What Went Wrong?
They were underachievers for a second consecutive year
So, what went wrong?
For what it's worth, here's my thoughts on the primary reasons for the failure of this years team.
1. No Closer: The Cubs started the season without a closer, the same problem that was a huge part of their failure in 2004. LaTroy is simply not an effective closer, and it took far to long for Dusty to stop using him in this role. I'd like to say that I was for Dempster from the beginning, but the truth is, I was for LaTroy, simply because he had the best stuff in that bullpen. Dempster had a fantastic year, but I still don't trust him. I've been convinced that he has the makeup, and that he can keep the ball down, but I think that his control issues are going to catch up to him, and that the Cubs would be wise to add a few more relievers capable of closing.
2. Top of the Order: It's pretty obvious, the cubs table setters were horrible this year. The cubs didn't have any great options for a leadoff hitter on the roster, but they did have guys better than Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez. Hairston, Walker, Murton and even Mike Barrett are all better suited to the top of the order than Corey and Neifi.
3. Nomar injury: It was predictable that Nomar would get hurt this year, but it was hard to imagine that he would miss most of the season. The cubs were counting on him to provide a lot of the production that was lost in left field. We didn't want to admit it then, but our hopes all died when Nomar fell down that night in St. Louis.
4. Unstable bullpen: Um, yeah. Bullpen, not good. Lots of "kids" as Dusty says. The veteran anchors of the bullpen, Remlinger, Borowski and Hawkins were all failures this year, and didn't end the season in a cub uniform. The Cubs never really had anyone in the pen that inspired much confidence other than Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood who was impressive in his short lived role as the 11 million dollar set up man. I like Wuretz a lot, and I expect him to have a big year in 06. He has been a little wild at times, but his command improved last year, and his strike out numbers are phenomenal.
Ohman is a serviceable lefty who quietly put together great numbers. Novoa, and even Wellemeyer are good cheap live arms who have lots of upside. If Williamson can get more of his strength back, the cubs may not be in terrible shape next year.
5. No Full Seasons from Wood or Prior: This is a familiar story for the Cubs. You'd like to think that they'd learn to prepare for this by now.
6. Dusty F. Baker: nuff said.