Que Sarah, Sarah

Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 Cubs Season Preview...

Sarah Spain’s Cubs Season Preview
This Cubs Preview Is Brought To You By The Letter "C"

Monday morning, March 31st, 25 players and a handful of coaches will walk out of the Cubs locker room and onto Wrigley Field for the first game of the 2008 season. Each one will be wearing a crisp, clean, new ball cap. A cap with one, single letter on it: C.

C for Chicago
C for Cubs
C for Century
C for Champions
This season, the 2008 Chicago Cubs will be under the largest microscope in professional sports history. The team will be followed because this year marks the one hundred year anniversary of their last World Series win. They’ll be followed because this may be the last year the name "Wrigley Field" graces the 94-year-old ballpark at 1060 West Addison. They’ll be followed (literally) because producer/director John Scheinfeld is filming a documentary about the team and this historic season. They’ll be followed because everyone in the nation wants to know if they can finally beat the curse and become legends.

They’ll also be followed because they’re a damn good team. A team that looks talented enough to live up to the hype. Strong enough to withstand the pressure of a hundred years of history and an entire city’s hopes. Deep enough to last through October. Hungry enough to win it all.

Here’s how I C it.

Carlos and Co.
Cubs pitchers have led the NL in strikeouts for 7 consecutive seasons. During that time opposing teams have been held to a league low .248 batting average. If our starting pitchers stay healthy and play up to their potential, you can count on an 8th straight year of the same. Opening day starter Carlos Zambrano is the favorite to win the Cy Young this year and now that his financial situation is settled, he’ll be focused enough to put up at least 20 wins. Z’s backed by power lefties Ted Lilly and Rich Hill and right-handers Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis. Lilly is coming off his best season ever—I predict he’ll get 20 wins as well. If Hill can fix the control problems he was having in Mesa and Dempster can eliminate lapses in concentration, this group of pitchers will be outstanding. The fact that Lou waited until the end of Spring Training to announce both his starters and the closer points to the incredible depth of this year’s bullpen. If the injury bug hits, Jon Lieber will slide right into the rotation without so much as a hiccup.

Kerry Wood will win back the love of Cubs fans everywhere in his first season as a closer. Healthy and confident, he’ll prove to be the superstar the Cubs organization has always believed him to be. (Plus, fans everywhere will get to start wearing their "We Got Wood" t-shirts again). Back-ups Bob Howry and Carlos Marmol would be starting closers on almost any other roster and could prove to be key contributors throughout the season.

"The Riot" Ryan Theriot

Cream of the Crop
Picture this: Ryan Theriot at 3rd, Alfonso Soriano at 2nd, Derrek Lee at 1st and Aramis Ramirez at the plate. The power of this Cubs lineup is downright scary. A few bad pitches and opposing teams will find themselves down faster than you can say Fukudome. After a disappointing offensive output in his first year with the team, Soriano is due. Lee and Ramirez will be the heart and soul of this squad and if Kosuke Fukudome can adjust to MLB ball quickly enough, he’ll provide priceless protection for Ramirez in the 5 spot. Felix Pie and Geovany Soto are the question marks, but both proved they can bring it at the plate during Spring Training. Getting consistent at-bats will be key for the development of these two youngsters.

The constant changes to the lineup indicate that Lou isn’t 100% sure how to best use all this talent. Some wonder whether Theriot’s low on-base percentage will become an issue at leadoff while others think Soriano’s impatience makes him ill-suited for the second slot. Fukudome’s play early on will greatly influence the lineup, as a slow start may force Lou to bat the 30-year-old rookie 2nd, where he’s most comfortable. Of course, placing the Japanese slugger in the two slot wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing—he had a team-leading .415 on base percentage and league-leading 15 walks in Spring ball. Lou seems resigned to the fact that he’ll be tinkering with the lineup well into the beginning of the season, especially with the last-minute addition of outfielder Reed Johnson. In their final Spring Training game Lou batted Johnson at leadoff and Soriano at the five spot, a combo Lou says he’d like to make when facing left-handed pitchers. While the skipper seems much more comfortable with his team in this, his second year as manager, it seems he still has plenty to figure out.

I read an article in which one Cubs fan referred to the NL Central Division as the "Comedy Central"—and he’s not too far off. The Milwaukee Brewers will certainly pose a threat, but the division is there for the taking. MLB analysts everywhere are awarding the Cubs the NL Central title before the first pitch has even been thrown. The team would greatly benefit from starting the season off strong so they don’t need a dramatic late push like they did last year. This season, just making the playoffs would be a huge disappointment. This team is talented enough to go all the way, which leads us to our final C…

Loads of pre-season prognosticators have the Cubs in the 2008 World Series, but I haven’t seen one yet that has them winning it. Most claim that the Cubs "curse" will do them in again, this time right on Heaven’s doorstep. Blaming the "curse" is a cop-out. This year a black cat can stroll arm-in-arm with a goat right past a broken mirror underneath a ladder set-up right in Bartman’s seat for all I care. The Cubs are gonna win it all, just you wait and C…


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