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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.