What Went Wrong?

Rank the reasons behind the Cubs 2009 demise from most important (1) to least (10). Thanks to reader dc60124 for the idea. Your choices after the jump with explanations or just go ahead and vote.

The Bullpen - 5th most losses in the NL, 5th least amount of wins. 18 blown saves ranks in the middle of the pack. Heilman and Gregg gave up 21 HR's between them. Carlos Marmol made Mitch Williams look like a control artist.

Lou Piniella - Started offseason by demanding a left-handed power bat that proved to be the wrong Jinga piece to move. Replaced Aramis Ramirez for 50 games with the likes of Aaron Miles, Ryan Freel and Bobby Scales while hot-hitting Jake Fox sat. Never got through to Milton Bradley. Stuck with Kevin Gregg in closer role all year, killed a pony in front of some small children....

Aramis Ramirez injury - Cubs were 6-2 in May before injury hit, went 24-26 in the 50 games he missed, actually gained a half game in the standings. They did score lowest monthly total in runs in June (3.56 R/G) than any other month, May was second worst at 4.32 R/G and just 3.95 R/G once he hit the disabled list that month.

All the Other Injuries - Zambrano x2, Lilly, Dempster, Harden, Soto, R. Johnson x2, Waddell, Guzman, Miles, Freel, Patton, C. Fox, A. Blanco. Plus non-DL injuries to Bradley and Derrek Lee along with a few others. 

Milton Bradley - nutcase, combative, didn't bring any power with him, killed 5 innocent people  who looked at him the wrong way.

Alfonso Soriano - 85 OPS+, one of three worst regulars in baseball this year by Fangraphs numbers, refused to sit despite being hurt, defense made Adam Dunn go, "woah, you suck".

Geovany Soto - looked out of shape all year, home run balls last year died on warning track this year, OPS was in the high 500's in May, warmed up to a low 700's by July before hitting the disabled list.

Mike Fontenot - Godenot was anything but, essentially hovering around a .700 OPS most of the season and playing most of the time due to other injuries and Lou sleeping in the dugout.

Jim Hendry - The Brown touch, almost every move turned to sh** for him this year from trading away Marquis, Wuertz, and DeRosa and acquiring Gregg and Bradley. Willfully went along with haphazard left-handed plan, then apparently did little to smooth Bradley's transition to media-frenzy Chicago, then waited until far too late to suspend supposed clubhouse cancer. Ran over old lady outside Wrigley Field...

Sam Zell and Delay in Sale - Cubs had plenty of money to spend in offseason but rudderless ship during season made things difficult for Hendry to adapt in-season.

Honorable Mentions: Cardinals suprisingly good, the Media, the Fans, Transmission, Larry Rothschild, Scalpers, Goats, Curses, Parachat Behavior


Who needs 10?

1) Injuries

2) Under-performance from multiple players

These things happen

I can't remember now. I think I went: Bradley, Hendry, Aramis' injury, Soriano, Fontenot, Lou, Bullpen, Injuries, Soto and didn't vote for the sale. Or something like that. If you disagree with me then that's probably not how I voted.

that was your vote...

Jim Hendry > Milton Bradley > Alfonso Soriano > Aramis Ramirez
injury > Mike Fontenot > Lou Piniella > All the Other Injuries
> The Bullpen > Geovany Soto > Sam Zell and Delay of Sale

Mike C. voted Bradley and Ramirez injury and nothing else...

oh you guys didn't think it was anonymous, did you?

Thanks for the clarification. To be fair, it was several minutes before posting, so I couldn't be expected to remember.

I stand by it, but I think I've already changed my mind. I'm not sure what I'd change, though.

I think its pretty obvious who I blame for this season. You can't dish out 30 million for a new RFer and then watch him struggle to 40 RBI as your middle of the order threat and not think that is a problem.

He had no major injuries to speak of, and he was out hit by a one legged Soriano, and he was the worst teammate you could ever wish upon your team.

Nothing like adding the ego of Barry Bonds, and the temperment of Albert Belle and getting jack shit in production.

