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The new millennium began as a tale of two seasons. In 2000, the team finished with a 65-97 record and established a club record when 51 players appeared in at least one game -- breaking the old mark of 49, set in 1966. The club also said goodbye to Mark Grace, who was a fixture at first base for the North Siders for 13 seasons. There were also many moments to celebrate, such as when Eric Young became the first Cub since the first season of Chicago National League baseball to steal five bases in a single game.

2001  - In 2001, the organization's fortunes reversed direction. In addition to finishing 88-74 -- 23-games better than they had the previous year (and only the sixth time since 1972 that the Cubs finished a season with a plus .500 record) -- they battled for a playoff spot until the final week of the season. The Cubs became the only team in Major League history to go an entire season without allowing an opposing pitcher to go the distance against them. Their pitching staff established a Major League record 1,344 strikeouts, besting the mark of 1,245 set by Atlanta in 1996. And with 2,889,454 fans attending home games, the Cubs closed out the 2001 season with the second-highest home attendance figure in park history.

Sammy Sosa also concluded 2001 with one of the most memorable four-season offensive stretches in Major League history. During that span, the Cubs resident slugger hit at least 50 home runs each year, joining Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire as the only players with more than two 50-roundtripper campaigns. He also established the total base record for a four-year period with 1,621 and his RBI total of 597 was the most in the Majors since Lou Gehrig drove in 639 from 1931-34. Sosa also set the big-league record for most homers over a six-year period with 319.

The 2001 season also saw Sammy Sosa tag 425 total bases for his second 400-plus campaign, setting club marks for extra-base hits (103) and slugging percentage (737), topping the records set by Hack Wilson. In addition, Sosa recorded just the seventh 50-homer/150 RBI season in Major League history. Sosa is the only player since World War II to accomplish this feat, having previously reached it in 1998 as well.

And those spikes were apparently made for walking. Sosa was intentionally walked 37 times in 2001, breaking the big league mark for a right-handed batter.

Sosa wasn't the only Cub in 2001 to post impressive numbers.

Jon Lieber became the first Cub since Greg Maddux in 1992 to win 20 games, posting a 20-6 record and a 3.80 ERA in 34 starts and earning his first trip to the All-Star Game.

Kerry Wood fanned 217 batters in 2001, reaching the 200-K plateau for the second time in his career. Wood is the first Cub since Fergie Jenkins to record multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

2002  - In 2002, the Cubs struggled to a 67-95 record and fifth place finish, 30 games back. The pitching staff did lead the Major Leagues in strikeouts with 1,333 but Cubs batters also whiffed the most with 1,269. Don Baylor was fired in July and Triple-A Iowa coach Bruce Kimm promoted to manage the big league club. However, Kimm was not retained for 2003 and in November, Dusty Baker was named the Cubs manager.

Among the bright spots: Sammy Sosa led the National League in home runs (49) for the second time in three years and also runs scored (122). He belted his 499th career homer in the last game of the regular season and was one swing away from joining the 500 club.

Kerry Wood and Matt Clement ranked third and fourth in the NL in strikeouts with 217 and 215, respectively. The only other time the Cubs had two pitchers with 200 strikeouts was 1970 when Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman did so. Wood made a career-high 33 starts and topped 200 innings pitched for the first time.

One of the highlights of the 2002 season was the emergence of rookie right-hander Mark Prior, the Cubs' 2001 No. 1 draft pick who made his Major League debut on May 22 against Pittsburgh. He fanned 10 in his first start, the highest total by a Cubs pitcher in his debut since 1969.

2003  - New Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker wanted to see improvement in 2003. He never imagined the team would be five outs away from the World Series.

The Cubs won their first NL Central Division title, posting an 88-74 record in Baker's first season at the helm. It wasn't exactly a smooth ride as superstar Sammy Sosa missed a month with a sore big toe and was suspended seven games for using a corked bat. Corey Patterson was the first half MVP, then suffered a season-ending knee injury July 6.

Starting pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were both named to the NL All-Star team and finished 1-2 in the NL in strikeouts. Joe Borowski calmly handled the closer duties, saving 33 games. He'd started the season with two saves in his career.

General manager Jim Hendry was aggressive and found players to fill voids, acquiring Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and Randall Simon in the second half. The Cubs won the division title in the second-to-last game with a doubleheader sweep against Pittsburgh. The team then saluted one of its legends, Ron Santo, by retiring his No. 10 on the last day.

The Cubs upset the East Division champion Atlanta Braves, 3-2, in the five-game NL Division Series. It marked the first postseason series win for the franchise since 1908. The Cubs were five outs away from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945 but lost Games 6 and 7 of the NL Championship Series at home and were eliminated by the Florida Marlins. It was a wild ride.

2004  -

For the first time since 1971-72, the Chicago Cubs completed back-to-back winning seasons in 2004. But that proved to be little consolation for a club that was expected to make a return trip to the postseason but finished third in the NL Central.

The Cubs were ravaged by injuries, including Mark Prior, who did not make his season debut until June 4 because of an inflamed Achilles tendon, Kerry Wood, who missed two months with a sore triceps and Sammy Sosa, who missed nearly a month with back spasms. Nomar Garciaparra -- who was acquired on July 31 in a four-team trade -- was also hindered by injuries, battling nagging problems with his Achilles, wrist and groin, and was unable to provide the spark the Cubs were looking for.

The season was not without its excitement, however. Greg Maddux, in his return to the Cubs, became the 22nd Major League pitcher to win 300 games, Sosa passed Ernie Banks to become the club's all-time home run leader and the Cubs boasted four 30-home run hitters (Moises Alou, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Sosa) for the first time in team history.

