I think it’s kind of funny that I decided to switch from watching Cub games for the remainder of the season because of their brutal play. In return, I decided that it would be a better idea to switch to following what I thought was the more exciting team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Since then, the Devil Rays have proceeded to do absolutely nothing on offense and basically disappoint the entire second half. There lies the quandary I am faced with. Obviously both teams have taken to looking forward to next season. With limited time, I would only be able to really devote time to one team and follow the other from more of a distance. So which team has the better outlook for next season’s as well as future seasons?

When you look at the brutal result to the season, your gut reaction would be to say that there is no hope. After all, this is a franchise that is quickly approaching 100 years since their last title. However, when you look at the base of the team, there are some bright spots for next year.

Young Starting Pitchers – We’ve had a chance to see a good amount of young starting pitchers this season due to the departure of Greg Maddux and injuries to Wood and Prior. Granted, not one of them has been our version of Justin Verlander or Francisco Liriano, but when you look at what we’ve received from them, you have to be encouraged. Sean Marshall, despite limited time on the farm has shown good big league potential. Carlos Marmol, since being converted from catcher has shown tremendous upside and raw stuff. When you couple those two with the hopeful emergence of Rich Hill and perhaps a guy like Donald Veal down the road. When you combine those names with Carlos Zambrano, and some potential veterans like Ted Lilly, Barry Zito, and Wade Miller, the rotation becomes at least serviceable to decent.

Derrek Lee healthy – This is a big one to look forward to. I’ll be excited to see Lee back to full strength again. I have never seen a team collapse more when a single player is injured than the Cubs did this year without Lee. It seems like a distant memory when the Cubs were actually in first place. Remember that? They were playing great baseball and were one of the best in the major leagues with getting runners in scoring position to cross the plate. Once Lee went down, the Cubs went down. Next season, with a healthy Lee, perhaps the offense can click a little better.

Dusty Gone? – There a mixed feelings I have about what Jim Hendry should do with Baker. Is he a bad manager? He can’t be, because if we was, there would not be the hype about him around baseball. Guys get reputations for a reason, they earn them. Dusty is well liked by his players, which has to say something about him as a manager. Major League players aren’t going to just sit back and give credit to Dusty when they no longer play for him unless it’s because he really did what they say. So if Dusty’s gone, in one sense, it’s a good thing. He’s obviously warn out his welcome in Chicago. But, what else is really out there? As much as the rumors out of Florida continue to tantalize and excite Cub fans, I really believe that Florida will hang onto Joe Girardi, despite the rift between him and the owner. They would be foolish to let him leave based on the tremendous job he has done with the team he was given. Aside from Girardi, are there really exciting potentials out there? No one excites me. Sure, you can look at guys with minor league success, but I want someone who is a proven winner. The Tigers brought that in with Leyland, and it’s paid off for them.

As I look toward next year, I’m not thrilled to be a Cub fan, but at least I have a couple things to look toward.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail