I’ve spent most of this offseason glum about the outlook for my Cubs in 2006. I haven’t posted a thing because I was student teaching, and after I finished and was able to catch up on the Cubs I was down in the dumps.
I became a Cubs fan when I was very young and I remember, in my youthful naivete, being optimistic about the season to come. As I aged and critical analysis began to overpower the boundless optimism of youth, I have unconsciously reversed my offseason approach. Where once I looked for reasons to believe, now I look for reasons to disbelieve. That reversal is due partially to a deeper understanding of the game and partially to being stung year after year by the Cubs.

This offseason I’ve made a conscious decision to see the Cubs through the eyes of li’l Dave again. No, not my wee-wee. The younger, hopeful version of me. With that in mind, here are 10 things li’l Dave is looking forward to this year:

1. A full season of Jerry Hairston at 2b. Good defense and ability to get on base, plus a little speed. I choose to believe that Dusty will give him 500 at-bats, at least, and that he’ll make Dusty look good by doing so. The total package will add up to a slightly above-average to significantly above-average second baseman. He had 380 AB last year and was jerked around all over the field and in and out of the lineup; I’d expect his OBP to go up a tick and a little more consistency overall.
2. Mark Prior. If he makes 28 starts he’ll win 16 games and be a feared opponent.
3. Carlos Zambrano. He is, I think the only unqualified “good thing” about the Cubs this year. I expect big things from Big Z. His production makes his antics irrelevant.
4. Derrek Lee. He’ll regress to the mean a bit, but even 90% of Derrek is a wonderful thing.
5. The kids: Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno (Murton is far left in the picture, Cedeno in the middle. Neifi Perez is far right). Matt gets on base. Ronny plays nice D and can’t help but hit better than Neifi. His starting actually turns Neifi into a strength; 200 replacement level at-bats plus excellent defense off the bench.
6. A healthy Aramis Ramirez. He missed about 40 games and 150 plate appearances last year, and maybe half his games last year he was lame. Sure, his defense is is smooth as Ron Santo in the broadcast booth, but his offensive output is as smooth as Hughes.
7. Mike “The Butcher” Barrett. Like it or not, his offense makes him one of the better catchers in baseball. I’d put him at #7 behind Victor Martinez, Mauer, Varitek, Pudge, Kendall, and Posada, considering offense and defense. Henry the White’s defensive skills round out an above-average catching core.
8. Juan Pierre. Simply by NOT being Corey he brings value. He should get on base, steal a few bases, and catch some balls out there, all while not being Corey Patterson.
9. A halfway decent bullpen. The additions of Eyre and Howry ain’t exactly Sutter and Tidrow, but they move Ohman, Wuertz, and Wellemeyer/Novoa/Williamson to less important roles. The Bullpen should be around league average — a refreshing change.
10. Greg Maddux adding to his legend. He’ll be a .500 pitcher and put up a 4.50 ERA, but he’s still an all-time favorite of mine and he’ll have those games where he’ll give up 3 hits in 7 innings to bring memories of the old days.

Take yourself back to when you were endlessly optimistic about the Cubs. What are you looking forward to this year?

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