Here we go again. I’m falling into the trap. I daresay this is the Cubs’ year. Yes, the NL central looks very competitive, especially with the Reds and Cards, but we have a lot going for us. ESPN has called us “this year’s Angels” meaning that we are going to match effective young starting pitching with energy and grit on offense. We have a new manager, the energetic Dusty Baker, who not only brings a winning attitude, but demands it of his players. He’s very good with primadona superstars; while I’m not explicitly calling Sammy Sosa a princess, I think that it’s a good sign that Baker convinced Sosa to show up on time for Spring Training for the first time in years, something that his last two managers were never able to do. It means that we are about business this year and are on the right track.
Beyond new management, the Cubs also have a lot to look forward to including a healthy team (finally) and one strong starting pitching led by Mark Prior, Juan Cruz, Matt Clement and staff ace Kerry Wood. We also have a nice lineup featuring one of the three most dangerous offensive players in the league, Sammy Sosa, and young players Hee Sop Choi and Bobby Hill who should be key parts of the Cub offense for years to come. My only major concern about the Cubs is protection in the lineup for Sosa in the wake of losing Fred McGriff, who is pretty much a 30 HR, 100 RBI machine. If Alou or Choi don’t hit this year, Sosa will probably be walked more than a dog with a bladder problem. If all else fails, we still have Wrigley, the best stadium in the league, and one of the few that wears a corporate brand with dignity.
o Mark Prior, if not over used, will dominate this season like Kerry Wood did before he blew out his arm. He’ll be an Allstar this year for sure.
o Manager Dusty Baker will still wear sweatbands on both fore arms and look as cool as ever.
o The Cubs will be within 3 games of first place a month after this article prints.
o Utility Mark Bellhorn will be the secret MVP of the team – he’ll hit 25-30 homeruns and play every position except point guard for the Cubs.
o People will finally start calling RBI rather than RBI’s.
o Alou will be in shape this year. I think his numbers will end up somewhere around .280, 29 HR, 90 RBI which is good enough to make people pitch to Sosa. Sosa, hence, will flourish. I’ll go out on a limb: .302, 47 HR, 145 RBI, top 3 in MVP voting behind Bonds and maybe Berkman.