With the Cubs, the predictions are almost more important than the season itself. Looking from a sunny bleacher, the grass is always greener before the season (if it is warm and she’s wearing a bikini) than it is in September, usually. After 99 years since the last ‘dynasty’ of the Cubs, and when the Wright Flier and Teddy’s Big Stick still were relevant topics, we are thinking: this is our year.
Lou Pinella will entertain the media. Managing in the fishbowl of Chicago, Lou’s current mellow nature will turn back into Fighting Lou. Once he sees Jacque Jones airmail a cut off or Ramirez take a snooze on a pop up, he’ll have plenty to say, and the media will too. Luckily, he can fall back on his New York experiences to adroitly handle Chicago scribes, whose only real talent is to gossip about how much money someone makes, a player’s girlfriend or whether throwing at a player constitutes domestic violence on the field.
The Cubs will improve by 20 games. Starting at 66 wins, this should not be impossible. Derrek Lee at 2004 statistics: .280(.360), 32HR, 110RBI, Ramirez at: .290 (.360), 35HR, 110RBI and Soriano at:.285(.330), 40HR, 95RBI, 25SB and Michael Barrett at: .275(.350), 15HR, 70 RBI provides plenty of right hand pop. Jacque Jones is the sole left hand man and will not cut it. Ryan Theriot should be the starter at 2B. He’s got more plate patience than DeRosa, he’s faster and younger. Pinella will see this, I hope, and insert him as either #1 or #2 hitter with successful output of: .275 (.345), 5 HR, 45RBIs, 35SBs. DeRosa, hot prospect Felix Pie and Angel Pagan, will support Murton in the outfield. Izturis and Cedeno will somehow get .260 (.310), 5 HR, 45 RBIs and 15 SBs between them. 800 Runs scored.
But what about pitching and fielding??? Zambrano is an ace. Likely, if not abused like a ‘Dusty’ doll, will get 200 IP, sub 2.75 ERA and 17-20 wins. Ted Lilly is a 4.30 ERA in the American League. Can he improve against weaker lineups? I believe so to the tune of 15 Wins and 3.75ERA. That leaves 5 pitchers for 3 starting spots. Rich Hill. Jason Marquis. Wade Miller. Sean Marshall. Mark Prior. I don’t expect better than 30 wins from the back end. That’s 65 Wins.
Piniella in 1990 ran a three-headed monster out to win ballgames from the bullpen: Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, Norm Charlton. (Forgotten is Tim Layana.) Pinnella will use Neal Cotts, Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Kerry Wood and Dempster to form a five-headed Dragon to battle through. Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are likely relievers playing starters with all their injuries. Somehow Lou will get 21 wins – blackjack! – like he did in 1990 without one 16-game winner on a 91-win team. The Cubs will allow 750 Runs. 86 Wins!!! Yeah!!! (If Bill James formula works…)
Cubs will trade Mark Prior, after a nice two-month run of pitching, in late July for an thirty-something outfielder from California. (Garrett Anderson???) It’s totally possible, I mean, whoever the Cubs draft, and destine great expectations for, is soon hurt, ineffective or disillusioned. Prior has issues that someone drinking beer with him could only know. Going after an older player, with a high salary, assuming he’s not hot, or getting hot, or is soon retiring, is a maneuver the Cubs make at least thrice (not twice) a decade. At this moment, I know nothing about Anderson, except he’s 35 in June, which makes him eligible for the Cubs Care for Old Outfielders Plan. And Prior will go back to 2003 form and win 15 games for a decade in LA-LA Land where 6′ blondes appear in bad action movies. El Paso!!!
If Lou gets to manage for four or five years, expect a playoff. Or maybe it is 1969 all over again. With Alfonso Soriano being here until he’s well past his prime, the Cubs better get it now…in 2007! But given they spent 300 million this off season, even at 100 wins, that’s 3 million per win. If only 75 wins, it 4 million per Cubs victory. Wow. Absolutely…wow!!!