via www.sikids.comMuch has been written about the Cubs' chances in 2012 on this website and others. The consensus is that this will be a rebuilding year and the team won't really be good again for a couple of years. I would prefer to look at this year as a "building" year rather than rebuilding. To me, rebuilding is what the Pittsburgh Pirates are doing and have been doing for the last 20 years. They have something in common with the former Soviet Union in that both are fond of the "five year plan". Basically, this means that every five years you come up with a new plan. I don't think the Cubs are going to need that long to get back to being a playoff team.
The Houston Astros will be moving to the American League West next year which will make the National League Central a five-team division rather than a six-year one. Right now the two best teams in the division are the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. The Cincinnati Reds should be better this year and they've got a lot of talent. I expect the Pittsburgh Pirates to be better this year and the Houston Astros to finish last. As for the Chicago Cubs, my prediction is that they will finish 78-84 in fifth place. I agree with most fans that this will be a tough season because the team won't be making the playoffs, but I think that unlike past seasons that we will soon begin to see reasons for hope in the future as evidenced by the future becoming the present.
I am confident in new manager Dale Sveum being a leader. This team had a manager last year, but it did not have a leader. Nowhere was this more evident than in comments last week by Mike Quade who responded to Dale Sveum's quote about the Cubs being held to a higher standard this year. Quade said, "Maybe I'm being an idiot, but I thought we gave a pretty damn good effort every night. I don't know, maybe that was [Sveum's] philosophy or a backhanded shot. I didn't hear that." Is it any wonder why this guy was fired? Keep in mind, folks, this was the guy who was hired over Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge, Bob Melvin and others. Quade went on to say, "If comments are made...there's no reason for anybody to do anything but look forward. I can't be bothered because I was pretty damn happy. Did everybody run out every ball? No. That's going to happen with a lot of people [on a lot of teams]. I thought [Aramis] Ramirez gave a helluva effort last year. Maybe because it was contract year, I don't know." And therein lies the problem with the 2011 Cubs. Yes, that's going to happen with a lot of people on a lot of teams, Mike. But that doesn't mean that YOU have to accept it. You as a manager should want to hold your team to a higher standard and that is precisely what Dale Sveum is going to do this year. I will miss Aramis Ramirez's power this year, but I won't miss his lackadaisical attitude. I also won't miss Carlos Zambrano's "Jekyll & Hyde" act. Now, if only the Cubs could find a way to get rid of Alfonso Soriano.
It won't be easy to watch the 2012 Cubs at times and I'm sure that there will be more than a few people on this website and others calling for Dale Sveum to be fired and proclaiming "Jedstein" as a "failure". Cubs fans are impatient and understandably so. We're like the car in the race that breaks down and has to watch all of the other cars pass us by. But if there is any silver lining it is that the team has new management and real leadership for the first time in a long time. I believe that Theo Epstein is the best front office hire the Chicago Cubs have made since they hired Dallas Green in 1981. As hard as it may be to believe, that was 30 years ago. 1982 was not a very good year for the Cubs as they went on to finish 73-89. However, you've got to start somewhere and some of the guys on that team would later play big roles on that 1984 ballclub that won the division. The team that we see right now is going to look a lot different in a couple of years. The farm system will be rebuilt and I believe that within a couple of years that it will be ranked as one of the top 10 farm systems in Major League baseball. We're going to see young guys come up from the farm system who have learned the "Cub Way" and this philosophy will be witnessed in the chemistry and attitude in the clubhouse and on and off the field. It will eventually lead the team to the playoffs and we will have a manager and a front office that has already been successful in bringing one "cursed" team a World Series championship. I am confident that this and even better things will happen in Chicago. We don't have to compete with the New York Yankees in our division. Within a couple of years, the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers will be the ones rebuilding. And then it'll be our time and we will be a perennial contender that expects to win every single year. Hope springs eternal!