Cubs Opening Day

Lynne Kiesling

Well, I would probably disappoint Ray Gifford if I didn’t make some note of today being opening day for the Cubs in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. So even though I am certain to be in bed before the opening pitch … here’s the probable lineup:

Chicago Cubs
Pos. Name Bats
1. CF Corey Patterson L
2. 2B Todd Walker L
3. SS Nomar Garciaparra R
4. 3B Aramis Ramirez R
5. RF Jeromy Burnitz L
6. 1B Derrek Lee R
7. LF Todd Hollandsworth L
8. C Michael Barrett R
9. RHP Carlos Zambrano S

I find it heartening that the only new name on the starting roster is Jeromy Burnitz, a very strong hitter who spent last season at Colorado (take that, Ray). Last season he ranked 8th in the NL in home runs and 7th in RBIs. Everyone else is solid, solid, solid. Zambrano is growing into himself, and I hope he continues to do so. Gene Clines as hitting coach also gives me hope, because we hit like crap last year (and I have double fealty to Clines, who played for the Pirates when I was a wee lassie).

Downside? Having both Wood and Prior injured at the beginning of the season, although both are on the mend. Missing Alou (although I think there are a few folks in Chicago who won’t miss him). Not happy about the prospect of Mark Grudzielanek showing up at Wrigley in a Cardinals uniform. Borowski and Hawkins leaving a lot unknown in the closer position. Missing Farnsworth’s muscular pitching style, and having someone around who I can nickname “Puka Boy” (after the puka shell necklace Kyle always sports).

All things considered, if the things I think are downsides are all nostalgia-driven desires to see the guys I like back again, then I think we’re in for another good year.

UPDATE: Holy cow, did we really win 16-6? Derrek Lee rocks, of course, one of the best trades we ever made (although Choi continues to do well and develop).


9 thoughts on “Cubs Opening Day

  1. Speaking strictly from the Cubs side of my mouth (my wife is a Cubs fan, so I have more than a passing knowledge of the team), the previews this year have ranged from mediocre (4th place finish) to division winners. The emergence of Jason Dubois as a starter is probably the Cubbies’ best hope, as perennial nobody Jerry Hairston, Jr. isn’t going to fool anybody into thinking he’s a real hitter, and former Dodger Todd Hollandsworth can’t stay healthy over 162 games. I give Three True Outcomes hero* Jeromy Burnitz (who grew up only a few blocks from me) a fair chance to hit well in the Friendly Confines in a manner similar to Moises Alou: he may end up a champion in Chicago and a chump everywhere else. Corey Patterson will have to finally figure out that he needs some plate discipline, and Dusty will have to figure out that you can’t give a leadoff role to a guy who won’t walk.

    As to the Cubs’ infield: Lee and Ramirez are solid contributors with reasonable expectations of some upside. The inexplicable signing of Nerfy Neifi Perez neutralizes some of that, though Todd Walker ought to provide at least a guy with decent if not outstanding plate patience; he should probably hit leadoff, but Dusty “I Hate Walks” Baker probably won’t take the hint and move him to leadoff.

    Losing Wood and Prior much of last year fuels much twittering about their health this year, especially with Prior starting the season (again) on the DL. Prior’s return last year was marked by ineffectiveness early on, and so expectations are again low. Dusty Baker learned at the hands of a master of destroying pitchers (Tommy Lasorda), and if their careers are accordingly cut short, look for the Hendry hook.

    But the Cubs’ biggest fault remains the bullpen, and as I wrote earlier, there the Cubs would seem to have no excuse for their failure to improve in the offseason. It actually exposes what I believe is Hendry’s biggest flaw as a GM: he makes the big deals just fine, but he erases their merits by failing to pay attention to reserves.

    ====
    *The Three True Outcomes are those things a hitter can do which fielding cannot influence, namely,

    – hit a home run,
    – draw a walk,
    – or strike out.

  2. I don’t know … from watching *a lot* of games last year, I drew the conclusion that we needed a new hitting coach, and I was glad that Dusty agreed.

    I agree that Corey needs to grow into a patience at the plate, yet another reason to miss my man Moises.

  3. If it’s any consolation, Lynne, Mo will miss Chicago just as much (if not more) than Chicago will miss him. SBC Park is hell on right handed power hitters.

  4. I don’t know if I would call the Cubs hitting last year “crappy”. They were 14th overall in MLB, and sixth in the NL. They were 3rd (behind the Yankees and White Sox) in home runs. The crappy part was their reliance on the long ball to generate scoring.

    The game yesterday showed that they will rely on more timely single/doubles, yet they still have a line-up loaded with guys who can hit 20+ HR’s a year.

    In a similar manner, their relief pitching was ranked fairly high statistically. It unfortunately went south at crucial times during the stretch run last year. Until Borowski can show he’s back 110%, it will be Hawkins job to lose.

    Speaking of Hawk, yesterday was the first opening day since 1991 that Sosa did not trot out to right field, when he replaced Andre “Hawk” Dawson. I’m surprised you did not mention the absence of Sosa. He was the face of the Cubs in the 90’s, but now it’s time for something different.

  5. This is the nice thing about being a Braves fan: we don’t need to go through all this analysis and handwringing until October. For now, one way or another we know they’re going to win.

  6. This is the nice thing about being a Braves fan: we don’t need to go through all this analysis and handwringing until October. For now, one way or another we know they’re going to win.

  7. Marc,

    I agree, for me “crappy” meant that they did not hit strategically and use the shorter game opportunistically.

    I did not mention Sosa because I don’t think he’s worth mentioning. Spoiled divas who are attention-grabbers have no comfort at KP, and I have no patience for them.

    Zathras,

    Oh dear, another area on which we disagree … there are few teams in the NL I dislike more than the Braves! But you don’t get to experience the agonizing, masochistic joy of the “June swoon” that lets you relax and enjoy Wrigley Field for the rest of the season without any of those pressing expectations!

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