Well….another season ended in similar fashion to those before it. No World Series. And as we move on to what hopefully is not another century of futility I am here to tell you there is plenty to smile about. First and foremost, we would not have beaten the Rockies. As a friend of mine said, “They are on a mission from God.” But unlike many seasons before it, the last chapter of 2007 has me greatly excited for the first chapter of 2008. Though you might not know it by looking at me I like to go to the gym. The big fad over the past two or three years is strengthening one’s core. Those big bouncy balls are used for stability as you lift and stretch. Trainers teach how a stronger core is the key to building a better body all around. A good core is essential to a good body and a good core is essential to a good team. And the Cubs have a good core my friends.
Unlike the end of 2006 and many other fruitless campaigns, the end of 2007 brings with it a great deal of hope. The core of the team will be together for at least two more years. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez both had sub-par seasons and will be out to prove their worth in ’08. The ‘Fonz had a solid year, but will be looking to improve on all of his numbers. If his legs heal properly I am very excited to see what he can do on the base paths. After his April tumble in center he lost one of his greatest tools. Regaining his speed this off season could be as good as signing a free agent.
Mark DeRosa proved to be one of the best signings of The Hendry’s tenure and hopefully he will pick up where he left off. Although Ryan Theriot’s performance declined at the end of the season he showed enough promise to keep his starting shortstop gig. If A-Rod opts out and the new management is already in place, then Theriot’s status would be uncertain. Though if (and that is a huge if) A-Rod does become a Cub, I do like the idea of putting Theriot at second and moving DeRosa to right. Eric Patterson is a natural infielder and both he and Ronny can push Theriot in the right direction.
Lilly and Zambrano form a solid 1-2 punch. Hill’s inability to step up last year was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. He started the season like he finished ’06 and it looked like he was on his way to 17 victories. It is apparent he is a head case, but he has too much talent to fail. If he can harness his skill, Rich Hill could be a huge cog in the 2008 wheel.
Lou Piniella is one of the best field managers in the game and deserves a great deal of credit for the playoff run. Without Lou the Cubs don’t make the playoffs, plain and simple. His knowledge, attitude and fire ignited this team in the early summer. Now imagine what it will be like for an entire season and not just three and a half months. The core has gelled, players understand their roles and Lou knows how to manage.
Now it is on to the hot stove and sometimes that is just as exciting as the baseball season. Will A-Rod opt out? Where will Andruw Jones land? Will Torii get the money he is looking for? Who will buy the Cubs? The World Series is a week away and though the Cubs will not be playing in it there is plenty to be happy about heading into a new century.
Dave Wannstedt once miserably predicted that “All the pieces are in the place,” in speaking of his mid-90’s Bears team. While I will not go that far in regards to this Cubs team I am very excited about its possibilities. In honor of Dave I hope we are having a Mustache Bash of our own next October on the North Side.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and until next time….
Stay Classy Cubs Fans!