Trick of Treat: Chicago Cubs

Stop me when you’ve heard this before…

The Chicago Cubs might contend for the NL Central title. This past season, I thought they could. I even made them my dark horse pick. They acquired a nice arm in Matt Garza. Kerry Wood was back in a Cubs uniform. Carlos Pena could bolster the offense and his defense is pretty darn sold, too.

So what happened?

The Cubbies turned into something. I’m still not sure what though…

Well, call me overly optimistic then. Ryan Dempster struggled. Marlon Byrd missed significant time. Carlos Marmol took a step back.

What was this team becoming?

I hope not what you see off to your right…

I felt with the additions previously mentioned, things would change in the Windy City. Maybe the wind blew all sense of proper thinking from my head. Maybe I gave too much credit to how Mike Quade pulled this squad together after taking over for Sweet Lou. Maybe I overestimated the addition of Garza. Maybe I thought…

That may have been my downfall. I wasn’t tricked. I was flat out hornswaggled!

Oh, and there’s this. Did you see another Carlos Zambrano blow-up happening? I believe we all did. I didn’t think we’d see him walk out on his team though.

There were three things I can say I enjoyed about the 2011 Cubs: Aramis Ramirez, Sean Marshall ans Starlin Castro.

For ARam, I am feasting on crow. I didn’t think he would have a good season despite being in a contract year. I honestly thought he may have lost an edge for the game. I haven’t sen it for at leas a couple of years. Why would 2011 be any different? It was. He found his stroke and bombed 26 homers in addition to driving in 93 runs. His .306 batting average was his highest in a season that he played in at least 100 games since 2007.

Where Ramirez surfaces in 2012 is a complete mystery. I’ll get back to this.

I was surprised (not to the extent of ARam) with Sean Marshall, too. I knew he was coming off a very good 2010 year. I did not think we would witness an even better season in 2011. I thought Marshall may have been jobbed out of an All-Star nod (5-3, 2.79 ERA, 1.167 WHIP). His second half was actually better (1-3, 1.60 ERA, 1.010 WHIP) than his first half. And perhaps maybe the most surprising number: one home run surrendered.

And you simply cannot overlook the season from Starlin Castro, BRM’s selection at short for the All NL Central team. Castro posted the second best batting average among shortstops with a .307 (Jose Reyes hit .337). He also scored the third most runs (91) behind Reyes and Elvis Andrus. Maybe more impressive is that Castro was the only NL player to amass 200+ hits. Nice building block…

And there was this kid from Springboro named Tony Campana. He did lead the Cubs in steals (24).

Next season will arrive with much anticipation for Cubs fans. Having Theo Epstein on board should help, but he must make a couple of decisions: ARam and Wood for starters. Maybe even trying to keep Pena. Who will he try to trade away (money big deals like Alfonso Soriano maybe?) and who will he try to bring to Chicago.

Oh the winter should be warm with talk for 2012…maybe even hot by the friendly confines.

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