Hard to predict Cubs season

Charlie Morrissey

After all of the success the Chicago Cubs had the past two years, they appeared to be ready for a playoff run deep in to October. All the players and fans were geared for the season in the spring. With the addition of free agent Milton Bradley and a pitching staff that was predicted to be tops in all of baseball, 2009 could finally be the year to end the long drought without a World Series title. 

It is now September, going on October, and all the optimism is gone. The Milton Bradley experience went worse than expected, and that is an understatement. Bradley had a .257 batting average with only twelve home runs before being suspended for the rest of the year by Cubs manager Jim Hendry for publicly criticizing the Cubs. His stability was also a big question because of the many minor injuries he sustained throughout the year. This is not the kind of production the Cubs expected from a player making seven million dollars a year. 

Bradley was not the only disappointment in the Cubs lineup. Three all-stars from the previous year were hitting under .255 as of September 22. Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Geovany Soto all came off All-Star seasons with huge slumps. Fukudome’s defense is one reason his year has not been a complete disaster, but the same can not be said for Soriano. His many miscues teamed with a lack of hustle showed by Soriano combined for one big problem in left field. His bat was not much better than Soto’s, who was hitting below .200 for the early months of the season. 

A few bright spots in the Cubs lineup leave hope for next year. Rookie Jake Fox has been a force in the Cubs lineup since about July. He was hitting over .285 with 11 home runs in under 200 at bats as of September 22. In other words, he put up better power numbers than Bradley despite 200 fewer at bats. The always dependable Derrek Lee had another great year with 35 plus home runs and 100 plus RBI’s, while maintaining a .300 batting average. Aramis Ramirez was very productive when in the lineup, but a back injury kept him out of the lineup for over a month during the middle of the season. 

The pitching staff was average, but did not live up to expectations. Ted Lilly emerged as the lone Cubs all-star and staff ace. The previous holder of that position, Carlos Zambrano, had a down year that combined injuries and the lack of hard work put in. Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden were merely average, despite having been solid the previous year. 

The brightest spot in this rotation was rookie Randy Wells. His 10-9 record is misleading, but his ERA hovering around 3.00 is not. Wells had little run support and several sure wins that were blown by the inconsistent bullpen. Look for the 27 year old to have more solid years ahead of him. 

Of course, there will be the same high expectations for next year’s club. The pressure to end their World Series drought will be as high as ever. With many players returning next year, the Cubs should be in the thick of things come October. But then again, should be does not always mean they will be.