There are a great many reasons to believe that this Cubs team will be an also-ran.
98 reasons come to mind right away, and some more pop into my head the more I think:
–a CF who ain’t.
–Wood and Prior.
–Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis.
–Ronny Cedeno and Cesar Izturis.
But wait. There are some things that can also make you hopeful.
–The NL Central, filled with 78 to 85 win teams.
–Very good to excellent players at 1B, 3B, CF (offensively), and C. That is more than many teams can boast.
–a pretty decent bullpen.
If you accept the fact that this is a .500 team without Prior and Wood, which seems like a reasonable expectation, take hope in this statement:
Managers in their earliest season with a new club exceed expectations.
Bill James wrote in “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers” that managers in their first year, and commonly their first few years, at the helm of a new club, that they lead their team to a record that is better that that which could be expected. The reasons involve the pendulum shift from laid-back, “just have fun” managers (Dusty) to discipline first, right-way-to-play guys (Piniella), and vice-versa. Simply the change in style invigorates the team. The effectiveness of a manager erodes as time passes, but there is a marked improvement especially in a guy’s first year.
This is Piniella’s first year. He’s a good baseball man, so we can assume he won’t hurt anything. The shift in approach will help the Cubs. Let’s say that it’s worth 5 games. That puts the team at 86-76. In this division that could be enough. The addition of trade deadline help, surprise contributions from Wood/Prior, and repeats of career years from DeRosa, Theriot, and Barrett could push the Cubs into the WORLD F*&@IN’ SERIES. Just a few breaks. That’s all we need.
Don’t you dare think…”that’s what Cubs fans have said since 1908.”
Just focus on the positive.