Fan Goggles

So you have had a few drinks. Down at the end of the bar is this girl you have been flashing your charming smile at all night. You lift weights a lot these days, you feel pretty buff, you are a witty guy….and, hey, you even got that long hair that college chicks dig. You proceed to tell all your drinking buddies that you are going to make your move on that girl now, and your wingman quickly pulls you aside and says “you’ve got beer goggles on, man, you don’t want to go over there”.

Stunned by this statement, you first, naturally, assume your wingman is jealous (as he always is, right?) of your looks/talent/skill, and you try to blow him off and head over to that hot-looking babe anyway, but he puts his hand in your chest, looks you straight in the eye, and says “you know better….”

Sound familiar at all? If you haven’t had beer goggles, you probably know someone who has. Well….you may be surprised to know there is an equally powerful mental state that most of us have succumbed to at one time or another: Fan Goggles. He will win 15 games!

One of the most common manifestations produced when one has Fan Goggles on is that you predict every pitcher in the Cubs starting rotation to win at least 15 games. You gleefully and proudly make this statement, yet it is not easy to win 15 games. Most major league pitchers never win 15 games their whole careers, in fact. Time and time again, though, the Fan Goggle-wearing Cubs Faithful will issue completely sincere and well-intentioned proclamations regarding the future successes of such Cub greats as: Jerome Williams, Sean Marshall, Rich Hill, Wade Miller, Kerry Wood, Scott Williamson, Sergio Mitre, etc…

The most amazing thing about Greg Maddux, to me, isn’t the fact he has over 300 wins despite not being a power pitcher, nor that he has won multiple Cy Young awards. The most impressive thing Maddux ever did was go 17 consecutive seasons winning 15 games, or more. He would have made it 19 if not for a pitiful 2005 Chicago Cubs offense. This streak is unmatched, and may very well remained unmatched, in baseball history. Yes, Cub fans, 15 wins is tough….very tough.

Oddly enough, even winning 15 (or more) once does not guarantee you will continue to have a good record in future years. Can you believe that the pitcher from the 2003 rotation with the best career single season victory total is Shawn Estes with 19 wins? Does anyone think Estes is a better pitcher than Matt Clement, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, or Carlos Zambrano? So gaining 15 wins takes not only a good year from a pitcher, but also a good year from their respective teams’ offense. This year’s likely starting rotation actually features 4 pitchers with 15 win seasons on their resumes: Zambrano (2), Lilly (1), Marquis (1), and Miller (2). Maybe Rich Hill will win 15 games in a season at some point in his career, but if Kerry Wood still hasn’t done it, then I would refrain from making any automatic assumptions about the production we can expect from Hill in 2007.

He will hit at least 25 homers!

With a healthy set of Fan Goggles, the number of historically marginally successful hitters that are predicted to knock 25 or more round-trippers regularly reaches absurd levels. Some cases in point may include: Corey Patterson, Todd Walker, Michael Barrett, Jason Dubois, Todd Hollandsworth, Matt Murton, Cliff Floyd, Felix Pie, and I will even throw in Jody Davis and Shawon Dunston (guys who you think had more pop than they really did). The majority of these guys never have hit 20 homers in one season, yet at some point, they have all been mentally penciled in by a Fan-Goggled Cub Faithful for 25 homers and 90+ RBIs. Admit it….that guy may have been you!

The interesting thing is that this year, like in 2004, the Cubs have quite a few guys that can be realistically depended on to hit 25 or more homers: Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, and Jacque Jones. Could Matt Murton hit 25 homers in a season? Yes, I certainly think he is capable of that at some point in his career, but if he is splitting time with Cliff Floyd (which I don’t support) then his odds of doing so get even smaller. Michael Barrett is always brought up as a guy having some power, but the guy has hit 16 homers three consecutive years in a row now, so if he even hits 20 homers it will be a very robust 25% increase over his normal output. In his 15 year career, Cliff Floyd has managed to hit over 25 homers just twice, so unless Murton or Jones gets hurt the first week of the season, and Floyd manages to stay healthy for over 500 at-bats, I would say the odds are that Floyd won’t be your 25 homer guy, either.

Do the Games Matter Yet?!?

The last week or two of Spring Training always seems to drag on for me, each and every year. As far as I am concerned, Miller is the 5th starter, and I really don’t care who gets the last bullpen spot, as long as his name doesn’t start with an “N” and end with “ovoa”. I am not sure if there is really a trade in the works for a backup super-sub type of player, and I am guessing that is just rhetoric and rumors aimed at getting Cedeno’s competitive juices flowing. I wish the Cubs would have picked up Craig Wilson, as he is a guy that always seems to kill the Cubs at Wrigley, and he can play both the outfield and 1B, not to mention he is already used to being a role-player that doesn’t start everyday. I think he would have been a better fit than Daryle Ward, or John Mabry, or Todd Hollandsworth, or Matt Lawton, or….you get the idea.

So let’s get this Spring wrapped up so I can start the Carlos Zambrano 25-win season and the Soriano 50-homer/50-steal season proclamations in earnest! Oh….excuse me….it seems I accidentally slipped on the Goggles myself for a second.

Final Thoughts….

What is more frustrating: Mark Prior’s inability to throw 94 mph strikes, or Angel Guzman’s inability to ever be more than the minor leaguer with incredible “stuff”? Which would you rather have: Steve Stone back in the booth, or more Cubs games on WGN (especially if you live in AZ!)? Who would you rather sit next to at a Cubs game, in the bleachers: Mark Grace or Rick Sutcliffe? Finally, how would you prefer your World Series championship: in a 4-game sweep, or a 7-game nail-biter? Until next time, CCO Readers, be a good wingman, and keep your Fan-Goggled buddies grounded in reality, so they can better enjoy the winning Cubs season that is fast approaching, and let’s go Cubs!