He had no major injuries to speak of, and he was out hit by a one
legged Soriano, and he was the worst teammate you could ever wish upon
your team.

if only their were analysis and websites and studies that could tell us the value of players beyond hr, rbi's and BA.

Averages and graphs dont count in games Rob. You score runs, you get hits, and you knock in runs. Then you compare those numbers with your peers and thats how we figure out the best in the game. Its a pretty simple concept that has been used for over 100 years.

I challenge you Rob, stack Bradleys numbers up against his peers without using averages or graphs. Hell stack Bradleys best season ever compared to the rest of the league.

No one gives a shit about a part time player who doesn't produce.

Averages and graphs dont count in games Rob. You score runs, you get
hits, and you knock in runs. Then you compare those numbers with your
peers and thats how we figure out the best in the game. Its a pretty
simple concept that has been used for over 100 years.

but mostly disproved over the last 30 years, let me know when the 21st Century hits for you...also your definition means that defense has no part in a players value.

I challenge you Rob, stack Bradleys numbers up against his peers without using averages or graphs.

399 outs by Soriano vs. 292 for Bradley(Soriano did end up with nearly 50 more PA's). What do I win?

Mostly disproved? Only in statfag world have they been disproved.

In the end an RBI is an RBI and Bradley only had 40 of them for a middle of the order threat. Spin it all you want Rob but 61 runs, and 40 RBI is still shitty for a middle of the order threat. Keep defending that dead horse and where do those total rank in the league Rob?

Mostly disproved? Only in statfag world have they been disproved.

YEAH!!! let's go kick some statfags asses, mother effers gone and ruin my game. Die you stat-sucking a*holes!!! Marriage is for baseball-lovers, not statfags!!!

I would recommend a non-statfag blog then for your reading pleasure and generally hate-filled soul. 

Spin it all you want Rob but 61 runs, and 40 RBI is still shitty for a middle of the order threat. 

Indeed, Bradley had a poor season...just better than Soriano's.


Who had more extra base hits, runs, and RBI by a substansial margin?

Even if Bradley wasn't suspended he would have barely beat Soriano in runs and not even come close in the other categories.

All those BB didn't help Bradley score runs at a better clip, or hit for more power, or drive in more runs.

Its comparing 2 levels of crap, but Sorianos 64 runs, 46 XBH, and 55 RBI trump Bradleys 61 runs, 30 XBH, and 40 RBI.

Soriano on one leg was atleast hitting with some pop still, wtf was Bradley doing? More than likely mailing it in because he got signed to a fat contract.

Spin those numbers away to make Bradley look good by just focusing on walks.

How can you call Bradley's contract fat and not mention Soriano's?

For what it's worth, Soriano is the one being paid to be a middle of the order hitter at 18 mil. 10 mil a year is hefty, but it's not middle of the order hefty.

Yes, it's comparing dreck, but Soriano is clearly the biggest disappointment of the year. Worse performance. Bigger contract. More playing time.

I don't understand how anyone could not vote Soriano number 1.

if 1 man can bring down a clubhouse to the point it's that tragic maybe your #1 should be lou pinella..the guy who's in charge of clubhouse atmosphere.

it's just 1 guy...and what he brought to the plate/field was under-performing, but not tragic or disabling.

Another brilliant concept. Your the manager at whatever store you can think of and your Boss hires someone like Bradley.

He is one of the most insufferable pricks ever, shows up to work whenever he wants, leaves early whenever he wants. Alienates everyone around him, lashes out at customers and is rude.

You have had enough of him and fire him. Your Boss comes back and tells you, its your fault, your the manager, manage people, your the problem not the guy he hired.

Are you fucking kidding me crunch? How in the hell is that Lou's fault? Bradley was givin another in a long line of chances and he fucked up again. Thats the end of the story. It has nothing to do with Lou in the slightest.

All your arguing is that Bradley has no accountability for his actions so they should just be accepted or ignored.

I really wish this concept was used in Law Enforcement. Ohhh he is a life long criminal, lets not arrest him this time for the rape, lets blame the girl in the short skirt instead.

