Did Dusty Light A Fire Under The Cubs?

So Wednesday night after the Cubs beat Milwaukee, Steve and Chip pointed out that in 2002, the Cubs won their 23rd game of the season on June 5. So in terms of wins, we are three weeks ahead of last year. Wowie!

Is it Dusty? I did cartwheels when I found out he was coming here (I did! Ask the Knowledge Spouse, he’ll tell ya), and it seems that his leadership is contributing to results, particularly for Moises Alou (who is, for the record, my favorite Cub). But it’s not a controlled experiment, because the new GM, Jim Hendry, acquired several veterans with a lot of fire left in them to be good team leaders. Some of them play off the bench, and have performed well (Troy O’Leary, Eric Karros) on both offense and defense. Hendry has also acquired pitching depth on what I think of as a portfolio model — a diversified range of ages, experience, handedness, best pitches, start/mid/close, etc. This is the first time that I can recall such depth in pitching; even in 1989 we weren’t this deep.

Plus there’s the youngsters, and that’s where I think the coach and veteran player leadership is making a big difference. Example: last weekend Corey Patterson sucked it up base running on a steal attempt. In a similar play Wednesday night he corrected. Error correction rates are crucial, particularly in a sport with such a long season.

Of course, being a Cubs fan, I await the June swoon … My ancestral team, the Pittsburgh Pirates (whom I also still follow), has already started their swoon, which is deeply disappointing.