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December 2011



The Best and Worst of the 2011 Cubs – The Nominees

Written by , Posted in General

Because it’s hard to find a lot of definitive good in such a rotten season, and because I generally like to hear what you (well, most of you) have to say, here are my nominees for the Best and Worst from the 2011 Cubs.  Your votes determine the winners (who in turn receive the satisfaction of winning and nothing else).

Feel free to cast your votes and write in any candidates I overlooked in the comments below.

And please, no wagering.

Best Addition

  • Matt Garza  The unquestioned ace of the staff didn’t get much run support or bullpen help this season, but there’s a reason several teams are (reportedly) eager to pluck him from the Cubs.
  • Kerry Wood  The longtime Cub returned to Wrigley for another season of mostly reliable relief pitching.
  • Keith Moreland  Nobody replaces Ron Santo.  But the former Cub has some of Santo’s easy likeability, and a good rapport with Pat Hughes.  In an unenviable position, he did better than many expected.
  • Theo Epstein  The new President of Baseball Operations is the prohibitive favorite in this category, even though his arrival came too late to make a difference in 2011.  But sometimes hope counts for a lot, and nobody brought higher hopes to Wrigleyville in 2011 than Epstein.

Worst Addition

  • James Russell, Starting Pitcher  The Cubs were shorthanded on the mound from the first week of the season.  We eventually signed a few arms off the free agent trash heap, but Russell got five starts this season despite never showing an aptitude for the role.
  • Doug Davis  Davis pitched in only nine games for the Cubs, but surrendered thirty-eight runs (thirty-three earned).  ‘Nuff said.
  • Mark Riggins  Promoted to fill the vacuum left by Larry Rothschild’s departure, Riggins’ mustache was the only thing that distinguished him this season.
  • Ian Stewart  To quote of few VFTB commentors, “If you can’t hit in Coors Field, you can’t hit.”  His defense might help at third base, but he doesn’t seem to be the right answer to one of the Cubs’ biggest questions.

Best Subtraction

  • Carlos Silva  The corpulent malcontent refused to start the season out of the bullpen, and was released before the end of Spring Training.  Nobody really missed a pitcher who looked to be ticketed for another season-shortening injury (although we sure could have used the depth he provided after losing two-fifths of our starting rotation in the first week of the season… where’s the Tylenol?)
  • Carlos Zambrano  After his ejection for repeatedly throwing at Chipper Jones, Zambrano impetuously announced to the Atlanta clubhouse staff that he was quitting the team.  The Cubs obliged, sitting him down for the rest of the season.  Most Cubs fans didn’t miss him.
  • Mike Quade  Hard to know just how much blame he should receive for the lost season.  Either you liked him or you didn’t.  Theo Epstein didn’t.
  • Jim Hendry  He helped build the back-to-back playoff teams in 2007 and 2008, but he also built the teams that have scuffled ever since then.

Worst Subtraction

  • Ron Santo  If I need to explain why the Cubs’ Hall of Famer is the only nominee in this category, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Best Game

  • September 11th, Cubs 10, Mets 6  The Cubs staged a six-run rally in the top of the eleventh inning to spoil the Mets’ 9-11 memorial game.
  • May 21st, Cubs 9, Red Sox 3  This is remembered most as the game Marlon Byrd caught a fastball with his face, but the Cubs showed unusual patience and skill at the plate in their throwback uniforms.
  • August 29th, Cubs 7, Giants 0  Randy Wells pitched the game of his career–a complete game, two-hit shutout of the defending World Champs–on his birthday.
  • July 24th, Astros 4, Cubs 5  A rare walk-off win gave the Cubs their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Worst Game

  • April 12th, Cubs 2, Astros 11  James Russell’s first career start.  Considering the deep hole caused by our lack of pitching this season, you might call this game the beginning of the end for the 2011 Cubs.
  • May 20th, Cubs 5, Red Sox 15  Part of what made the win against Boston so memorable was how bad we looked the day before.  This one stands out in particular because I recapped the game as an audition for VFTB.
  • June 4, Cubs 4, Cardinals 5  Any time Albert Pujols hits multiple homeruns against the Cubs and one of them gives the Cardinals the walk-off victory, it can be considered one of the worst games of the season.
  • July 14th, Marlins 6, Cubs 3  One of many, many Matt Garza gems the bullpen gave away late.  Carlos Marmol could not protect a two-run lead, facing five batters and failing to record an out.

    Why isn’t Ramirez on the list for best subtraction?
    Because that’s my pick

  • Yeah…hate those 30 HR 100 RBI types. Give me a break.

  • Dusty Baylor

    Well replacing Ramirez’s .306/.361/.510 and mediocre to bad defense with .236/.323/.428 and decent defense is reallykinda craptacular?


