So, they’re out of Mesa, and here’s what we got.
CF Soriano SP Z! RP Cotts LF Murton PH Floyd SP Lilly RP Guzman 1B D Lee SP Marquis RP Wuertz 3B A Ram SP Hill RP Ohman RF Jacque OF Ward SP Miller RP Eyre CA Barrett CA Blanco RP Howry 2B DeRosa UT Theroit CL Dempster SS Iztirus SS Cedeno
That’s about what I expected, with Cedeno being the only spring training surprise and Guzman ending up with Wood’s spot. Despite the lack of activity (or things interesting enough for me to write about, apparently), I think we did learn a few things from Spring Training.
When they said “we’re prepared to start the season without Wood or Prior“, they were actually not full of crap: In years past, Mark Prior has a spot carved out for him unless someone blows everyone away. Wade Miller was just eh, but eh was better than Prior, and they gave him no benefit of the doubt. Mark Prior may have been the last one to figure it out, but the Cubs weren’t going to give him a spot just for being Mark Prior any more.
Hopefully Prior gets it together in AAA (and I’m thinking road trip to Des Moines to see it – just because we all need to spend an afternoon in Des Moines at some point in our lives), but even if something oes wrong with the rotation in the first few weeks of the season, I’m not sure Prior gets the call – Guzman seems to be ahead of him as well. Prior’s starting from square one and has to earn his way back. If he does, great, and if he doesn’t, the Cubs are not bound to AAA pitcher.
Wood wasn’t making this team out of camp, injury or not. Trying to fight that, and pitching in back to back games only to get injured proved the club would’ve been right to leave him behind. They can’t stash him in AAA like Prior, but I’m sure there’s a depth chart in Jim Hendry’s office that has Rocky Cherry (and maybe others) ahead of Wood right now. And Eyre or Howry are much more likely to take over the closer role this year.
The Closer problem will catch the off guard: There was more talk about Dempster being a Ninja than Dempester being an effective closer this year. It was just as if they expected Ryan to snap back to 2005 without any adjustments. Either they know something we don’t about why he completely imploded to end last season and it’s been just as secretly fixed, or they’re in for a shock when Ryan’s not a good pitcher, as he’s been most of his career.
The end of the pen will be the glaring weakness, and the place they’ll try to improve in a trade by the end of the season.
The Cubs want to see how good (bad) the OF defense is before making a move: I’ve had a hard time trying to explain this since the last cuts were announced, but leaving a defensive outfielder off the bench means to me that they’re closer to making a deal. if you had Pagan around, you could just pan on making defensive subs every time the Cubs are up and it’s late – you have a method of Making Do, and you’ll get along that way. No backup outfielder – Ward and Floyd are glorified pinch hitters and Theroit has no experience – means Murton, Soriano and Jacque have either get it together or force a change. There’s no in between.
If Jacque batted right handed, he’d be batting right handed in a different city right about now: The lack of other left handed bats in the lineup is the only reason they didn’t flip Jones, move Soriano to RF and put Pie in CF. That’ll be the setup in 2008 (even though Jacque is signed for that year), it’s just a matter of when they’ll make that switch.
the kids will play: Cliff Floyd hit some home runs late, but he was so behind everyone, he never really seriously competed with Murton for the starting job, and may not start much at all unless his mobility improves. Rich Hill had a starting job the moment he came into camp and could focus on getting ready for the season. They seem to be in love with Theroit and will try to force some time for him. Even Ronny Cedeno seems to have confidence back; there’s no way he would’ve made this team if Dusty was still around. They might have even been willing to let Angel Guzman steal a rotation spot if he finished off a bit better.
ignore all winter promises about who will play where: When Mark DeRosa was signed, the Cubs vowed he’d only play second. He’s played a little third in a camp, but much more promising is him playing a bit of RF. On paper, the best left handed batting lineup has DeRosa in RF, Theroit at 2B, and Jacque on the bench, waiting to kill the first left specialist who comes in. It appears they might go back on their word to put that lineup out on the field, and I’ll accept that dishonestly. (Hope Mark does too.)
Similarly, if Soriano is bad in CF, the “we’ll stick Alfonso in one place and not move him” promise goes out of the window. I’m sure they’ve got the speeches ready in the back fo the head, “We just wanted him to be more comfortable out there, he would’ve gotten the hang of and still might, but we felt we were rushing him”.
Don’t get attached to any batting order: Lee will be 3rd, Ram will be 4th, and Soriano will probably be first. Besides that, it’s going to take a while to figure. It looks like they’re going to play match ups and give plenty of people chances in the soft 2 spot, and that’ll ripple the rest of the lineup. Anything that gets us away from Dusty’s “if I’ve got the the shortstop batting second – even if it’s back up no hit shortstop” lineup.
If Cesar and Ronny struggle, I like to think there’s a chance Z! bats eight. I’m hoping so.
Even with only 5 guys, the bench is more useful than last year: For one, we’ve actually got people we can use as DHs, which is a nice change. Unless there’s big injuries or both Floyd and Ward go John Mabry on us, we’ve got much better hitters on the bench. Everyone on the bench has some sort of point for being there, which is also a nice change.
We know all that…and I still have no feel how this is going to go. Lily moving to the NL Central should help his season, but who knows. Marquis couldn’t possibly be as bad as last season, but who knows. D Lee appears to be all the way back, but who knows.
I really really don’t want make picks or put down a number, but I can’t think of a better way to end this, so…
1) CUBS 87-75
4) Pirates – yea, why not
5) Cardinals – it’s all falling apart this year. Everyone’s afraid to speak about how bad this team might turn out to be because they’re still in the World Series grace period, but this seems like a disaster season.
off topic: I have no idea what I’m doing as far as writing this season. Does anyone want what I did for last season? Do I? Kinda running out of time to decide this..