Chicago Cubs: Looking back at the exciting, disappointing 2008 team

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 01: Ryan Dempster #46 of the Chicago Cubs gets set to throw a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the NLDS during the 2008 MLB Playoffs at Wrigley Field on October 1, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 01: Ryan Dempster #46 of the Chicago Cubs gets set to throw a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game One of the NLDS during the 2008 MLB Playoffs at Wrigley Field on October 1, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Oh, how the times have changed. In the midst of an exciting run of postseason appearances, much has changed in the last decade for the Chicago Cubs.

This current stretch of Chicago Cubs playoff level baseball is remarkable. I mean, it hasn’t happened since the very early days of the franchise.  The Cubs were in the midst of another run of playoff baseball ten years ago.

The 2008 Cubs were widely regarded as the class of the National League.  A year earlier they had exited the playoffs in the Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They lost that series, dropping three straight games.  Everyone thought 2008 would be the year.

Three big boppers made up the core of that club. Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano seemed poised to lead the Cubs to the Promised Land. Free agent pick-ups Kosuke Fukudome and Jim Edmonds bolstered the lineup and gave the Cubs more left-handed options.  Catcher Michael Barrett had been dispatched and rookie Geovany Soto took his place. Of course, the year culminated in Soto earning National League ROY honors.

More from Cubbies Crib

But the Cubs pitching instilled confidence in playoff success.  Led by Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly, the 2008 rotation was locked and loaded. Coupled with a deep bullpen that included Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Jeff Samardzija and closer Kerry Wood, our odds seemed solid. Wood’s tally that year included 34 saves, a 1.085 WHIP and a 2.32 FIP.

A smooth regular season

The Cubs took off to a 17-10 April and never looked back. By the end of May, they were 35-21. When the All-Star Break hit, they climbed to 57-38. Their worst stretch came in late August with a six-game losing streak that erased a six-game winning streak the week before.

The Cubs finished the season 97-64, an eleven game improvement from the year before. This netted home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  The baseball world was set for a possible crosstown World Series between the Cubs and White Sox, who had also won their division.

The Curse lives on on the North Side

But first, Chicago had to go through the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Cubs won their regular season matchup against the Dodgers five games-to-two. Most expected a tough series but nonetheless, a Cubs series win.  It wasn’t to be.  The pitching collapsed in Games 1 and 2, allowing a combined eleven earned runs.  Chicago’s bats never really showed up as the North Siders scored just eight runs in three games, and just one in the final game.

The Dodgers swept the series.

From there, the Cubs fortunes declined.  By the end of the 2010 season, and now under the ownership of the Ricketts family, they began the process of reevaluating the entire organization.  This led to the momentous decision to fire GM Jim Hendry in August 2011.

Next: Rizzo somehow remains underappreciated by many

Of course, this new direction led Ricketts, the Cubs and their fans to Theo Epstein.

facebooktwitterreddit