So yeah lets blame Lou for Bradley being a fuck up, thats just brilliant logic.

you are NO manager if *1* player can disrupt 24-30 others from doing their jobs properly, period.

i am 100% behind that statement.

that said, i don't think it's lou's fault...and i don't think this team's main failure was bradley...nor do i think a bunch of pros let milton bradley get off their game.

if it is the case, though...it is 100% lou's fault for letting 1 person ruin his clubhouse. the clubhouse is lou's problem, not bradley's.

isn't it, you're the manager at a store and a boss hires someone like Bradley, but gives you a heads up that he's hiring this person and are you okay with that? You say sure, I think it will work out and then you proceed to ignore the situation all year and let your other employees deal with it.

Cause that sounds a lot more like what happened unless Hendry really signed Bradley without ever running it past Lou.

I thought Ramirez' injury killed the team this year. Soriano's lack of production and injury was second with Soto's injury third. Bradley's lack of production and behavioral problems came in fourth.

The thing that surprised me a little bit about my own voting was that I put Hendry 9th (I think). Hendry made a huge mistake by signing Bradley in the off season, but the truth is he gave Piniella a team that 1) if they stayed healthy, and 2) performed to expectations, still could have won the division. The injuries, lack of production, and personality problems (coupled with the Cards rather amazing season) was kind of a perfect storm that doomed the 2009 Cubs. Other than the personality problems (i.e Bradley), Hendry can't be blamed for the rest.

"Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Aramis Ramirez injury"

you're only given the Aramis Ramiez injury as a choice for that voted-for resolution.

i would have placed that at #1 or #2 instead of #3 if the other 2 were thrown in.

as it is i made bullpen #1 and "other injuries" #2 (thinking bradley/sori were part of this).

Thanks, Rob & dc60124.

That was cathartic.

i voted

Hendry, Soriano, Ramirez, Other Injuries, Bradley, Lou, Bullpen, Soto, Fontenot, Delayed Sale

ultimately it lies on Hendry and justified or not, his moves did not work out. Soriano gets paid the most and sucked the most, Cubs could have been building a lead when Ramirez went down and it happened right as they seemed to be getting hot, the other injuries are going to stack up of course although I think they weathered them pretty well, ultimately the responsibility lays on Bradley for being an ass so I put him ahead of Lou who can't expect to get paid top manager money and then ignore his problem children, bullpen was merely mediocre at the end and Soto and Fontenot and the rest probably could have been overcome if not the first 7 issues.

I think we voted very similarly - you can look it up. I also put Hendry first, because his offseason moves were very questionable at best, especially when you consider that the Cubs won 97 games last year and didn't need so much of an overhaul. I would still argue he traded Marquis and DeRosa thinking he was going to land Peavy, but he definitely overpaid for Bradley. Dumping Wuertz for nothing was idiotic, and Gregg and Miles were pretty much epic fails. I think I put the Ramirez injury next followed by the other injuries (especially to pitchers), because that is something which you can't game plan at the start of the season. The next 2 were definitely Soriano and Bradley for me, but I think I put Bradley ahead of Soriano because of all of the distractions. Both had a shit season on the field, but the negativity and bad juju that seemed to pervade the team when Bradley was there put him over the top for me. The next 2 were Lou and the bullpen for me, because Lou definitely seemed to be sleepwalking out there at times and the bullpen wasn't totally miserable, just average. My last 3 were exactly as you had them, Rob - I considered Soto and Fontenot secondary pieces of the puzzle, and as you state, they were easy to work through if you don't have the other 7 bigger problems to deal with. I wish Soto sucking was our biggest problem this season!

I also made the bullpen #1, simply because the Cubs were hanging with the Cards until the pen started giving away games in early August that we had already won. Somehow, they had managed to hang tough until the pen (Gregg & Heilmann, mostly -- Marmol occasionally) developed a bad case of generosity. After the pen, it was fistfight among the other multitude of candidates. I discounted Fontenot because Baker, Andres Blanco and even Scales helped cushion his lack of contribution. I also blame Lou less simply because he continued to juggle and try to adjust and, overall, there was only so much he could do in light of so many under-performers.

only 2 regular relievers with ERA's under 4.00...yow.

