Going into the season we knew that this season would be a tough one to watch, as the Chicago Cubs would be fielding a bad team. In fact, we pretty much knew that the Cubs would be fielding one of their worst teams in franchise history, but that never stopped us from caring about the team, nor that stop us from devoting our time to watch the team we love every day for the past six months.
For me, as well as my family, the 2012 Cubs season started on Christmas Eve when my mother was notified that her number had come up, giving our family the opportunity to become season ticket holders. We knew full well that this year and likely the next year or two, would be painfully hard to sit through, but if the plan works out as Theo Epstein has envisioned, sitting through these painful games would pay off. We wanted to become fully invested in the rebuild and watch these kids grow up and learn to play the game right before our eyes, and we wanted to be there when everything came together.
Yes, becoming a season ticket holder has come at a fairly hefty cost, so we are part of the percentage of fans who are continuing to funnel money into a losing organization. However, I love the Cubs; you could say they were my first true love. Even though they have never returned the love that I give them, never producing a World Series winning team, I cannot turn my back on them. No matter how poorly they play, I will always love my Cubs.
Sadly, as expected, the 2012 Cubs played about as poorly as anyone has ever seen them. Things started off poorly in April, the Cubs could not get out of their own way and played down to expectations. Unfortunately things continued to get worse as the year went on. The team just was never able to compete with the better teams in the league, and if they were not getting beat by better teams, they were giving games away when they should have had them locked up.
Granted, the games the Cubs gave away would not have made much of a difference in their chances of reaching the playoffs, or even sniffing .500, but you never like to see your team give away games. That is a sure fire way to tell if your team is ready to compete with the big boys, or if they still have a long way to go before they are ready to make a serious run.
Along the way, the Cubs said goodbye to some players that fans fell in love with. We said goodbye to Shawn Marshall, Andrew Cashner and Chris Carpenter before the year began, but said hello to a few new faces that Cub fans grew to like. Most notably Anthony Rizzo and at the end of the season Dave Sappelt seemed to catch the eyes of some fans. Cubs also brought in Travis Wood, who has had a mixed bag of results this season.
During the season, the Cubs also said goodbye to Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto (who will be especially missed by some of us) in an effort to get young prospects that have a lot of promise. Will they all work out? Likely not, but if you buy enough scratch and win lotto tickets sooner or later you will strike gold! That is what rebuilding is all about, saying goodbye to some of the older players you like on your team for young prospects who might be keys to your future success.
Right before the trade deadline, and just after Rizzo was brought up, the Cubs had a pretty good run. They won some games, brought in some excitement and gave fans something to cheer about; they gave a glimmer of hope that the future could be bright. Sadly, they did not win enough before this stretch, and Epstein decided to trade those aging players.
After the trades, the Cubs slid even further into the darkness and became an even worse version of what they were at the start of the season; not many thought that would even be possible.
The slide into less than mediocrity continued, the Cubs brought up two rising prospects in Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters only to watch them die on the vine and prove they were not ready to make the step into the majors. Jackson showed more promise than Vitters though, but only because he was allowed to play almost every day.
Jackson showed tremendous defensive talent, but also showed that he had an inconsistent plate presence. He struck out nearly half the time, but also drew a tremendous amount of walks giving him an on base percentage that was over 100 points higher than his batting average. There is only one other player in baseball I can think of who is able to strike out half the time and still be an on base machine. Adam Dunn has that talent, and while Jackson will never have the 50 home run power that Dunn has, he has the same eye at the plate which teams value. Given a tweak or two with his batting approach, he looks like he could be here for the long run. Vitters though is another story.
While he was never given any real chance to succeed, playing once or twice a week at most, he looked lost and overmatched every time he stepped into the batter’s box. You never want to give up on prospects, especially when they are still only 22, but he seems about as far away as one can get at this moment. Hopefully another season at the Triple A level will help him come into form.
While the season was bad, very bad in fact, there were some moments to smile about. Darwin Barney had a great run of defense at second base for 141 games and tied the record for most consecutive error-less games by a second baseman in a single season which was held by Placido Polanco. We also saw the emergence of Rizzo and saw Starlin Castro continue to develop into the superstar we all think he will be. Jeff Samardzija also had a tremendous year and looks like he will be a mainstay in the Cubs starting rotation for years.
We also saw Alfonso Soriano turn into the player we have always hoped he would be,and becoming a great mentor to Castro! Granted his last three years here were less than great, but he played his ass off this year and finally looked like a real outfielder with his glove!
If you do not believe that there were moments to smile about this season, check out this video!
Well, the Chicago Cubs 2012 season is finally, mercifully, over. While this was a very painful season to watch, I am going to miss baseball. I love my Chicago Bears, but baseball has always been my favorite sport. After all, bad baseball is better than no baseball at all; even though baseball is still going on for the next month, I will not be emotionally invested in any of the teams that have reached the promise land of the playoffs.