When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training sometime around Valentine's Day, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the start of baseball season. There was still a ton of snow on the ground, the streets were lined with awful looking 'dibs' furniture and Brant Miller was showing pictures of icicles on the 10 p.m. news. Not exactly a great time to get excited about baseball.
Now that we've turned the page to March, however, baseball is in full swing and anticipation for the start of the season is palpable. Games have been played, regular season tickets have been scalped... er, sold, and the weather is finally getting better after a cold and brutal winter. It's time for Cubs fans to turn on the optimism, and I for one think the 2011 Cubs, much like Charlie Sheen, will do their fair share of winning.
As a long suffering Cubs fan, I've come to view spring training as a time to be positive about the upcoming season. My positivity is so strong, in fact, that I've uttered each of the following extremely delusional sentences:
"This Gary Scott kid is going to be the next Ron Santo."
"Bobby Hill looks like he can be our second basemen for the next 10 years."
"Julio Zuleta might just hit 40 HRs."
"Kevin Orie is going to make us forget about that horrendous Gary Scott experiment."
Once again this year, I'm hopeful. And right now, I see Alfonso Soriano actually catching fly balls, Marlon Byrd out-hustling just about everyone, Tyler Colvin not getting impaled, Aramis Ramirez attempting to field his position, Starlin Castro avoiding a sophomore slump, Carlos Pena rejuvenating his career, Geo Soto staying off the pot, and Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt not being Aaron Miles.
The pitching is going to be strong with Matt Garza, the completely cured of anger issues Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster. Sure, there will be competition for the back of the rotation, but there is no truth to the rumor that Carlos Silva, despite being involved in a dugout altercation recently, was seen uploading a video to YouTube in an attempt to get the P.A. announcer job, should he fail to make the 25-man roster.
There are a lot of other things to be excited about as well. Kerry Wood (the best Woody this side of the sheriff in Toy Story) is back with the organization after hashing out a deal with General Manager Jim Hendry in a pizza place. Obviously he belongs here, because what is more Chicago than that? Though we will all miss Ron Santo, he is at least being replaced by a guy who's mentioned in Steve Goodman's "A Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request." Sure, in the song he's dropping a routine fly, but let's not focus on that part.
Perhaps most exciting of all, after many years, the city finally has a Cubs fan in the Mayor's office. And besides, how can Rahm Emanuel not root for a team that has a player who lost part of his finger in an accident? Plus, the fact that we have another high profile Cubs fan making news means that we can pretend that Rod Blagojevich didn't exist and we won't feel the continued sting of seeing President Obama in that dirty old Sox cap.
That's not to say that it isn't hard being a Cubs fan during spring training. I was watching an episode of The Chicago Code recently when the main character said, "Is he a fan of the great game of baseball or is he a Cubbie lover?" Cubbie lover? Sure the show has Jennifer Beals and a kid from Friday Night Lights, but another piece of dialogue like that and I'm watching Dancing with the Stars.
So I remain very hopeful about Year Two. We have a lot to anticipate. Len Kasper and Bob Brenly will continue to make awesome pop culture references, Mike Quade will never be mentioned by Charlie Sheen in a TMZ interview and that Darwin Barney kid will be a future All-Star. Right?