Everybody expected the Chicago Cubs to struggle in 2012, yet watching it all play out was still startling as the club sank to new depths.
The offense struggled, the starters faltered and the bullpen was mediocre at best. And that was all before two months of the season had passed. The rotation rebounded somewhat but then came an injury to Matt Garza and the trades of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm as new prospects were sprinkled among the farm system.
There were pleasant surprises like Alfonso Soriano's run production, Darwin Barney's defense, Starlin Castro's contract extension, Jeff Samardzija's rebirth as a starter and Anthony Rizzo's arrival, but it failed to cover up for so many other deficiencies.
It was a rebuilding year, though, all in the name of a brighter future so patience was asked. Judging by a final attendance of 2.82 million, patience was given. How much patience is left remains to be seen as the struggles are expected to continue into the 2013 season.
It brings us to the final 2012 grades for each player, and once again fans will have a chance to offer their own assessment. We won't grade every one of the franchise-high 53 players the Cubs used this season, but we'll get to many of them so this could take some time.
Pleased with the direction the franchise is headed? Angry at the product fans were asked to watch? Share your thoughts in the comments section.