When Will the Chicago Cubs Win the World Series?
Tuesday February 14th, 2012
Bryan Sheehan (MLB Reports Intern): I was going to write a long lede, comparing Valentine’s Day and people’s love for baseball in the cheesiest way possible, but seeing as how this isn’t the movie Fever Pitch, I’ll save it. What I am going to do, though, is talk about a city that is in love with a baseball team that hasn’t done much but disappoint for the last hundred years or so.
The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series title since 1908. Think about that; it’s been over 100 years since the Boys in Blue, a time span that includes two World Wars, the invention of television and computer, the civil rights movement and the career of Babe Ruth. And in 103 years the Cubs haven’t come close too many times, as evident by their last WS appearance in 1945.
Despite all this, Chicago has one of the most devoted fan bases in the game. Wrigley Field saw over three million fans pass through the gates in 2011, for an average attendance that was ninth best in the MLB. If attendance should be judged on how well the team plays, the Cubs and their 71 wins would likely be near the bottom. In fact, the Kansas City Royals also won 71 games in 2011, and had an average crowd of just over 21,000, putting them fourth worst in the league.
So when will Cubs fans be rewarded for their patronage? The immediate future seems bleak. Although they have an absolute gem in 21-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro (who will be talked about a bit later), their team mainly consists of past-prime veterans. An outfield that consists of both 36-year-old Alfonso Soriano and 34-year-old Marlon Byrd wasn’t made any better by the offseason signings of Reed Johnson (who is the epitome of “average”) and David DeJesus. Their best power hitter besides Old Man Soriano is catcher Geovany Soto, who contributed 54 RBIs but had just a .228 batting average last year.
The worst problem, though, is the Cubs’ starting pitching. Ryan Dempster had a 4.80 ERA in 2011, a number which, unfortunately, isn’t too far from his career 4.41 ERA. His 10 wins were matched only by Matt Garza, who has emerged as the team’s ace, leading the club with a 3.32 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The Cubs do have three other starters to round out their rotation, but their bottom half of Travis Wood, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm is almost sickeningly bad. Their “saving grace” in 2012 (pun kind of intended) will be Carlos Marmol, who has proven to be one of the most erratic relievers in the game. His 10 blown saves tied for the league lead, but at the same time he had 62 games where he didn’t allow a run.
There is hope for the team, however, a few years down the line. If shortstop Starlin Castro can continue hitting for both average and power (.307 average with 66 RBIs last year), improve his fielding and polish his baserunning ability, he’ll be the leader of the team for years to come. One can also get excited about second baseman Darwin Barney, who played pretty well in his rookie season. The Cubs may not have the best farm system, but top prospect Anthony Rizzo (ranked 36 on Keith Law’s Prospect Top 100) and new possible addition Jorge Soler show great potential at first base and outfield, respectively. New team President Theo Epstein could also play a huge role in the Cubs’ future; under his guidance the Red Sox ended an 86-year Championship drought. That’s not to say that the Cubs stack up in any way to the 2004 Red Sox, but it’s a nice thought nonetheless.
When will the heartbreak end for Chicago fans? Judging by a lackluster pitching staff and aging outfield, it won’t be soon, but emerging superstar Starlin Castro and highly touted prospects may be enough to bring glory back to Wrigley at some point down the road.
Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Bryan Sheehan. You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for BleacherReport.com (search his name). Tweet him about this article and he will follow you back!
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Posted on February 14, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged alfonso soriano, anthony rizzo, Carlos Marmol, chicago, chicago cubs, matt garza, starlin castro, theo epstein, wrigley field. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.