Siberian Baseball

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chicago Cubs (79-83, .488, 4th in NL Central)

The goat. The Bartman Game. Leon Durham's glove getting a Gatorade bath.

Enough already.

The last time the Cubs won a World Series, there were 17 states in the union, Joan Rivers was in grammar school and unicorns roamed the earth.

We know.

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior are hurt, despite what the Cubs have been saying all spring. On top of that, they didn't make it a priority to go and grab another front line pitcher.

You don't say!

It's really difficult to love this team. At least with the Red Sox, it was a bad relationship that doesn't work because of all the weird crap getting in the way. The Cubs are a bad relationship that doesn't work because one person is too stupid or just doesn't care.

Seriously, knowing that you have two pitchers with injury issues, how do you not pursue a few insurance policies? At worst you have Wood, Prior, Maddux and Zambrano and move Glendon Rusch back to the bullpen.

That's not to say this offseason has been a bust for Chicago - on the contrary, it was one of the best in recent memory. After Sammy Sosa handcuffed the team a few years ago until an 11th hour trade moved him out east, this season sees a new outfield and bullpen upgrades.

Juan Pierre will make a world of difference if he sticks to his bread and butter of using his speed to get on base and then letting Derek Lee or Aramis Ramirez worry about plating him. I cannot overstate how much a solid leadoff man will help a team's offense. The difference between none on, one out and one on, none out with a speedy baserunner is huge in terms of strategy and upsetting a pitcher on the mound.

With the Corey Patterson nightmare over, this fresh blood should jumpstart the Chicago offense. Jacque Jones has identical numbers to Patterson, so that's a wash but should provide better defense than Jeromy Burnitz did. If Matt Murton picks up where he left off last year, he could have Red Sox Nation kicking themselves for years to come.

There's a slight pileup at second base, but Jerry Hairston and Neifi Perez can play multiple positions, so it's nothing to worry about - they'll get their time spelling the everyday guys. Perez can switch hit as well, so look for him as a pinch hitter.

I'll spare everyone the pitching analysis for now, but this is the key to a successful season in Chicago. Zambrano and Rusch cannot carry this team alone. Greg Maddux never used speed or overwhelming stuff to handle batters, so he'll be fine this year, but with question marks there, the Cubs will be crossing their fingers every fourth and fifth day.

The bullpen looks better than it has lately, and while I don't think that Ryan Dempster is a great closer, he can come in and shut things down to end games. Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre are nice pickups, although I question the paychecks they'll be getting when the team failed to grab a starter.

As has been the case for a few seasons now, as the starting pitchers go, so goes the rest of the team. Oh, crap.

Chicago Cubs
C: Barrett; Blanco; Soto
1B: Derek Lee; Mabry
2B: Todd Walker; Hairston; Neifi Perez
SS: Cedeno; Perez
3B: Ramirez; Mabry
LF: Murton; Pagan
CF: Pierre; Hairston
RF: Jones; Mabry; Pie

SP: Zambrano; Prior; Maddux; Rusch; Jerome Williams
CP: Dempster
RP: Wuertz; Wellemeyer; Ohman; Williamson; Novoa; Wood; Hill; Koronka; Eyre; Howry



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