For a team that hasn’t won a World Series in over a century, the 2012 season was an absolute embarrassment for the Chicago Cubs. Not that anyone was expecting anything different.
Theo Epstein took the reigns as team president last fall, and pretty much immediately stressed that it would be a rough year. Even by his estimation, few were expecting the season to actually be as putrid as it was.
There were a few bright spots. Starlin Castro continued his ascent to stardom and was much improved in the field. Anthony Rizzo has an extremely bright future. Darwin Barney‘s defense was fun to watch. Jeff Samardzija surprised everyone as a solid starter. Alfonso Soriano had his best all-around season as a Cub. And that signing of Jorge Soler should have a lot of folks excited.
But that’s about where the positives end. If it weren’t for a solid stretch there in July, this team might have lost 110 games. It’s a good thing the Houston Astros were there to save them from the division cellar. That won’t be the case next year, though, as the Astros head to the American League West.
Looking up and down the roster, there are very few names that you can look at and feel that they are a future of this club. It’s unlikely that names like Anthony Recker or Miguel Socolovich will ever be heard from again at the highest level. Unless the Cubs openly throw away another season, which is what it sounds like they’re going to do.
We’ve heard Epstein speak candidly about his expectations for both 2012 and 2013. While I admire his willingness to be “transparent” with the fans, I have major issues with openly throwing away more than one season. The Cubs sound like they’re ready to adopt the same tact this winter as they did last winter. Sign small deals, trade them away during the season, as well as anyone else who might be a trade-able asset (Matt Garza).
Throwing away a season in the way that the Cubs did in 2012 is one thing. You have a new regime taking over, who cleaned house both on the field and in the front office. That isn’t so much the case this year. The minor league system is already improved. It’s time to take this rebuild and start performing it on the fly.
Cub fans have put up with a lot over 100+ years. Throwing in the towel before the 2012 campaign began helped to temper any delusions that fans may have had about this club, saving them from yet another disappointment. A 100-loss season is a big deal, as much as we all joke about it.
The Chicago Cubs have been a punchline for as long as their World Series drought has lasted. That will continue into the 2014 season if the front office adopts the same willingness to lose just to continue to build up the farm system. They need to be active in free agency and start putting some pieces together that can make an impact now, and not in two or three years.
It’s important to have patience with this rebuild. Don’t mistake my frustration with an expectation that the team will field a winner in 2013. But the Cubs need to at least field a team that is competitive in 2013. Throwing one season down the drain before it starts is one thing, but back-to-back seasons like that is an entirely different issue.