The 2011 Chicago Cubs took the field for the first time today. The 162-game marathon spanning three seasons (and a touch of the fourth for those so fortunate) will begin in about a month and a half, but the year begins now for everyone.
The Cubs reported to Spring Training today, Saturday Feb. 19th, to get prepared for the upcoming Major League season. There aren’t too many position battles this camp, which is a nice change of pace. The closer position was always a big question mark but the Cubs locked up Marmol for three years. Marmol anchors a young, but one-year-wiser bullpen featuring the likes of promising youngster Andrew Cashner, key long-relief lefty Sean Marshall, and set-up man and fan favorite, Kerry Wood. There will be some moves this Spring in the ‘pen I’m sure. You can never have too much bullpen help and more often than not the bullpen ends up just being a case of who has the hot hand.
The infield is basically set: Soto behind the dish, A-Ram at third, franchise shortstop Starlin Castro and newly acquired Carlos Pena at first base. So what’s on second? (No… who’s on second. Ha Ha) Blake Dewitt and Jeff Baker seem to be set to split time, unless Spring reveals a clear cut favorite. You have Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome patrolling the outfield and Tyler Colvin waiting in the wings. This could end up being a decent deal for Colvin and the Cubs as Fuke and Soriano will more often than not need some time off, giving Colvin the opportunity to play regularly.
The back end of the pitching rotation seems like the biggest battle of all. Carlos Silva is penciled in right now as the 5th starter, behind Zambrano, Dempster, Garza and Randy Wells. The spot is essentially open though, as Silva scuffled through the second half of 2010 after an improbable and outstanding start. Among those vying for that spot are several players including the out of options Jeff Samardzija, lefty James Russell and newly acquired journeyman Braden Looper. This could end up being a wonderful problem for the Cubs as well, if everyone can pitch well.
Either way, baseball fans know that Spring Training brings the hope of a new season. A clean slate. The end of an extremely long Championship drought? Why not? Bring your hope. Bring your passion. Because maybe the Phillies’ rotation stumbles a bit. Maybe the Yankees aren’t the empire they seem to be. Maybe the Giants won’t repeat and maybe the Red Sox won’t win their third title in 8 years. Maybe Pujols and Carpenter and Wainwright have an off year. Maybe the Brewers and Reds do the same.
Lay your sanity, your happiness and your pride on the line. Because maybe… just maybe… the Cubs will make you happy. Unpack your “W” flags. Dig out your Ramirez or your Soriano or your Zambrano jersey. Grab your Chicago Cubs hats and your Chicago Cubs t-shirts and your Chicago Cubs bags and boxes. Root, Root, Root for the Cubbies and root for them proudly. Because you know, this could be the year.
About the Author
Written by Paul Jackson
I'm a full-time student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I love the Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls.