I look forward every month to the newest edition of Vine Line and I was disappointed I did not receive this month’s issue before I left for Spring Training. I remembered getting a free copy last year during Spring Training and I was hoping that would be an option again this year as well. Let me pause for a second and say that I do not work for the Vine Line or receive any benefits from its sales or publication….so now that’s out of the way. This is the 20th Anniversary of the Vine Line and this month (March) is the Anniversary edition. While I was on the flight back from Mesa I had a chance to read it and I will say it brought back many memories….The most vivid was the Cubs signing of Dusty Baker in December 2002…. When Dusty was signed the Cubs were coming off a horrendous season in 2002, finishing 67-95 (5th place in the National League Central) and the Cubs Faithful were not expecting much for the upcoming season….until he was hired. I remember hearing the possibility and thinking there was no way the Cubs would land Dusty. After all he was just coming off of a trip to the World Series with the Giants, why would he want to come to Chicago?
Dusty was the biggest signing of the off-season. Dusty signed a four-year, $15 million dollar contract that expires at the end of this season. But as I was reading the Vine Line, I was not reminded about the past two seasons, I was reminded about the excitement that I had the first time I heard that Dusty was going to be the new manager of the Chicago Cubs. The t-shirt did read “In Dusty We Trusty”.
Dusty’s first team in Chicago is eerily similar to this year’s team. What is the health of Kerry Wood? How will the bullpen be? How will Mark Prior perform? Other than Sosa and Alou, where will the offense come from? Who will be the 4th & 5th starter? Does anyone remember Juan Cruz? What about Shawn Estes? Hee Seop Choi was the answer for the Cubs offensive problems during the off-season. Who was Carlos Zambrano in 2003? The Cubs were also expecting big years out of Bobby Hill and Mark Bellhorn. The Cubs traded away Todd Hundley for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. That team was not picked to win anything but hopefully third place and maybe 81 games….does that sound familiar?
So as the Cubs prepare for a new season and “Combination Ball” on the Northside of Chicago….again I remind you of Dusty Baker’s famous first words….”Why Not Us?”