As most of my friends and family will tell you, I am one of the most optimistic Chicago Cubs fans around. After these last two games against the San Diego Padres, I realize that the Chicago Cubs are going nowhere in 2009.
I am sure many Cubs fans had drawn those conclusions after the sweep by the Phillies, but I thought it might be the Cubs struggling without the likes of Aramis Ramirez.
Now, I realize that the Cubs are dead. They're only 5.5 games out of the Wild Card and six games out of the division, but they're just not a good team—plain and simple.
Actually, let me rephrase that, they are an inconsistent team in that they can never seem to be in sync in all facets of the game at the same time.
If they are hitting, their starting pitching is terrible. If their starting pitching is great, they can't get a hit. If they get good starting pitching and hitting, then their bullpen blows it.
They are just a team riddled with inconsistencies.
So how do you make this team better for 2010?
It's difficult to pinpoint a single must-do come the offseason, but you would have to imagine that Jim Hendry, or whoever is making player personnel decisions, would like to rid themselves of Alfonso Soriano's gigantic contract.
Soriano has not come close to living up to his contract since joining the Cubs in 2007.
Although Soriano was good in his first two seasons with the Cubs, compiling 62 home runs, 145 RBI, and a batting average over .280, these are not the type of numbers you expect from a guy making $17 million per season.
This season, Soriano has played terribly, with a batting average of .243, 19 home runs, and 51 RBI.
At $17 million per season, it seems unlikely the Cubs could find a taker for Soriano, unless they were willing to take on a salary like a Barry Zito's.
Soriano has had a bad season but it's possible that he still has something left in the tank. I would have to imagine that he will still be in a Cubs uniform come April 2010.
The other problem that the Cubs have faced this season is the poor performance by their bullpen. Names like Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman, and Carlos Marmol have all disappointed in 2009, but in 2010 expect two-thirds of those names to be gone.
Gregg, the Cubs' closer until yesterday, has been shelled since joining the Cubs, allowing 13 home runs and blowing seven saves. Gregg is also a free agent come the offseason, so expect him to be gone then, if not earlier.
Heilman was another offseason addition for the Chicago Cubs, coming via a trade in which the Cubs gave up pitcher Garrett Olson (who was acquired in the Felix Pie deal) and shortstop Ronny Cedeno.
"Disappointing" would be an understatement regarding Heilman's season, recording an ERA of 4.64, six blown saves, and 31 walks in 54 innings pitched.
Heilman is still under contract through next season, but will either be dealt or released during the offseason.
As for Marmol, his inability to get the ball over the plate has been a problem. Even though Marmol has 67 strikeouts in 56.1 innings and an opponents batting average of .167, he has also given up 52 walks.
Marmol is only in his third major league season and possesses electric stuff, so he will be given another chance to compete for the Cubs' closer role. Look for him to also spend most of his offseason improving his strike-throwing.
The final problem with the Cubs this season has been their inconsistent offense.
Aramis Ramirez has been in and out of the lineup all season. Soriano hasn't been able to find his swing. Geovany Soto hasn't played like the 2008 ROY.
Mike Fontenot hasn't been as good as he was in 2008. Aaron Miles has been awful. Micah Hoffpauir seemed to loose all his confidence.
No one has been able to come up with clutch hits.
The driving factor in the lineups inconsistency could be the amount of injuries it has faced with Ramirez's shoulder issues, Soto's oblique strain, and Derrek Lee's back issues.
Even though the injuries are a factor, the biggest issue is that players like Milton Bradley, Soriano, and Soto haven't hit the way many of us expected.
The biggest bright spot of the Cubs' lineup has been minor league call-up Jake Fox, but with no place for him to play, he has been unable to get consistent playing time. Next season, however, Fox could see some time at second base as he will be sent to the instructional league this fall to get time there.
Another piece of the Cubs that deserves mentioning is the starting rotation, probably the brightest spot for the Cubs all season, until recently.
Ted Lilly, Randy Wells, and Carlos Zambrano have all pitched well, but Zambrano and Lilly have had to deal with injuries as of late, which probably contributed to the Cubs' most recent downfall.
Dempster and Harden have been average, but have given the Cubs a number of quality starts.
Harden has been very good in his last six starts. He's a free agent at the end of the season but could return if the Cubs feel pitchers like Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny, and Sean Marshall are not good enough to capture the fifth spot in the rotation.
Even though the Cubs are coming into a stretch of games against teams below .500, it seems unlikely that the Cubs will be able to overcome the giant deficit that they have created.
After a season where nothing has gone right for the Chicago Cubs, many of us Cubs fans must turn our attention to next season and what steps must be taken for the Chicago Cubs to once again make the playoffs.