Every year Chicago Cubs fans come into the season with the "This is the Year" mentality in hopes of avenging the 100+ year World Series drought. But despite the high payroll and the lofty expectations, the Cubs have not been living up to expectations the past few years.
Winning back-to-back NL Central titles in 2007-08 gave many Cub fans hope but being swept in both of those playoff appearances, by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers respectively, reminded fans that the Cubs were so close and yet so far away.
Some of this could be attributed to recent acquisitions. It seems every year the Cubs bring in a new high-priced player that is supposed to be the final piece of a championship team. Whether it's Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome, or newcomers Marlon Byrd and Xavier Nady, nothing has seemed to get the job done and fans are always left with the "Wait 'til Next Year" mantra.
Last year the Cubs had the third highest payroll in MLB at just over $135 million, only trailing the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. The main bulk of that coming from under-performing players. Soriano's 8-year, $136 million deal still stings and Bradley's 3-year $30 million forced the Cubs to trade his bad contract for another, Carlos Silva (4-year $48 million). Not to mention the $48 million that Fukudome receives for not hitting and playing slightly above average defense. The Cubs have made it a habit of cashing in on players who have had one good year heading into free-agency and a lot of hype.
Now the Cubs are relying on Byrd and Nady to add balance to a team that finished above .500 last season but missed out on the playoffs. But neither of these players broke the bank like past free-agents have. Byrd will receive $15 million over the next three years and Nady is only on the books for one year at $5 million. These are the types of deals the Cubs are better at. A few years ago they inked Mark DeRosa to a 3-year $13 million deal that worked out great for them. During the two year that he was in Chicago he batted .293 in 2007 and .285 in 2008 and was a jack of all trades playing all over the diamond for the division winning club.
The biggest off-season move may be one of someone who doesn't even take the field. When the Cubs signed hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo away from the Texas Rangers, they obtained one of the premiere hitting instructors in the game.
Only time will tell how the Cubs season will fare, but here's to hoping that fans will not have to being saying "Wait 'til nexy Year' when the playoffs roll around this fall.