2009 Record: 62-60 (eight games back of St. Louis)
2009 Payroll: $134.8M
This is a different failure than the other three contenders for the tarnished crown made of recycled Coke Zero cans.
Last year, the Cubs had the best record in the National League, nearly winning 100 games. Then, as the Cubs do, they got into the postseason and were out before anyone noticed they were even there.
So this past winter, GM Jim Hendry decided to go Yoko Ono on the roster and break things up. He told Kerry Wood to go away, traded veteran leader Mark DeRosa for prospects, overpaid for Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles, and failed to make the blockbuster deal with San Diego for Jake Peavy.
But there was no reason to think the Cubs wouldn't be a sure thing for another postseason. After all, Albert Pujols couldn't personally win the division, and nobody else in the Central was very good on paper.
So Hendry rolled the dice, took the division for granted, and tried to build a PlayStation batting order that could, in theory, make noise in October.
Then, similar to others, injuries started coming.
Derrek Lee had a bulging disc in his neck. Bradley got hurt. Geovany Soto smoked pot at the WBC and then got a love handle contusion. Carlos Zambrano went crazy, Ryan Dempster jumped a fence, and Ted Lilly hurt his back.
The tricky part for the Cubs, different from the others on this list, is that they haven't had a massive run of injuries at once. It's almost as though the starting pitchers took turns getting hurt; Dempster and Lilly's latest trips to the DL only overlapped by a matter of hours.
It has been the play on the field that has failed the Cubs.
They had the best offense in the National League last year and now struggle to score two runs a game. Hendry made a point of "revamping" the bullpen last winter, and his newly fashioned relief corps has blown more saves than any bullpen in baseball.
The mental mistakes have been big as well, and at crucial times.
Oh, and at the trade deadline, when the Cubs made just one minor deal for a couple left-handed pitchers, the Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, and Julio Lugo.
The wheels are off the wagon in Chicago, and apathy has set in for the fans. With new ownership taking control of the team, Hendry's days on the job might be numbered.