    What about Ramirez never hitting in April and May, and padding his numbers once the games didn’t matter anymore

  • Dusty Baylor

    Awesome. Darwin Barney was lights out in April…sucked the rest of the way. Ramirez hits .261/.333/.458 career in April, and tears it up June-Sept.
    I’ll take Ramirez, given what they are replacing him with.

    My vote for addition by subtraction is Quade.


    I would rather have someone who hits all year round. Like 2006, when Lee broke his wrist, Ramirez had a golden opportunity to step up and when he should have tackled it, he punted it. He didn’t hit in April and May when the Cubs needed it most. If you remember, that team was a few games above .500 when Lee got bonked and broke his wrist

  • Weak argument bro. Rami was our only masher, like it or not.

  • Jedi

    BLPCB – that’s a bit idealistic. There’s only a few guys in the entire game who don’t suffer at least one prolonged slump during the year. I understand that people think Ramirez’s slumps were largely due to (perceived) indifference on his part; go back and look at Derrek Lee, he routinely started the season very slowly at the plate. To think that we’ll get a team full of guys who are consistent from April-September just isn’t realistic. It’s possible to have one, maybe two of those guys at the same time…everyone else is going to have lengthy slumps.


    Yes, but with Ramirez it’s every single year, he wouldn’t hit in April and May. Lee fixed a whole in his swing and was able to start hitting in April and May until he broke his wrist and then he was never the same.

  • Dusty Baylor

    April and May in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 He hit.
    Anyway…we’ll agree to disagree on Ramirez

  • Jedi

    BLPCB, tell me who is who? We’ll call them player Dlee, and player Aram…

    Player Dlee
    April .269/.366/.474
    May .250/.323/.423
    June .307/.390/.531
    July .282/.353/.525
    August .282/.371/.493
    September .299/.384/.524

    Player Aram
    April .261/.333/.458
    May .271/.328/.447
    June .301/.353/.504
    July .283/.327/.545
    August .306/.367/.539
    September .280/.341/.489

    Lee had two years where he performed in April & May like he performed the rest of the year (2005 & 2007). That’s it. But the story on Ramirez is that he’s indifferent and only hits when it doesn’t matter…somehow Lee has escaped that criticism.

  • Jedi

    By the way, Aramis hit well in early 2011, 2009 (in limited duty), 2008, 2004, and he wasn’t terrible in 2007. Aramis has a prolonged slump every year, sometimes he starts the year cold, sometimes he doesn’t.

  • Also by the way, Stewart slugged out .156 /.243 /.221 last season.

  • Lizzie

    I’ll miss Ramirez. Despite the popular perception in some circles (:::cough::: mainstream press :::cough:::) I’m confident he didn’t say “I’m going to head on out there and stink this place up today! Woot!”

    Fun stuff, Jeremiah. Here are my votes:
    Best Addition: Theo Epstein, though I agree completely with your reasoning for including the others on the list. I too think Keith Moreland did well in an unenviable position.
    Worst Addition: Doug Davis. I’m not a big fan of picking from the scrap heap. I had soft spot for James Russell even though he needed to tidy up that head of hair.
    Best Subtraction: Quade. I couldn’t warm up to the guy. And I really couldn’t warm up to his baseball strategy.
    Worst Subtraction: Spot on. Still chokes me up a little bit if I think too hard about it.
    Best Game: July 24. It seemed so difficult to get that third straight win!
    Worst Game: July 14. I don’t remember the precise game, but I do remember that type of game being 2011’s broken record. Blown Late Leads.

    P.S. It’s easy to recap the wins. The true value of a VFTB writer is how they get through the losses and still create a recap that’s enjoyable to read. Thanks to everyone who took that on in 2011! Heaven knows there were plenty of losses to cover!!!

  • Dusty Baylor

    Wait…Quade used baseball strategy? Which was what exactly?

  • Timo

    Best addition: Theo Epstein
    Because the Cubs finally addmited that this roster is not going to work and he fired Mike Quade.
    Worst addition: James Russell, Starting Pitcher
    Why in the world did he make five starts? Actually I think Mike Quade is to blame for this.
    Best Subtraction: Mike Quade
    I was just unable to handle the lineup and the pitching stuff, but what is a manager for if not for these jobs?
    Best game: August 29th, Cubs 7, Giants 0
    Simply because the defence was actually doing its job AND the pitcher was doing his. Seldomly both was happening at the same time.
    Worst game: July 14th, Marlins 6, Cubs 3
    Because Matt Garza had a defence that was working and an offence that produced three runs, but an incapable closer in Marmol and a manager with several other arms available in the pen deciding that the closer should continue. It was this game when even I realized that the roster might be bad and the injuries to the starting pitchers in week 1 hurt the Cubs a lot, but the season would have been bad as long as Mike Quade was on the bench.

