So Last year was kind of a night mare for Cub fans. Ninety six losses, the sacking of the manager and the regression of its two young building blocks. This was followed up by an off-season that was......hmmm.....what's the word.........quiet?..........maintenance filled?.............cruddy?........economically viable.......... I think I like cruddy. This was followed up by a fairly cruddy off season. A platoon right fielder was acquired, so was a LOOGY and a bullpen arm. So now the Cubs have the look and feel of a ninety four loss team.
But that, as they say is in the past. Maybe it's because it's a new year. Maybe it's because there's yet ANOTHER layer of snow making everything white and new. Maybe because it's freezing and I just want to think warm thoughts. But it's time to start rubbing a couple positive sticks together and see if we can't start building a season worth believing in again. While the Tanaka chase still goes on, (and on and on. How is this guy coming to America? By canoe?) and there are still some stragglers FA's out there, this primarily looks like the team that's going to the new camp in Arizona. But there is reason to believe and watch.
1) The new manager. Rich Rent struck me as the best of a mediocre bunch. It certainly wasn't an outside the box hire. And I'm not sure if he's the one to take the Cubbs to the promised land. When Dale Sveum was canned, certain reporters claimed that Dale was always a point A to Point B guy. Rich Rent maybe here simply to get them to Point B. But he's clearly a positive person. He has his own set of ideas and he certainly doesn't lack confidence. There won't be any "feeling his way around the manager's office". New voices have a way of sparking some immediate returns. Perhaps that's the case here.
2) 3rd base. Pop pop pop goes the weasel, the weasel. Pop goes the weasel cause the weasel goes pop. Sorry, did say it was cold outside. Anyway, I think 3rd base is won by a rookie. Probably Olt. But I'm not going to be shocked if it's Christian Villanueva either. It's entirely possible that Cub management believes in Olt's "upside" that they let him perfect it in the minors first. Or Rich Rent might want to go with an all around safer play ( Yes yes, I know, Olt plays pretty good defense too.). But 3rd base is where Rich Rent says "this is MY team and I choose the players I want...." and management is fine with it as it is an example of the Cubs system providing players. And of course Kris Bryant is coming tra-la, tra-la.
3) The Kids. Oh these wonderful and precious kids. I can read 5 minor league experts, ask them which of the "precious kids" is coming up first and which one will have the most impact, and I'll get four or five different answers. Baez might just hit his way on to the roster by June. Maybe. Bryant will be here by September at the latest. That's not based on any info or plan that I know of. That's simply what's gonna happen dictated by the fact that minor leaguers are gonna have a hard time getting the two out.
4) Bounce back years. Castro has to bounce back to a more Starlin Castro type year. Rizzo can certainly do better against lefties. Edwin Jackson and Jeff Samardzija can bounce positively too. Yes, I think Travis Wood won't be a 27 quality start pitcher or whatever he was last year, but other than him who do you see regressing?
5) The Bullpen. There's a second lefty in there. Possibly a third. The closer can be either Veras or Strop. And there's youngsters like Skulina and Masek who might be available later in the year for depth. Bullpens are always a shaky proposition, but after last year's disaster which seemed to cause the Cubs 40 games last year, I like how this one is currently constructed.
6) Jake Arrietta. Probably the most important Cub this year. Either Arrietta continues to Jackson Pollack his release point and he becomes a reliever, or he finds whatever it is and becomes a dominating, strikeout getting starter. I think he's headed to the pen. I think every pitcher not named Samardzija, Wood, and Jackson (hopefully Tanaka) is headed to the pen in some way. But I would love to hold a viewing party at Sheffield's in August and have everyone remind me how wrong I was as Arrietta goes for his 13th win and his 150th strikeout.
So that's 6 things I think can bounce right. Let's say each one is worth 2 games. Two lousy games. Suddenly we're looking at a team battling for .500. It's something to build on right? And hey, it's only January.
ODDS AND SODS
I keep warning you guys about #NERDFLU and now Moody is lying in a dark room. When will you people ever learn? Moody, for Buckner's sake, take care of yourself and feel better. And stop looking at all those stats.
Did someone say Nelson Cruz isn't gonna get the 4 year 75 million dollar deal he's looking for and he might be better off accepting a one year, market correcting deal?......Thought I heard that somewhere.
Not that I've ever understood Bear fans. But the Bears finished exactly where I thought they would, but with more reasons for optimism than I ever thought. The first year coach is good, They Bears drafted and developed a possible superstar in Jeffery. The GM is proving to be a good scout and financial guy ( the Cutler deal was amazingly advantageous for the Bears) why is everyone upset? Was there thinking that this team could go to a Super Bowl? I' m very bullish on the Bears future.
And Bearish on the Bulls future. What a mess.
Here are couple of Tanaka articles from New York writers. This one isn't very positive. Of course, Bill Madden has always been kind of loopy to me. And perhaps he's just putting it out there because he doesn't think the Yankees are gonna win the bid. Premature strike kind of thing.
Really like Morrissey's cover of Lou Reed's "perfect Day"
I know time marches on and change is good and all that, but WXRT without Tom Marker doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
With the emptiness of Chicago on a wintery Storm day, I'm gonna suggest side 2 of the Rolling Stones last great album Tattoo You as your listening music this Sunday.
Spring Training can't get here fast enough.