Most Cub fans look forward to a Cubs team that will contend for all the marbles -- in 2017; 2016 earliest. Why so many more years to wait? Becasue Jorge Soler, the prospect who thrilled Cub nation with a prodigious home run on Thursday, turns 21 on Monday. Other prospects (and maybe even a phenom or two) are also very young. And current Cub stars, like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, aren't much older than Soler.
We hope they mature and turn into Ryne Sandburgs, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, and Ron Santos, if not Sammy Sosas. If this happens, we also hope they stay on the Cubs and not turn into Lou Brocks (traded by the Cubs to St. Louis just as he was about to break out and become a Hall of Fame left fielder who stole millions of bases).
In the meantime, we have the interim seasons to enjoy, including 2013 whose first Spring Training game is just starting even as I blog! It's on WGN Radio, so we are home relaxing, expecting absolutely nothing out of the Cubs this year.
As if they know this, the Cubs leave a man on base in their half of the first, and then Cubs starting pitcher Travis Wood walks the lead-off man and gives up an RBI double to the second hitter!
Last year the Cubs lost 101 games. One problem was they couldn't score runs. I was lucky enough to see two games within a week at the end of the season: September 26 in Denver (I was on a business trip), and the second-to-last game on October 1 at Wrigley Field (loss #100 for the year). The Cubs scored a total of ZERO runs in the two games, which was symptomatic for the season. They ranked 28th out of 30 teams in the majors for runs scored. Team batting average was an impressive .240, 26th in the big leagues.
It is often stated that pitching wins ballgames and championships, but if you don't get on base and score runs, it's very difficult to win.
A couple of weeks ago, ChicagoNow Cubs blogger John Arguello at Cubs Den predicted 24 of the Cubs 25 opening day players. Here are some of the key players who will probably be in the third base dugout as the Cubs begin the 100th season of professional baseball played at Wrigley Field.
- Welington Castillo (R)
- Dioner Navarro (S)
- Anthony Rizzo: 1B (L)
- Darwin Barney: 2B, SS (R)
- Starlin Castro: SS (R)
- Ian Stewart: 3B (L)
- Luis Valbuena: 3B, 2B, SS (L)
- Alfonso Soriano: LF (R)
- David DeJesus: CF (L)
- Nate Schierholtz: RF (L)
- Scott Hairston: CF, LF (R)
- Dave Sappelt: RF, CF (R)
Here is the lineup for that second-to-last game of 2012:
- and the pitcher, Berken
It's the same team that lost 101 games! There will be some new faces, but they won't look like Albert Pujols or Buster Posey.
No one expects the Cubs to do much this season as they continue to rebuild, but I have heard things like "they'll only lose 90" from Cub fans ... like me! But I'm changing my tune. The Cubs will lose 100 games again in 2013.
And this will be an improvement. How? Because the Cubs had a miraculous July last year. They won 15 and lost only 10. That's a .600 winning percentage. But then they made a lot of moves, trading two of their best pitchers, Malholm and Dempster, and reverted to their normal behavior which, with diligence and hard work, brought them down to a stellar .377 winning percentage for the year. Without July they could have easily hit rock bottom, doing worse than even Houston who ended the season with a major league worst .340 winning percentage.
My conclusion? They will improve to the point where they will lose only 100 games without a great July.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope Barney's hitting improves to match his Gold Glove fielding. I hope strike-out king Brett Jackson does well enough in AAA with his new swing to come up to the Cubs and get a ton of hits.
I hope ... I hope ... I hope.
And as I write, the Cubs lead the Angels 6-2. Brett Jackson has two triples! Baseball is back!
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