Question 1: What is worse, the Cubs 103 year championship drought, or the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 18 straight years of losing seasons?
Question 2: Which team has a better chance of breaking their respective streaks?
Question 3: Can the Cubs win the division?
This year the Cubs have an interesting blend of youthful talent, veteran presence, and big contract busts. To take a closer look, let’s break down the roster.
The infield appears to be… very solid with third baseman Aramis Ramirez healthy and primed for a big contract season. Behind the dish, Geovany Soto surprisingly led all catchers in OPS last year, coming in at .890 and looks to play more than the 103 games he played last year under Lou Piniella. Shortstop Starlin Castro has all the talent in the world, has already had a full season batting .300 and is only 20 years old. Look for huge things out of this guy if he can add some consistent power to his game at the plate. Carlos Pena hit under the Mendoza line last year, but is a sure bet to bounce back in the hitter happy environment of the friendly confines. Look for 30-35 homers from him. Second base is where it gets interesting. Blake Dewitt was the consolation prize we acquired in the Ted Lilly deal last summer. Somehow, he is now looking at being the third string second baseman behind Jeff Baker and Darwin Barney. Baker has had the best spring, but I like Barney, he very well may be the leadoff hitter that we haven’t had in Chicago in a very long time.
The biggest question in the outfield is… How soon can we rid ourselves of the Soriano-ic plague. Every time I watch him play I feel embarrassed about being excited when we initially signed him. This is a guy who came in after an incredible 40-40-40 (doubles-homers-steals) season and not once has he stolen more than 20 bases in a season, and only slugging 30+ homers once, his first season. Once we find a suitor to take Soriano, and possibly even Fukudome, will finally purge the team of disappointing, big contract busts.
The best pitcher in the rotation is… dependent on which Carlos Zambrano shows up. If we get the bat cracking, teammate fighting, infuriating Carlos, than it will be Ryan Dempster. If we get the guy who went 8-0 with a 1.58 ERA in the second half of last year, it will be Big Z. Ryan Dempster is as consistent as they come but you can’t look past the numbers and innings Zambrano has given the Cubs over his career. At the same time, don’t look past Matt Garza. We knew he had good enough stuff to be very competetive in the tough AL East, so a trip to the NL Central may make him look like an ace. Even though he has posted a 10+ ERA this spring.
The year the Cubs will win the world series will… not be this year. They will compete. They will will be fighting until the end. But wait until Castro and Colvin develop and Soriano and Fukudome are wearing different jerseys to start calling it the year.