23-25 losses out of the pen, too...something like that.

Where the hell is Michael Barrett?!

you mean that other guy that had to be traded because of some lockerroom, non-on-field/game stuff?

...he got a tear in his throwing shoulder, TOR. done for the year...FA 2010, not expected to be highly chased.

Jim Hendry (Aaron Miles wasn't listed so I voted for Jim Hendry 3rd)
All Other Injuries
Milton Bradley
Delay of Sale
Lou Piniella

Only surprise I see in the voting is the bullpen. I ranked it 2nd, they single-handedly lost a LOT of games in April and May. Considering how the Cubs are still not eliminated with only 6 games to go, who knows, maybe a decent bullpen might have made a significant difference.

Cott's as your only LH in the bullpen was criminal.

Re #19:

Yeah, un-classy language aside, I agree. The game is played on the field, not on a spreadsheet. Stats are important, but not nearly as important as most people think.

But I think we've already drawn the battle lines on who likes stats and who likes gut baseball intuition... we probably don't have to resort to name calling. Everyone has an opinion.

The game is played on the field, not on a spreadsheet. Stats are important, but not nearly as important as most people think.

Thanks, unfortunately nothing you just said was related to that conversation. RBI, runs and HR are stats just like WARP and WAR and OBP....

Ummm Rob they count runs in games they don't count WARP or WAR.

No one wins games by having the best WARP, sorry but its true.

No one wins games by having the best WARP, sorry but its true.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you have the best WARP, you are going to win a helluva' lot of games.

Sorry but its true.

Do they count WARP in games? Uhhh no they don't, its good old runs like they have had for the last 100+ years.

You don't look up at the scoreboard and go damn our WARP is kicking the shit out this teams WARP in this game.

Scoring runs, and knocking in runs is what matters. Keep defending Bradleys 40 RBI like its something special its pretty sad.

A guy like Bobby Abreu is having a 100 run, 100 RBI season, thats a 100 extra runs missing from RF. Yeah we don't need that at all.

And Abreu has done that his whole career whats Bradley done? Come on tell me what has Bradley done?

WARP isn't going to win one single game for you, but runs and RBI will.

Scoring runs, and knocking in runs is what matters.

You do know that both runs and knocking in runs are very team dependent, right?

Keep defending Bradleys 40 RBI like its something special its pretty sad.

Straw man much? Please point out one person who said "Bradleys [sic] 40 RBI" were "something special." Come on - give us one example of where someone said that Bradleys [sic] RBI total was anything special.

You know what is sad? People who make ignorant comments and personal attacks in order to try and make themselves feel smarter. I'll tell you what. I have a great blog for you; they hate "statfags" about as much as you do. But they may at least be slightly more rational.

You do know that both runs and knocking in runs are very team dependent, right?

I think this is a canard when it's misapplied to individual players. Sure, bad teams score fewer runs than good ones. But good players on bad teams still find a way to drive in and score runs like Derrek Lee who's having a career RBI year on a team that's ranked 21st in scoring runs. And I suspect mediocre players are mediocre what ever team they're on.

For example take these two known quantities nearing the end of their prime years:

Juan Pierre - 10 seasons , 4 different teams

Averages over his entire career 55 R/414 PA

2009 - 414PA, 56R


Milton Bradley - 10 seasons, 7 different teams

Averages over his entire career 62 R/473 PA

2009 - 473PA, 61R

Derrek Lee who's having a career RBI year on a team that's ranked 21st in scoring runs.

You still don't understand, do you. Not only are runs and RBI very team dependent, they are also very situational dependent. Yes, DLee has had a good year. Yes, Bradley has had a bad year. And yes, both were also linked to situational circumstances that helped or hurt their run and RBI totals.

One such circumstance has been DLee hitting very well with RISP, and MB hitting like Mick Kelleher with RISP...

Agreed. I never said anything different than this. I said that Bradley had a bad year. I then went on to say part of the bad year was also impacted by circumstances.

Got it?

