You can call me a hopeful moron, idiot, optimist, or anything else you want (I've been called them all thirty times over), but as I watch the pieces fall into place for the 2012 season, I'm convinced this is going to be a fun year to watch the Chicago Cubs. Don't equate me saying it's going to be fun with me saying I think they're going to win. I don't believe they are going to win. However, I think for the first time in an extremely long while, Cubs fans are going to see their team building. We aren't going to see a handful of free agents coming in to attempt to plug the holes in the team, we aren't going to see lofty expectations, and we aren't going to see the same team we've seen falter on the field each of the last few years. For all of the above, I'm grateful.
When you take a gander at the Cubs teams of the last few years, you see the Cubs running the same team out on the field for the most part. Sure, you have a rookie pop up here and there, or a free agent signing, but, at its core, the team has been the same. The 2012 Cubs have already been overhauled, and there's still a month before Spring Training. Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome (yes, I know this was an in-season trade), Carlos Zambrano, Tyler Colvin, Sean Marshall, and Andrew Cashner are all gone. Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Chris Volstad, Travis Wood, and Paul Maholm have been added. Add in the entire front office turnover (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Dale Sveum, etc.) and this is the definition of an "overhaul."
The reason this is of consequence is because the Cubs have been in dire need of one for about three years. The team has been poor fundamentally and has consistently shown lacking motivation and attitude. While this hasn't been a team-wide issue, the few bad eggs can (and have) really bring down the rest of the team around them. With the exception of a few contracts that are extremely difficult to move (Alfonso Soriano comes to mind), most of the overpriced contracts that have been lingering around have gone. For the first time in a while, the Cubs have the wiggle room to start a rebuilding model.
All the new faces that will occupy Wrigley Field this season are the reason I believe 2012 will be a fun, perhaps better than expected, year. I'm not preaching anything crazy in terms of what the team may accomplish, I'm just saying having the right culture in place can go a long way in getting results. It's exciting to watch the Cubs build there team into a contender. As long as you are willing to accept that it will probably take a few years, and every season isn't burned by higher-than-attainable expectations, the ride is a lot more enjoyable.
I don't know the level of success the Cubs will achieve this season; I just know that there's no way this year could be as frustrating as the last few have been. Any success the team finds this year will be an added bonus-- not a case of living up to, or faltering on, unreasonable expectations. Expectations are great when there's actually a chance to fulfill them. For the Cubs, taking a breath and "starting over" is the best, most exciting news we could have hoped for. Due to that, 2012 should be a fun, even if not a winning, year.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the MLB throughout.
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