The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Henry Ford had just introduced the world to the Model T. After a dismal 2006 season where they finished with a 66-96 record, Cubs’ management made some bold moves in the off-season that may have many talking a possible resurgence for the North Side team.
Acquiring Alfonso Soriano to play center field and bat in the lead-off spot instantly improves the Cubs’ offense ten-fold. Having Derrek Lee back and healthy should be huge for the Cubs as well. If Cliff Floyd has even a decent year for him, the Cubs’ offense should be something to behold. He is currently behind Matt Murton on the Cubs’ depth chart, but if Floyd can avoid getting injured and hit, he could easily be the starting left fielder by May. Catcher Michael Barrett and second baseman Mark DeRosa are both very underrated hitters and should be very dangerous at the bottom of the Cubs’ order.
However, the biggest reason for optimism is Lou Piniella. Their new manager hasn’t lost his fire and his passion for winning. He won the World Series in 1990 with the Cincinnati Reds and turned the Seattle Mariners into a regular contender. In 2001, his Mariners won 116 games to tie the Cubs’ 1906 record for most wins in the regular season. Piniella also has experience in high pressure situations as he played for and managed the Yankees who have one of the most notorious owners in all of baseball in George Steinbrenner. There is definitely a lot of pressure to win this season because the Cubs’ do have one of the most high powered line-ups in baseball.
However, if there is a reason for pessimism, it is the pitching staff. After ace Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs are seriously lacking in starting pitching. Their number two pitcher is Ted Lilly, who has only had an ERA under 4 once in his career. The inconsistent Jason Marquis, young Rich Hill, and the oft-injured Wade Miller round out the rotation. Hill is going to be one of the keys to the Cubs’ success. He’s considered one of the most promising young pitchers in baseball and if he can fulfill his potential this season, the Cubs may make some waves in the post season. However, Mark Prior finds himself in Triple A to start the season while Kerry Wood begins the season on the 15-day DL. If by some miracle both can regain their 2003 form, the Cubs could easily win it all this season.
But that is unlikely to happen. The Cubs’ sorry history suggests something will go wrong this year. It would not be a surprise considering the demons that haunt this club if Soriano went down with a season-ending injury sometime in April. Granted he’s one of the most durable players in baseball, but this is the Cubs we’re talking about here.
The Cubs play in the National League Central Division which features the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals and the rapidly improving Milwaukee Brewers. The prediction here is that the Cubs improve to third place in the division on their offense and manager alone. But Cubs’ fans will have to wait at least another year before they can start seriously talking World Series.