September 28, 2009
As the 2009 season draws to a close, we look back with a few numbered lists that are chock full of vitamins and oh-so-easy to digest. Today we count the teams that provided much different material for the end-of-the-year video than expected.
1. Chicago Cubs You think the 2004 Cubs would have taught us all a lesson about bestowing World Series bids in March, but noooo, we had to learn again the hard way. After hearing every pundit describe the regular season as 162 games of foregone conclusion, the North Siders took their big money roster and then proceeded to lay a colossal egg in a NL Central race they were predicted to win in a walk.
Sure, the Cubs will finish over .500 — an accomplishment for many teams — but the 2009 squad will always be remembered for horrid performances (Geovany Soto(notes) and Alfonso Soriano(notes)), extended troubles on the disabled list (Aramis Ramirez(notes)), bullpen implosions (Carlos Marmol(notes) and Kevin Gregg(notes)) and one all-time whack job (Milton Bradley(notes)).
There were a few bright spots (Derrek Lee(notes), Ted Lilly(notes), Randy Wells(notes)), but in a Wrigleyville setting that has turned from "shut up and drink your beer" to "World Series or bust," most players will rightfully clean out their lockers with heads that are hung. (That the Cardinals reinvented themselves midseason to sprint past Chicago doesn't help matters.)
2. Tampa Bay Rays No one would have been surprised had you told them the Rays would miss the 2009 playoffs, but that doesn't mean this season wasn't a disheartening one for the defending AL champions. Joe Maddon & Co. never presented a strong challenge to either the Yankees or Red Sox and where it once looked like the final week would be a race to the finish, they'll now simply try to finish above .500. The future is still bright in St. Petersburg — all that young talent! — but it would have been nice to see B.J. Upton(notes) and at least one of the young pitchers make their expected jumps into stardom.
3. New York Mets Having written themselves into a punch line at the end of the 2007 and '08 seasons, the 'Ropolitans decided to get an early start on the self-embarrassment in 2009. You really can't hold the hospital's worth of injuries against them too much, but considering we were discussing them as the division's biggest chance to unseat the world champion Phillies, we can still count them as a disappointment.
4. Cleveland Indians Ugh. Predicted by many as the default winners of the AL Central, the Tribe instead took a complete swan dive and started executing a fire sale by late June. The good news is that the Indians have created such low expectations for 2010 that there's no way they can end up on this list next season.
5. Kansas City Royals Not every disappointing team needs to be tabbed as a preseason favorite to be ranked as a failure. The 2009 Royals were said by some to be "this year's Rays" and a 18-12 start seemed to back those hunches up. Normalcy, however, quickly returned to Kauffman Stadium and the Royals plunged to their usual spot at the bottom of the American League. A good September (14-11) will again have the prognosticators predicting a better future for the 2010 Royals, but we'll believe it when we see it.