July 22, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Bryan LaHair (6) clicks his heels, in honor of Ron Santo, as he runs onto the field in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Highlights of 2012 Cubs Season

Yes, you read that headline correctly: “Highlights of 2012 Cubs Season”. I have not gotten an early start to the New Year’s Eve bubbly. Despite a 100 plus loss season that resulted from a lot of bad baseball, there were still highlights and positives to be thankful for as the calendar turns to 2013. This may not end up being the longest post in my Cubbies Crib career, but the below is certainly worthy to look back on and smile about.

Emergence of Jeff Samardzija

I will come clean and admit that Samardzija proved me wrong. Some of you may recall that last off season, I was adamant about Samardzija being best suited for the bullpen. At the time, the Cubs letting the former wide receiver compete for a rotation spot seemed like an experiment just to prove that Samardzija’s place was in relief. But the Notre Dame product excelled in Spring Training and carried it through the 2012 season until he was shut down to save his young arm.

Over the course of a long season, Samardzija at least provided a reason for Cubs fans to try to check in every five days and watch him pitch. Knowing that “rebuilding” is the catch phrase for 2012 and even 2013, Samardzija’s break out year as a starter provided fans with something tangible to hang onto regarding the future.

Productive Alfonso Soriano

The Cubs left fielder showed in 2012 that he still has some kick left in his career. Soriano will never be able to justify the contract the prior regime handed to him prior to the 2007 season, but it would not be hyperbole to state that Soriano earned his salary last season. A .262 batting average with 32 home runs and 108 RBI is power and run producing production many teams would pay millions of dollars for. Throw in an improved glove on the defensive side of the game and you are looking at a player that suddenly has some trade value despite his age and contract.

A trade has yet to materialize, but that is certainly not the fault of Soriano. The Cubs are no longer in a position of having to dump Soriano and eating all of his remaining deal. Even if he remains a Cub to start the 2013 season, decent production would continue to keep his trade value afloat come July. But the bottom line is that the veteran slugger has done his part to position himself as a Cubs asset instead of a liability or sunk cost.

Darwin “The Glove” Barney

Stealing a nickname from former Seattle Supersonics star point guard Gary Payton may not be completely poetic for Barney, who is an Oregon native, but Cubs fans who appreciate good defense and were still watching games in August and September were treated an errorless games streak that brought back fond memories from the  days when Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg covered the right side of the Wrigley infield.

While Barney was not able to earn recognition for the streak by breaking the Major League record, his play on defense did earn him a Gold Glove award. The scrappy second sacker may never be feared at the plate, but he has certainly answered doubters on whether or not he is a Major League caliber second baseman. As long as Barney focuses on getting on base instead of hitting for power, he will always represent an important piece to the puzzle that is a contending team on the North Side.

Feel Good Story Bryan LaHair

Critics will look back on LaHair’s All Star selection as a fluke proven by the brawny lefty’s decline in the second half. While the big bat will no longer be providing his services in professional baseball in the United States in the near future, his first half production and feel good story bougth the Cubs time in bringing along prospect Anthony Rizzo. In the big picture, that alone is worthy enough for Cubs fans to be thankful of LaHair’s time at Wrigley.

Here’s to a 2012 Cubs year that had a silver lining and a prosperous 2013 year that will continue to show fans that season after season of contending baseball is on its way.

Tags: Alfonso Soriano Bryan LaHair Chicago Cubs Darwin Barney Jeff Samardzija

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