I am going to go ahead and get crazy here and use a spreadsheet. I know that certain people think baseball should only be accounted for with matchsticks, but it's a bit easier.

With the caveat that this isn't broken down by out situations (and baserunners) here's what would have happened if Bradley and Lee's RBI opportunities and PA's were reversed:

Bradley: 60 RBI's
Lee: 74 RBI's

almost sure i voted

1. soriano- did not age well; hope it's a 1 year fluke.
2. bullpen- 4 blown saves by marmol, 6 for heilman, and 7 for gogglepuss...not sure that adds up to 17 more wins, but it's got to be most of them...grrr
3. aram injury
4. hendry- for creating the "f" troop of ramirez replacements (fonty/freel/fox/freakin' miles) and buying into the lefthanded malarkey (goodbye derosa, hello bradley)
5. and 6. soto/bradley or bradley/soto- they both laid eggs, or worse
7. lou p- does p stand for "podperson"?
8. fontenot- overexposed, both at bat and at 3b
9. other injuries- can't think of anything beyond aram that was not pretty well absorbed by the depth the club did have.
10. slow sale process- furthest from the field, which is where things went haywire.

thanks for the forum.

the reverse-engineered Elias statfags have Bradley as a Type A and Soriano as a Type B (based off 2 years of course)...mostly based off counting stats.

other interesting notes, Cubs have 3 NL pitchers in the top 8...Marmol ranks as 3rd highest reliever despite not closing ost of that time.

Harden still a Type A, as is DeRosa if we want him back...Reed Johnson still hanging on to Type B status.

Grabow and Gregg are Type A's unfortunately, Heilman Type B


I think the Aramis injury was the most critical thing.

It exposed Bradley, Lou, Fontenot and Hendry.

If Aram does not get hurt and has his regular season, they are in it right now and probably not discussing the rest.

As it was the injury was a huge flashlight on this cockroach nest.

think the Aramis injury was the most critical thing. It exposed Bradley, Lou, Fontenot and Hendry.

Bah. It exposed Miles. Miles could not field 3B...which exposed Hendry again as a complete idiot which he compounded by not bringing up Fox to play 3B but instead left Lou with the only option of moving a totally inexperienced Fontenot out of his position at 2B which, I'm convinced, screwed up his hitting.

Let's not forget Mr. Hendry also released Casey McGeehee, who might've been a fine fill-in for Ramirez.

You're right, I should not have thrown Fonty under bus for playing emergency third.

But he is not an everyday player at any position, IMO.

Miles was injured which is why he couldn't play third and the Fontenaught had to play third.

Ramirez's injury, to me, cascaded too much pressure on all of the rest of the team, and only a couple of guys responded.

Miles also couldn't p[lay third because...he stinks.

I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said, it is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt (I'm paraphrasing). I think Lincoln's quote can be aptly applied to a recent article by Dave Kaplan wherein he said:

The Biggest Problems the 2009 Chicago Cubs Had to Overcome were:

1) Milton Bradley
2) Aramis Ramirez' shoulder injury that forced him to miss over 2 months
3) DL stints of Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster

Apparently Soriano's lost season was not a concern. That Kap. He's so crazy.


I blame Michael Barrett

Thanks for the forum, Rob.

I'd have to pick Hendry as the number-one cause of the Cub flop, for three reasons:

1) the outfield follies, mostly left and right but also a $50 million right fielder having to be downgraded and moved to center and leadoff, were all his doing.

2) I liked the idea of Fontenot playing second every day--I don't like it so much any more--but you needed a decent backup just in case, not Aaron Miles.

3) Gregg was OK, but Heilman was awful.

These are all scouting failures, aren't they? Hendry needs a new set of major-league scouts.

On the other hand, Hendry had a good season in the minors. If Hendry didn't build this very decent farm system, I'd like to know who did.

For the major leaguers, though, Hendry is the #1 culprit, then Soriano, then Bradley, then Fontenot.

I give Lou a pass, since it's his job to play the boss's expensive mistakes--to put lipstick on the pigs.

