In Spring of 2008 Lou Piniella coined the phrase “Cubbie Occurrence” while discussing his upcoming pitching rotation. The Cubs 2010 season has been an ongoing series of such occurrences.
Poor hitting throughout the year meant the team could not take advantage of good early season pitching performances. Derrick Lee and Aramis Ramirez will be lucky to reach 20 home runs a piece and will likely not bring their batting averages above .250 for the year. The team expected the middle-of-the-order hitters to continue with career batting averages (.280) and home runs (25-30) but both had major drop offs.
Carlos Zambrano found a way to make this season more dramatic than previous ones. He went from opening day starter to bad middle reliever, back to the starting rotation and, finally, clubhouse outcast. His rough start to the season coupled with a terrible group of relievers forced Lou to move his highest paid pitcher into the bullpen early. When Zambrano didn’t succeed in that position, the Cubs were forced to put him back in the rotation after only a few weeks. His rotation stint didn’t last long as he blew up on the team in the clubhouse and was suspended from the team until this past weekend. Carlos is now back in the bullpen but may eventually end up back in the rotation with today’s news that Lilly has been traded to the Dodgers. The best the Cubs can hope is that Zambrano behaves and pitches well allowing them to trade him away in the off season.
Soriano and Fukedome continue to under perform the value of their respective contracts. As with each of the past couple years Cub fans hope both of these players start living up to their potential. Soriano needs to top 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases but currently sits at 18 homers and has only stolen 4 bases. His fielding continues to decline and he can’t hit higher than 6th in the lineup. Fukedome’s trend of a declining average throughout a season continues in 2010. Along with that, he now plays behind rookie Tyler Colvin making him the most expensive bench player on the team.
Jim Hendry continues his role as Cubs General Manager and received a vote of confidence by new owner Tom Ricketts. One hope with new ownership was a new general manager would be brought in to rebuild the team. The way Ricketts spoke recently, Hendry will be around going into next year as well. You can read deep into that statement and suggest he could still be fired before next season begins but only time will tell.
There were a few bright spots that can give us some hope for the near future. Lou Piniella announced his retirement meaning we won’t have to hear “what am I suppose to do?” again next year. Lou has been a great manager and was an improvement over the last several but it is time to get a new voice in the Cubs clubhouse whether it be Ryne Sandberg, Bob Brenly or Joe Girardi. The Cubs brought up a couple of young players in Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin. Castro and Colvin have had immediate success with the Cubs and should solidify a couple of key positions for years to come. Having two young players at those spots also means that management can spend money on other key need positions.
The last two months of the year will prove to be long and painful for Cub fans but at least there is always next year…