The Long, Cold Winter: Chicago Cubs

The streak will be broken.

But not in 2012.

Now that I’ve wet your mouths to the future of the Chiacago Cubs, I can work to justify my bold, nay, beligerant statement that the Chicago Cubs will (soon enough) be World Champions. Of baseball. Major League Baseball.

If you look at the 2011 Cubs, they were, well, shitty. They finished 71-91 in a less-than-awesome division (but not the worst), and generally awful to watch. Bright spots included Darwin Barney and the emergence of Starlin Castro’s bat. Other than that, we saw the repeated lunacy of Carlos Zambrano (now a Flamboyant Miami Marlin, fittingly), the painfully awful defense of LOLfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro and the devastatingly atrocious managing of Mike Quade (long “a”).

It was a bad year for Cubbies fans, but hope is on the way. After one last crippling trade from Jim Hendry, he was out. Quade was out. Epstein, Hoyer and new manager Dale Sveum are in.

Things change, and unlike the Orioles, Twins and Astros, this is one team on it’s way out of the cellar, skipping every second step up the stairs.

Yet, with any good basement analogy, you’re bound to trip up a bit.

Perennial albatross Alfonso Soriano’s (2014, eep) contract is still there. Ryan Dempster (off the books in October) is getting paid significantly to be an average pitcher. With an average rotation and improving bullpen, 2012 will not be the Cub’s year to compete.

They will, however, be competing in the Central. Soon.

The Cubs currently have a reasonable outfield of Soriano, Byrd, Dejesus; backed up by Tony Campana and Reed Johnson. Decent, not great. Give it a few seasons, the possibly movement of LOLfonso Soriano to a terrible GM, some surprise prospects, and the Cubs outfield could look completely different by 2014.

The infield is strong. Beautiful, almost. The potential is palpable. If Castro learns to field a ball like a baseball player and not an MMA jock, his combination with a league average+ 2B in Barney will be a great combination in the coming years. While Brandon LaHair will likely man 1B on opening day, Anthony Rizzo will emerge, and as I suspect, play above average 1B with the glove and bat for half a Cubs decade. Third base is a little iffy – Ian Stewart can mash, however inconsistently, but his defense is non-existent (kind of a developing theme, here) and Josh Vitters might still be a year away, as he is yet to play above AA, but projects to be a solid MLB  option someday.

Bottom line is this team is going to compete in a few seasons, but 2012 may still be a year of growing pains.

Hang in there, Cubs fans.

#theghostofharrycarayhauntstheleftsideoftheinfieldinwrigley

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