2005  -

Oh, what might have been. It was a disappointing year for the Cubs, who had high hopes for the season, but were again bitten by the injury bug that played a major part in their 79-83 campaign, good for fourth in the NL Central.

Clearly, the Cubs' MVP for 2005 was Derrek Lee, who had a career year. The slugger flirted with the Triple Crown for the majority of the season and finished with a .335 average to win the National League batting title and lead all Major League hitters. Lee also led the team in doubles (50), triples (tied with three), homers (46), runs (120), RBIs (107) and stolen bases (tied with 15).

The Cubs also found a solid closer in Ryan Dempster, who made the switch to the position during the season and became one of three Major League pitchers to both make a start and save 30 games in a single season. He finished the season with 33 saves in 35 opportunities.

But injuries hindered the Cubs' postseason chances. Nomar Garciaparra missed three months with a groin injury, Kerry Wood's injured right shoulder forced him to push back his Opening Day start and nagged him all season, causing him to miss two months, Mark Prior missed significant time after being hit in the elbow on a line drive and Aramis Ramirez missed the final six weeks because of a leg injury. Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston and Ronny Cedeno also battled significant injuries that hurt the Cubs down the stretch.

2006  -

Injuries again hurt the Cubs, who lost 96 games in 2006. First baseman Derrek Lee fractured his wrist in a freak collision in mid-April, and the offense sputtered. Juan Pierre did lead the National League in hits with 204, and Aramis Ramirez set career highs with 119 RBIs and 38 home runs.

Cubs pitchers led the Major Leagues in strikeouts, but ace Carlos Zambrano stole the show at the plate. The right-hander belted six home runs to tie the single-season record for most by a pitcher (Ferguson Jenkins, 1971) and also won his first Silver Slugger award. Zambrano was winless in April, yet rallied to win 16 games and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting.

Manager Dusty Baker compiled a 322-326 record in four seasons with the Cubs, but after the season ended, he was not retained. In October, the team hired Lou Piniella as the club's 50th manager.

2007  - In his first season, Lou Piniella guided the Cubs to the National League Central title, winning 85 games. The Cubs made their first postseason appearance since 2003 but they were swept in the National League Division Series by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Cubs pitchers led the Majors in strikeouts for the seventh straight season. Carlos Zambrano set a career-high with 18 wins while two newcomers, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, won 15 and 12 games, respectively. Ryan Dempster was the closer but Carlos Marmol was the star of the bullpen, compiling a 1.43 ERA in 59 relief appearances.

This was Alfonso Soriano's first season in Chicago, too, after signing an eight-year contract and the left fielder hit 33 homers and 70 RBIs. Soriano carried the club in September, hitting a Major League record seven leadoff homers in the month.

The parent Tribune Co. announced on Opening Day that real estate investor Sam Zell had purchased the company and would attempt to sell the team.

2008  - This season was the 100th anniversary of the last Cubs' World Series championship, and they capped it by winning their second straight National League Central title with a league-leading 97 wins. It was the first time since 1906-08 that the team had advanced to the playoffs in consecutive years. However, the Cubs were again swept in the National League Division Series, losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ryan Dempster switched from closer to starter and won a personal high 17 games while Kerry Wood went from starter to closer and saved 34. The pitching highlight came Sept. 14 when Carlos Zambrano threw his first no-hitter, doing so in Milwaukee against the Houston Astros. The game had been relocated from Houston because of Hurricane Ike.

The Cubs led the National League and were second in the Majors with 855 runs scored. They had four players with at least 80 RBIs and five with at least 20 home runs. In his first season behind the plate, catcher Geovany Soto belted 23 homers and drove in 86, and won National League Rookie of the Year.

They were well represented at the All-Star Game, sending eight players plus Lou Piniella, who won National League Manager of the Year. Soto was the first rookie catcher ever to start an All-Star game for the NL.

There was no place like home as the Cubs went 55-26 at Wrigley Field, the most wins since 1935.
2009  - The Cubs missed their bid to three-peat in the National League Central, finishing second at 83-78. It was the second time the Cubs had a winning record in three consecutive seasons in the last 70 years. Lou Piniella is the first Cubs manager since Charlie Grimm (1933-37) to post a .500 record or better in his first three seasons. Derrek Lee led the team with a .306 average, 35 home runs and 111 RBIs, but didn't get much support as injuries sidelined key players. Aramis Ramirez (shoulder) missed 50 games, Reed Johnson (foot) missed 49, and 10 others missed at least 20. Ramirez did drive in 65 runs in 82 games. The Cubs had eight players with 10 or more homers for the first time since 2000, including Milton Bradley, who had a tumultuous first year in Chicago. Bradley batted .257, drove in just 40 runs and was suspended for the final 15 games because of detrimental conduct.

The biggest surprise was rookie Randy Wells, a converted catcher, who finished tied for the team lead with 12 wins with All-Star Ted Lilly. Wells became the first rookie to reach double-digit wins since Kerry Wood won 13 in 1998. Carlos Marmol took over the closer's job in mid-August and went 11-for-11 in save situations. The sale of the team was finally completed. The Tribune Co. sold the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent share in Comcast SportsNet Chicago to the Ricketts family for $845 million, completing the deal in late October. Tom Ricketts was named chairman, and didn't promise a World Series championship, but did emphasize getting there was the Cubs' goal and that they had the personnel to get there. "The key is, every season, to be able to stand up and in complete honesty say, we believe we have enough talent to get it done," Ricketts said. "To do that and be sincere about it and consistent with it, you're going to get it done.".

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