Ok, so you already did a rough sketch of what you think the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs t-shirts and hats will look like. Oh….and you already made a lot of expensive wagers with those South-siders you run into at the office. Are you starting to think you need to change your identity, and sneak out of town? You know better…. Starting Pitching is the Key….
The good news is, aside from Wade Miller, we have had good-to-excellent efforts from our starting staff so far. That includes the last outing from Jason Marquis, as I firmly believe this Cubs offense should win games 5-4 and 6-4 more often than they lose 3-1 or 5-2. Once the offense warms up, which generally lags a bit behind the pitchers out of Spring Training, the Cubs will start to separate themselves, in terms of talent and offensive firepower, from the other teams in their division.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with Miller’s outing, as he really does have a solid resume in the majors. It does go to show you that it is never an automatic to assume, despite our advances in modern medicine and surgery, that pitchers will simply bounce back from shoulder and elbow troubles. Don’t get me wrong, Miller may still go on to shine for us this season, but it does make you wonder exactly how much production we can reasonably expect going forward from the likes of Miller, Kerry Wood, and Mark Prior. Thankfully, the Cubs have some good young arms that can fill in that 5th spot with, I believe, relative ease. If Angel Guzman gets the nod at some point in this season, I just hope he finally capitalizes on the opportunity, unlike his past major league starts.
$136 Million Reasons to be Patient….
Alfonso Soriano hasn’t been terribly productive yet, but I wouldn’t get too concerned just yet. I remember his manager last year, Frank Robinson, commenting at one point that Soriano was lost at the plate, and couldn’t hit anything. Then he went on to have an incredibly productive season, especially for a player learning a new position (left field, at that time). This year is probably not much different….Soriano will be a streaky player, as most hitters are, and there will be times during the season when he hits two homers and steals a base or two, and we won’t be able to believe our luck that this guy is on the Cubs roster. At other times, we will probably yearn for the good ol’ days of “traditional” leadoff hitters, such as Juan Pierre, or we will advocate moving Ryan “The Riot” Theriot into the leadoff spot, and pushing Soriano further back into the heart of the order. Any move at this point is unneeded, and premature. There are times in every season when even our best hitters seem to strikeout too much, or hit into too many double-plays, or hit too many towering pop-ups. Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Michael Barrett, Jacque Jones, and Matt Murton all come to mind as guys that can really go on a tear for a week or two, and then look really bad for a few games….so why should Soriano be any different? All accounts are that Soriano is the Luoi Deng of the Chicago Cubs, and he works tirelessly at his craft, and has a great attitude and work ethic. Plus, any lean guy that can swing a bat that big, that fast, has my vote of confidence!
“Cubs for sale….Cubs for sale….read all about it in this week’s edition of the Chicago Tribune!” I still don’t want to focus too much on this news story, because it will likely play out for months and months, and there isn’t much point in speculating and/or taking attention away from what the team can actually accomplish on the field this year. I am admittedly annoyed at the delay in the Zambrano signing, possibly due to the questions regarding ownership changes. My theory is that most players sign hometown discounts, largely out of fear of injury which is why extensions occur, instead of a player waiting until he is a true free agent to renegotiate. For example, if Big Z gets in a bad auto accident, and his career ends tomorrow, he misses out on a massive payday. So while he might be given $20 million a year by the Yankees if he makes it to next off-season healthy, he could guarantee himself $17-18 million a year by signing with the Cubs right now. I don’t know about you, CCO Readers, but I wouldn’t think twice about signing for the guaranteed money if I had the chance. The problem then, with delaying his contract signing, is that the closer he gets to the end of the season, the less likely he will feel the need to sign before the off-season. If we don’t finally officially offer him a contract until September, I wouldn’t be surprised if he declines, and decides to go on the open market….I probably would do the same thing. I would lock myself up in my house, put foam on all the walls and on any sharp table corners, I would avoid hot tubs, and any slippery surfaces, and I would watch a lot of TV. Once I was informed by my agent, in December or January, that I had a new contract, then I would throw a party and venture back out into the sun. So it is in the best interests of the Cubs, and their fans, that we get a contract (and a handy pen) out to Carlos before June, otherwise I worry we might lose our most dependable arm.
Until next time, CCO Readers, root for a 12-3 blowout win, to give us all a reason to breathe easier, and let’s go Cubs!