Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day


The first week of April. Just like always, there's snow on the ground here in Chicago. Perfect for opening day.

Luckily, the Cubs begin their 101st season of (hopefully not) futility in the warm bosom of Houston's Minute Maid Park, formerly Enron "take the money and run" Field. That stadium is domed, climate regulated, and almost makes you feel like you're not actually in Texas.

Oh to dream.

Speaking of dreams, I didn't have any last night, since I couldn't sleep, with opening day just hours away. All I could do was anxiously think, and ask myself unanswerable questions. Mostly, it was, "Why am I falling for it again this year?"

Just like last year, and the year before, and the year before, and the...

Is the team really ready? I mean, I know that they're picked to win the division. Again. But there is not much depth with the starting pitching. Even a baseball novice knows that pitching is everything. Is success in the post season going to be a reality this year?

Yes, the staff is anchored by the Big Z, Carlos Zambrano, who can be lights out at times, so long as his feelings or ego aren't bruised. Is he still the wild man that Cubs fans have gotten familiar with over the years? Or will he be the next coming of Cy Young (winningest pitcher of all time), with a calmer and more focused demeanor?

He gets the start tonight, giving him his 5th call (the most opening day starts in franchise history) to begin the season.

He has yet to win an opening day start.

So "Cub-like".

Then there's Ryan Dempster, starter turned closer turned starter. He's a solid pitcher for sure, despite his Canadian background (yeah, he can skate, too). Last year may have been a career year for him; he was excellent for the most part.

The other 3 starters (Ted Lilly, Rich Harden, and Sean Marshall) are solid. All three of them could be a no.1 or no. 2 starter on most any other team. Lilly and Marshall are both lefty's, which is huge for the team. Manager LouPiniella likes the odds that are produced when there is a balance of right and left handed pitching (Lou is a big, big, BIG stat guy).

Harden? Well, hopefully he can just stay healthy and actually make it through a season (for once) without injury. If that can happen, then look out.

But as I said, beyond the 5 starting pitchers on the active roster, that's about it. Jeff Smardzija, who was sent to AAA Iowa so that he could be an every 5th day starter, will be a strong call-up, whenever that may be. It will certainly be before September, when the roster expands to 40 players, and likely before All-Star break, barring a miracle of the current starters having stellar, and I mean STELLAR, first halves of the season.

Highly unlikely.

Oh, to dream.

So it goes...

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