In 2001 the Cubs were just a little better than average offensively. The only reason they were that good was because of Sammy Sosa‘s career year. The one thing I’ve always remembered about that offense was that there were only two Cubs who were within 100 RBI of Sammy’s 160. Ricky Gutierrez had 66 (I believe) and Matt Stairs had 61 or 62. It was the Sammy show on offense. They had some other guys who put together solid offensive seasons, but none were anywhere close to Sosa. He single-handedly kept the Cubs offense from being not just average or below average, but possibly terrible.
That team got off to a good start and then in typical Cubs fashion lost 8 in a row to find themselves at 21-21. Unlike most Cubs teams, they quickly regrouped and won 12 in a row. They were in contention all season long, but ultimately fell short. I knew next to nothing about baseball compared to what I know now so I’m thinking at that time that the Cubs need only a piece or two and they’ll be winning the division in 2002.
The 2001 Winter Meetings rolled around and for the first time I was paying close attention to baseball in December. A few weeks into the month the Cubs got that one guy they needed in Moises Alou and were, I thought, destined to win it all. I’ve personally known very few Cubs fans in my life. At work in 2001 there was another Cubs fan. We were listening to sports talk radio and all of a sudden the announcement that the Cubs had signed Moises Alou. I remember both of us were very excited. Alou had hit .355 two years earlier and hit .331 in 2001. He was the piece that the Cubs had missed in their lineup for some time in my opinion.
I know now how naive I was at the time. The 2001 Cubs over-performed. They got some great performances from pitchers that weren’t that good. Jason Bere had a career year. Kyle Farnsworth was coming into his own. Kevin Tapani, Julian Tavarez, Jeff Fassero, Tom Gordon, Todd Van Poppel and Juan Cruz all had good seasons. If I knew then what I know now I could have said the odds of the 2002 Cubs contending, even with Moise Alou, were slim to none. It wasn’t much different offensively. Rondell White had a .383 wOBA, Bill Mueller, Matt Stairs and for the final 50 games Fred McGriff all had solid to very good seasons. There was no reason to expect some of those guys to continue hitting as they did and Sosa was going to come back to this place we call Earth. I remember the 2001 rotation as being dominant. That wasn’t going to continue in 2002.
A trip down memory lane isn’t really what this is about, but rather that I started closely following baseball in the winter months a decade ago. In that time, I have never been more bored by the Winter Meetings this year. I didn’t expect the Cubs to do much. I’m not the least bit surprised they haven’t done anything. I’m just quite surprised at how little other teams have done. Sure, lots of rumors, but usually by this time of the year names are coming off the free agent list pretty quickly. Only a handful of players have signed contracts. There have been fewer trade rumors. There is often a big trade in the works or completed, but that doesn’t appear anywhere close. It’s like baseball took the Winter Meetings off.
Does this have to do with the new CBA? I don’t see how. Why is this Winter Meetings so much less exciting than past ones?
Updates from today’s meetings to come.