I don’t think anyone could have predicted how the 2011 season played out for the Cubs. Sure, we all knew they would suck, but I don’t think anybody could have seen the dominoes falling in such a manner to lead to the Age of the Superfriends in Wrigleyville. How the hell did we end up with Theo freaking Epstein and his ward, Jed Hoyer? Well, let’s go back and take a look:
January 2011: Exactly Like 2010, Except Nobody Cares Anymore
January 1 – Carrie Muskat set the tone of optimism for the new year as she told us all to not be surprised if the Cubs were back to contending in 2011, citing the 19-10 record the Cubs posted in the last month of the 2010 season and the recent signings of Kerry Wood and Carlos Pena. This may have been the most optimistic day of the season for me.
January 2 – Rumors were swirling about the Cubs trading for Matt Garza and we all laughed because Tom Ricketts had just gotten done telling the season ticket holders and anybody else within earshot that a strong farm system is necessary for sustained success.
Janury 4 – Baseball America named Chris Archer as the Cubs’ #1 top prospect and mentioned that a scout had said that the Cubs “had more future big leaguers than any other organization.” Way to go, Team Ricketts! They sure do get how to build from within! Go Cubs Go!
January 5 – Kerry Wood is officially added to the Cubs’ 40 man roster, freeing them to begin the process of pre-filling out the paperwork so they can eventually add him to the disabled list.
January 5 – Former Cubs, Lee Smith and Rafael Palmeiro, honor the memory of recently deceased Ron Santo by not getting elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA.
January 7 - Carrie Muskat writes about some dude named Mark Riggins, who is really excited for the season to start. He’s the new pitching coach? Really? Where was I when that was announced? Oh right, not giving a damn.
January 8 - The Cubs trade #1 prospect Chris Archer, as well as #4 Hak-Ju Lee and #10 Brandon Guyer, plus Robinson Chirinos and Sam Fuld for Matt Garza and two minor leaguers who never see the light of day on the Cubs roster, immediately bolstering the teams’ ability to win 75 games.
January 10 – On the heels of the exciting Matt Garza trade, the Cubs announce the debut of their Pick 13 ticket plans that allow people to purchase tickets in a bundle that includes the Yankees series and other high profile match-ups. Wally Hayward, the Cubs’ marketing guru, was certain these would be a big hit. Especially since they used the Cubs most marketable player, Derek Jeter, in the ads for this promotion.
“We expect most of the tickets for these games to move through the Pick 13 Plan,” Hayward said. “By the time we get to on-sale [in February], there will be limited availability for the high-demand games.”
Cubs fans everywhere rushed to find their wallets and then spent their money on things other than Pick 13 plans.
January 10 – The Cubs claim catcher Max Ramirez off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. Adding him to a team that already had Welington Castillo waiting in the wings to take over as back-up catcher, it is widely regarded as a sign that the Koyie Hill Era would finally end in Chicago.
January 12 – The Cubs sign Koyie Hill to a one-year $850,000 contract. They also bought a solar-powered flashlight, some ocean-front property in Kansas, and an elevator pass.
January 14 – The Cubs open the 26th Cubs Convention to a much less enthusiastic crowd than normal. Tickets were still available for sale on-site after selling out within minutes in previous years. I bought my $60 pass from a scalper outside for $20.
“We feel we have the right mix of players, we feel we have the right manager and we feel 2011 will be special for us,” Tom Ricketts said.
They then spent the weekend pretending that Lou Piniella had never existed like it was all somehow his fault.
January 15 – Tom Ricketts addresses Ryne Sandberg leaving the Cubs organization by saying:
“Obviously, Ryne Sandberg is a highly valued treasured member of the Cubs,” Ricketts said. “He was always welcome here, he will always be welcome here. He’s one of us.”
He went on to add, “Unless, of course, we fire Mike Quade at the end of the year, then we still don’t want him back. But in a purely hypothetical situation, we would always love to have him back.”
January 16 – The Cubs reveal that 60% of fans polled would like to have a video scoreboard at Wrigley. But they want it outside the ballpark on one of the rooftops, have it covered in ivy, with no advertising, and it should be manually operated with a cast of actors re-creating plays in slow motion.
January 17 – The Cubs trade starting pitcher, Tom Gorzelanny, because of the organizational depth the team had at starting pitcher like Casey Coleman and Jeff Russell. This also marked the last date that anyone ever mentioned the prospects names A.J. Morris, Graham Hicks, and Michael Burgess that they got in return.
January 20 – The Cubs pay Matt Szczur $1.5 million to stop playing football and start focusing on how much it would take to pay Alfonso Soriano to stop playing baseball.
January 24 – We all laughed at an article about how Jeff Samardzija was so optimistic about his ability to contribute at the major league level, not knowing we would be crying a few months later when it turned out he was one of the best things about the Cubs’ bullpen.
January 25 – The Cubs sign Todd Wellemeyer to a minor league deal hoping this would make us feel better about the Koyie Hill signing, but it doesn’t.
January 26 – The State of Illinois unveils a plan to sell Cubs-themed license plates. They are just like regular license plates, but they cost more and always fall off in September.
January 30 – The Cubs sign Rubi Silva and Yaniel Cabeza from the Cuban National team and they are never heard from again, and neither is the $1.5 million the Cubs paid for them.
Things will turn around when pitchers and catchers report next month, right? RIGHT?