  • Jedi

    I can’t believe no one has picked as “worst game” any one of the myriad of games that we lost because of Castro’s defense. I’m told there are a lot to choose from.

  • Buddy

    It may not be fun to say outloud, but Ramirez was a good player for the Cubs.

  • Timo

    “It may not be fun to say outloud, but Ramirez was a good player for the Cubs.”
    – I agree, at least when we are talking about offence and to be honest that was his job. I think Ramirez was a very good deal for the Cubs. The performed while he was a Cub, but there was no sense in paying a 3B man this or the next season if there is no support. So I really like the handling of this matter by the Cubs front office.

  • Norm

    The worst games were when Castro wasn’t paying attention on national TV and the announcer talked about it for like 5 minutes and another game not hustling for a ball just passed the infield, making the CF get it, and allowing a run to score.

  • Buddy

    The worst games were the ones announced by Len and Bob.

  • The Spanish speaking dudes I stream when the WGN audio feed is of poor quality out-announce Len and Bob. !Estan buenisimo!

    Christ. Lizzie was pretty spot on (as usual) but I soundly give the ‘don’t let the door hit you on the ass’ award to Grabow.

  • Buddy

    I second the Grabow nomination.

  • Close second to Ace Davis, Buddy. Pretty sure he threw *near blanks at one point, and I started calling him Ace. Still puked enough to earn those stats !dios mio!…Regardless, I have a very hard time figuring out why a GM would actively pursue Grabow.

  • Doc Raker

    Best addition: May 20- Jeremiah passes his audition at the VFTB.
    Worst addition: Carlos Pena for $10M dollars. When your team pins its hopes on a .196 hitter and gives him a kings ransom how good can the coming season be. It was all down hill after that.

  • Buddy

    Agreed. And the Dodgers, of all sorry squads. They’ve already pissed away this offseason by signing turds like Juan Rivera, Jerry Hairston Jr., Tony Gwynn Jr., Adam Kennedy, Chris Capuano, and Matt Treanor.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    jswanson, you got me. I totally whiffed on Grabow–by far the best addition by subtraction. Give him either Carlos’ spot.

    Doc, you’re too kind. See you at the Blackhawks games in February?

  • Pretty sure my top 5 worst Cubs experiences of 2011 came from the arm of Carlos Marmol, assisted by Quade.

  • Doc Raker

    First place Blackhawks, took care of the Redwings last night.

  • Doc Raker

    MLB network is reporting that the Garza talks are heating up and he will be traded. Trading Garza will denote a true blow up and rebuild. Since they are blowing this roster up you have to figure that veterans like Dempster, Zambrano, Soriano and Byrd are going to want to be traded. Brilliant really, “Ok, you don’t want to waive your no trade clause, let’s see how you like the clubhouse come March 1.” Genius. Of course that doesn’t mean other teams will want Soriano or Zambrano but at least they will be asking for a trade.

  • Buddy

    Any guesses on where Garza might land, if he is in fact traded?

  • Doc Raker

    I was half asleep when I saw the report, was it Toronto that was mentioned? That would be great for Toronto especially if the Japanese pitcher works out for them.


    Why do they want to trade Garza now? Don’t you think he would have more value at the deadline? Along with Byrd, Dempster, Bozo, and Marmol

  • flyslinger2

    Pretty sad when April 12 you write off the season. I think they should have stopped the printing presses for all those weekly checks that were being distributed throughout the entire organization and used the paper to clean the bathrooms at the stadium.

    Not sure about the logic of shopping Garza. He has to have 2 to 3 more years of solid production which would get us well past the “rebuilding” stage and into serious contention.

    HOF got a wonderful addition in Santos. Maybe now they can measure some of the other chemical users, er players, against him and see if they really compare.

  • Buddy

    Do we know that “clean” players were really clean?

  • Buddy

    They may not trade Garza at all, BLPCB. It sounds like they’re just listening to offers, which I think is a good thing. It never hurts to listen. If the best offer is something similar to what the White Sox got for Quentin, I’m sure the Cubs will say “no thanks” and just keep Garza.

  • Hendry was the best subtraction, by far. And Ian Stewart, like Travis Wood, David DeJesus, and anyone else who gets picked up before spring training can’t fairly be judged just yet.

    Worst game was not on the list. Late September, in St. Louis, Marmol walks in the tying run, and then throws a wild pitch to let the winning run score. Just one more reason why the Cubs will never be a contender with Marmol as the closer.