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Will the Real Chicago Cubs Please Stand Up?

Jeff Kayer@thereal_kmanCorrespondent IJune 12, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 27: Home plate umpire Mark Carlson #48 ejects starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs after an arguement over a play at the plate between Zambrano and Nyjer Morgan of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

It was a year that started with so much promise. This was going to be one of the first seasons in Cubs history where it wasn't if they were going to win their division, but by how many games. But fans, sportswriters, and even the team forgot a very important aspect of the team. 

These are the Chicago Cubs! Nothing has nor ever will come easy for this franchise.

When spring training came around, the team was ready to put the painful memories of the 2008 post season behind them. After all, the team had a very successful season in which they nearly won 100 games, had the best offensive and some of the best pitching statistics in the league.

The problem is that it appears they have erased every single memory of last season and are playing without any sense of direction. The team is 29-28 thus far, yet sits only two-and-a-half games back thanks to a very mediocre division.

The Cubs have gone from bashing the ball all over stadiums to being the sixth worst offensive team in baseball. Not one single player is hitting over .300, with Kouske Fukudome, whom many left for dead this spring leading the team with a .285 average. 

Nearly every offensive player on their roster is having one of the worst seasons of their career. Alfonso Soriano after a quick start is now hitting just .236, though he does have 14 home runs. Derrick Lee has raised his average to .269, though he hit well below .250 for virtually the entire season until this past week. 

Geovany Soto, who was the National League rookie of the year last year is hitting just .219 with three home runs. And there is no bust bigger than perhaps Milton Bradley, who is getting paid over $10 million and hitting a paltry .215. 

The only bright spots on the team thus far have to be the before mentioned Fukudome, Ryan Theriot, who has been hitting close to .300 all year, and the Cubs' starting rotation, which has been very solid since May. Rookie pitcher Randy Wells has looked extremely sharp in his first six starts of his career and looks like a keeper.

Another struggle has been that of the relief staff. Kevin Gregg, who was brought in to replace Kerry Wood at closer has blown numerous opportunities. Carlos Marmol has looked nothing like the dominant force he was in 2008. And the rest of their bullpen has put up mediocre numbers with a team ERA of 3.83 runs per game.

So what has caused this team wide funk? Could it really be a hangover from the 2008 playoffs? For those that forget, the Cubs, whom many considered the best team in baseball, were unceremoniously swept out of the postseason by Manny Ramirez and the L.A. Dodgers; that left an extremely sour taste left in the mouths of the fans. 

Could this hangover theory hold water? Even former Cubs from last year's team have performed poorly. Kerry Wood, who is now with the Cleveland Indians has struggled mightily this season. 

Mark DeRosa, also with the Indians, has only now shown signs of life similar to last year, and still is hitting nearly 20 points below his average of last year. Ronny Cedeno, who was a spot starter in the in field last year, is hitting just .147 with the Seattle Mariners.

Another reason for their struggles could be due to injuries. No one realized how important Aramis Ramirez was to this team until he was injured a month ago. Milton Bradley seems to injure himself once every three games. 

Geovany Soto has been a shell of his former self since injuring his shoulder in the first week of the season. Pitchers Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden have also had injury issues.

Whatever the case may be, the Cubs need to be thankful that despite their uninspired play, they only sit two-and-a-half games out of first, with the NL Central being filled with average teams. Even Pittsburgh, which is 27-31, sits only five games out of first. 

The good news for the Cubs is that they could most likely tread water for another month and still be poised to win the division if they go on a run. But everyone knows this team looks nothing like the contender it did one year ago. 

Then again, could that be a good thing? The Cubs had the division wrapped up so early last year they had nearly a month to think about winning the World Series, and was able to get wrapped up in the hype of breaking the 100 year curse. 

It won't be the case this year, as it appears it could be a three, four, or even a five team race to see who wins the division. And in a sick, twisted way, that could help the Cubs. 

For now, Cubs fans will surely be apprehensive as they see their team return from a 4-4 road trip to open up a nine game interleague home stand. A lot of people would feel better about this team if they could go 6-3 on this home stand. 

The question is, will the real Chicago Cubs emerge? Or will we continue to see the inconsistencies that have plagued them this year?

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