Tuesday, October 04, 2005

2005 season, a final take (PART 2)

Mid-July (after the break)
The Cubs started the second half winning 5 of 6. On the 18th Jim Hendry made a move, sending Jason DuBois to the Indians for Jody Gerut. But the roller coaster ride continued as they dropped three in a row after that. One of the most frustrating things about the 2005 club is that they were never able to build any momentum.

On July 24, 2005 Neifi Perez gave the Cubs a big win with tenth inning Grand Slam in St. Louis that gave the Cubs 2 games out of three at Busch Stadium. The Cubs would finish 2005 with a winning record versus the Redbirds and the Wildcard Astros. But they would struggle with teams of lesser talent.

At the end of July, more news from the injury front came along. Nomar started rehabbing from his painful April injury. Kerry Wood was placed on the DL again. The Cubs announced that Kerry had started his last game for the 2005 Cubs. He would pitch out of the bullpen if and when he returned.

On July 26th Cub fans waited though a 2 hour 43 minute rain delay. Greg Maddux made their wait well worthwhile. Cub fans that waited out the delay saw history! Maddux became only the 13th pitcher in MLB history to record 3,000 strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who isn't exactly a fireballer. The future Hall of Famer brought professionalism to a team that had lacked it in recent seasons and he still a decent starting pitcher.

While 1060wester John Dooley headed for the unemployement line the Northsiders headed for the dog days of summer. July ended with the Cubs losing 3 of 4 to the D-backs. The Northsiders finished July 53-52, in third place 13.5 games behind the Cardinals and 4.0 games out of the Wild Card.

The Cubs entered August still with hopes of winning Wild Card. Jim Hendry tried to bolster his lineup by trading Jody Gerut for Matt Lawton. Lawton became the Cubs leadoff man. By August 10th those hopes were gone. The roster would also change. Mike Remlinger was let go on the 5th and Nomar, Scott Williamson and Kerry Wood came back to the team. An eight game losing streak saw to it. (This was their second 8 game losing streak and their third streak of 7 or more losses.) By the 10th the Northsiders had fallen to 7.5 games back in the Wild Card and they now trailed the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.

The Dusty Watch was on. Despite taking 3 of 4 from the Cardinals mid-month the Cubs were not going to find their way back into the race. They would fall apart in August going 10-18. Carlos Zambrano did his best to get the Cubs back into it. It wasn't enough. Ramirez would go on the DL August 24th, he missed the rest of the year. Nomar volunteered to play third. He would play there the remainder of 2005. The Cubs began dumping players. Lawton went to the Yanks, Hollandsworth to the Braves. Despite the horrible play at Wrigley Field in 2005 (more on that later) Cub fans were able to celebrate Cubdom when #23 was honored by having his number retired on August 28th.

The Cubs would finished August 63-70, now only a half game in front of the Reds. They trailed the Redbirds by 21-1/5 games. They now found themselves in seventh place in the NL Wild Card 8.0 games behind the Phillies. The Cubs had pretty much reached rock bottom and still there was a month to play.

Dusty Baker has always prided himself on his teams having good finishes. He would really be challenged in September to get this team back to .500. The Cubs started September showing they had not quit. The Boys in Blue won 8 of 10 to start the month. Baker was finally playing Matt Murton everyday and he was producing.

Still their was growing indifference in Wrigleyville. Gaius Marius looked ahead to 2006 and begged the Tribsters:

now that even the diehards have been forced to concede, let the offseason demolition begin -- please! destroy it! destroy it all! i see only these pieces as unassailable in the 2006 reconstruction: lee, ramirez, barrett, zambrano and prior. and i'm frankly not too sure about all o' those.

On September 17th, the Wrigley Field faithful saw the Cardinals clinch the division. The Redbirds would end up winning 100 games. The Cubs seem to be miles back.

September ended with the Cubs 79-81. They had 2 games to play in Houston. The Cubs could end the year at .500 and knock the hated Astros out of the playoffs.

It ain't what we dream of as Cub fans. But the Cubs did play 2 games in October. They had the chance to finish .500 and knock the Astros out of the playoffs. Neither happened. On the last day of the season the Astros clinched the Wild Card. Painfully the Northsiders watched both of their division rivals clinch playoff births in 2005.

The Cubs would finish 79-83, 4th in the NL Central. Closer to the Pirates than the Cardinals.

A Final Look
It's hard to find very many positives in a team with a $100 million payroll that finishes behind the Milwaukee Brewers. Still the Cubs had several:
  • Derrek Lee was hot all season. The Cub first baseman turned in one of the greatest single-season performances in franchise history. Lee won the batting title and would have been an MVP candidate had the Cubs stayed in contention.
  • 24 year old Carlos Zambrano solidified himself as the Cubs best starting pitcher. Carlos recorded a 14-6 record, a 3.26 ERA. El Torro pitched a career high 223.1 innings, he made a career high 33 starts and allowed a .212 batting average against. (Haelping himself at the plate: Carlos finished with a .300 batting average with 1 HR and 6 RBi)
  • Ryan Dempster did a great job as the teams closer. Dempster recorded 33 saves in 35 opportunities (the best save percentage in the NL). Dempster and Will Ohman were the only positives in a bullpen that needs to be rebuilt.
  • Arams Ramirez struggled defensively at third. Still his offensive numbers were what we have come to expect from Ramirez in an injury plagued 2005. Ramirez hit .302 with 31 HR and 92 RBi.
  • Rookie Matt Murton made a case for a starting position in 2006. In 140 AB's, Murton hit .321 with 19 R, 7 HR and 14 RBi.

Jim Hendry will have to overhaul this team this winter. We have plenty of time to discuss the Cubs many needs. Still I wonder if they have capable people in place to build this franchise into a winner.

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