediately following Derrek Lee’s fateful injury.
Other teams managed to lose big stars, like the Phillies unloading Bobby Abreu, and they somehow managed to not only stay afloat….but they even got better! For all the players that say what a great manager Dusty Baker is, and has been, and how much they love playing for him, they sure have a funny way of showing it with their performances on the field! Never has it been so hard to root for a Cubs team, in my lifetime of watching them play.
Bad attitudes….bad work ethic….bad execution….bad base-running decisions….bad defense….bad coaching….yikes!
Throw in a few bad trainers, doctors, and towel-drills, and you have the mess that was 2006. The Cubs Faithful witnessed a season-long showcase of future talents that largely failed to make a case for the big leagues. Add some mediocre veteran talents that received far too much playing time, and the resulting “Major League Baseball” was fit only to be watched with a barf bag nearby.
The Moon Is High….
There were some bright spots, but during the middle 4 months of the 6-month season, they were pretty hard to find. I think Carlos Zambrano took the next step in his career evolution. Carlos is simply getting older, and more mature, and more confident with each passing year. If the Cubs can stabilize their defense next year, and learn to get on base more to score more runs, I expect Zambrano to make a serious run at 20 wins in 2007.
Juan Pierre got off to a slow start, but his final numbers are awesome, and the Cubs would be foolish to let this premier leadoff hitter wind up on another club next season. His range in the outfield helps make up for his lack of arm strength, and his speed and average at the top of the lineup card has been extremely impressive. Ryan Theriot may never be more than a backup player, or he may be a better player than David Eckstein. While we don’t have a full body of work, he has been great fun to watch, and his effort and hustle is noticeable to Cubs fans, if not to Dusty Baker. Be cautious in your hopes for Theriot, though, as Corey Patterson, Ronny Cedeno, and Todd Hollandsworth have all followed up great half-seasons with poor showings the following year.
Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry largely lived up to their hype as great bullpen arms, Matt Murton possibly saved his job with his late-season surge, and Rich Hill may have already pitched his last game in AAA. So there have been some positive developments this season, but it still doesn’t feel like much of a consolation, especially when we realize how weak our division finally was this year. An opportunity for a division title presented itself this year, and the Cubs were nowhere near ready to take advantage of it!
The Sea Is Deep….
Can Jim Hendry find a way to turn this roster around in time for next April? I honestly just don’t know. Are we counting on Prior again? Is Miller also one of our starters now? Will the Cubs lose Ramirez and/or Pierre to free agency?
History has repeatedly shown us that the Cubs won’t pick up a high-priced free agent, so quit dreaming about Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, or Barry Zito….it’s not going to happen.
I think Hendry will try to swing some trades, but what exactly do the Cubs have to offer anyone? We can’t afford to give away our top players, as we have no depth. Typically you would like to make trades from a position of strength. With zero depth at any position, except perhaps the bullpen, the Cubs don’t have a lot of proven assets they can withstand losing.
If any teams are in the market for inconsistent and poorly-coached young pitchers, then the Cubs are going to have a killer off-season! Ditto for injured guys coming off arm surgeries in recent years….
Is there a market for Sean Marshall, Angel Guzman, Jae Ryu, and Ryan Dempster? You know better….
Rock and Rock and Rock to Sleep….
Put this season to bed, CCO Readers! Time to get a good off-season’s sleep, and wake up renewed, restocked, refreshed, and rejoiceful at the news of Dusty Baker’s unsurprising exit from Illinois. Let us all take a Bobby Ewing shower and pretend this year never happened. Denial may not be a healthy state of mind, but there is nothing sane about being a Cubs fan anyway…. I really enjoyed writing for this website this year, and getting the chance to interact with all the great Chicago Cubs fans that visit here every week. Let’s hope next year we can all be more positive, that we have a healthy team, that no towels are thrown, and let’s go Cubs!