I don't consider Soto much of a problem, since they had a substitute who was able to start 67 games, in which the Cubs were 42 and 25. Opposing teams scored 3.81 runs/game when Hill started, versus 4.41 with Soto. Unlike with Fontenot, they had a worthwhile sub for Soto.

Isn't labeling this season as a disaster a little dramatic? This team had a pile of key injuries, yet may very well win 85 games -- two less than the 2003 team, three less than the 2004 team.

The disappointment of this season is real, but it's rooted in a comparison against the unexpected (and outlier-ish) successes of the 2008 Cubs and 2009 Cards. We all search for reasons -- and scapegoats -- when things don't go as planned, but sometimes it's bad luck (injuries) and more bad luck (a totally unexpected 94-ish win Cards team), more than anything else. If the Cards had played to the expectations that all of us had for them coming into this season, we'd be in an old fashioned pennant race right now. They overperformed, God bless them. But that ain't the Cubs fault.

Bradley was a dick, and underperformed (although a .378 OBP wasn't "off the charts" bad), but I can't see how he was the cause of any of the W/L disappointment. Hell, it would be great if he was the cause of it, because that can be easily fixed, but I don't think it's that easy.

If the Cubs had the same injuries last year that they had this year, 85 wins would be about what you'd expect, in my estimation.


Recent comments

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  • My kids' 8:30pm (ET) bed time will be waived tonight (They are Rizzo & Castro fans). We'll get geared up in our Cubs apparel and will watch this as a family. I am stoked. Go Cubs!

  • Bryant: Base running adventures.

  • Remember Bryant's home-away splits, too.

    Wrigley: 21 HR, 59 RBI, .311/.408/.629
    Road: 5 HR, 40 RBI, .243/.333/.360

  • Good Lord this season has flown by so far. I need more Cubs gifs--the four on the MLB.com article today are not enough. I need a 100 best moments of the season listicle of gifs.
    Rizzo: The slide, the catch.
    Russell: All the defense.
    Bryant: Pelting the video board.
    Soler: 125 MPH ground balls.
    Schwarber: DINGERS, surprising LF catches.
    Fowler: Walks, the many walks he should have had on 3-2 BS strike calls.
    Baez: That 3B play.
    Ross: Walk-up music? Bullpen appearance?
    Denorfia: Walk-off.
    Castro: Walk-offs.

  • No evidence other than 8 hits and 0 HR in 45 AB....

    I just think hitters like their routines -- think Boggs or Ted Williams -- and messing with that routine adds an element of change. I want my best hitters in their normal routines.

  • evidently i was busy burying context and meaning.

    i was excited about this playoff season kicking up in the drama of that environment, but it was stated insanely muddled.

  • Woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep in excitement/anticipation. Go Cubs Go!

  • The only issue with this dead horse is that there's no evidence that his performance during those games is solely due to playing the OF. I would tend to agree that I'd rather see him play 3B, though.

  • What do you mean by new format in this instance? The second wildcard team with a one-game playoff has been around since 2012.

  • Doubled over with anxiety today. GO CUBS.

  • Illuminati.

  • May the best team win, and subsequently humiliate the Cardinals.

  • I love arriving here first thing in the morning, adding a few moronic posts (moranic for any Cardinals fans who may be trolling), and reading the sage posts of all you guys. Most knowledgeable fans on any forum, by far. So post like crazy today and help give TCR some visibility!

    I told my wife last night that I'm going to need a support system for tonight's game. Tonight is going to be a lot harder on me than it is going to be on these rookie bad asses.

  • James Russell elected free agency.

  • based on what SF has been doing every other year lately, getting access to the postseason playoffs seems to be what's important. bring on dat short series!

    that said, skipping the sudden death 1-game WC would be nice from here on out.

  • I know what you are saying, but I feel compelled to point out that there's no such thing as luck, curses, etc. The Cubs this year have as good as a chance as the Pirates to move on to the next round. If the Cubs proceed to the next round or not tomorrow, it will not be because of luck, but because one team outlasted the other. When/if the Cubs are lucky enough to make it to the league series, that's where they may find their biggest challenge. The Dodgers have a good, deep pitching staff.