As a new year dawns, the Cubs must reflect on the 2012 season in order to progress further towards becoming a consistent winning franchise.
2012 wasn’t always an ideal season as the Cubs only posted 61 wins, but often times in baseball, you learn far more from your losses than your wins. There were errors, poor hitting, injuries and even a few boners off the field but the Cubs persevered. No matter their record or how many wins back they were of a wild card spot, the Cubs still played hard and it showed. Every success was celebrated and every failure was met by guidance and advice from coaching staff.
You could see the changes from previous seasons. There was a support network present that seemed to be lacking during the Quade era – all players knew that 100% effort was being displayed every single game and a true team mentality had been established. There was no “I” in this team.
Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum was very aware of what needed to be done in 2012 and for the most part, he accomplished his goals. He didn’t always have the best lineup at his disposal but the core mentality of this team had been changed. Sveum feels that progress had been made:
We knew going in (to 2012) we were changing the culture of an organization, changing the culture of the 25 guys who were on the baseball field every day, and I think we accomplished a lot of things like that.
Sveum is no stranger to the game. He knows that sound fundamentals will win baseball games in 2013 and the Cubs need to improve in this area. Heart and soul helped the Cubs stay close in many games, but put simply, they were out-muscled and out-played by other teams.
A few spots the cubs need to improve on? On base percentage and slugging. The Cubs ranked near the bottom in the league in each of these categories in 2012 and considering the latest moves the team has made? They may be a few good bats away from being a .500 team. Sveum looks to other teams last season for inspiration:
You look at the Oakland A’s last season, the Orioles winning all those extra-inning games, the one-run ballgames, the walk-off home runs – we talk about it all the time. You have to have slugging percentage, you have to have guys with the ability to hit fastballs to win those close games.
This coaching staff continues to display poise and experience while they work to improve this team. It now a matter of the players answering the call:
Those core guys, eight guys, who are going out there every day, they have to have career years.
Take note Cubs fans – the team continues to be in good hands. The goals set out by Sveum and his staff and smart, measurable, attainable and realistic. While the World Series is the final goal, 2013 will be the proving ground for many players – especially Ian Stewart at third base, which was virtual offensive black hole last season generating only 12 homeruns and 55 RBI.
The first step in Sveum’s books? Get starting pitching under control… and maybe get a little lucky with a few breakout performances too.
Most teams, while they might not be on paper like the Yankees or the good Red Sox teams, guys can come out of nowhere and have their career years and you win a lot more ballgames. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to pitch. We have to compete, we have to put together a pitching staff and get these guys to understand you’ve got to stay away from the walks.
With a progressive set of goals in place, 2013 will surely be an exciting one for the Chicago Cubs. It won’t always be pretty – the Cubs still have many questions to answer but with only 6 more weeks until pitchers and catchers report in to Mesa, Arizona, you can bet we’re all going to have it marked on our calendars.