Friday, April 02, 2010

Jusssst a bit outside: the Chicago Cubs preview

Duty calls to preview the MLB season, providing up to 30 things somewhat about each of the 30 teams. At bat: the Chicago Cubs.
  1. More contemptible than the Yankees, in some respects: The late, great Bill Hicks' rhetorical question, "When did mediocrity and banality become something to aspire to?" resonates whenever people get rhapsodic about Wrigley Field.

    OK, so people head to the friendly confines to drink and score a phone number. You can basically do the same thing on Craigslist without getting sunburned.

  2. Filling their niche: You probably know teams with a payroll in the top 10 per cent of MLB make the playoffs 80% of the time. The Cubs recognize it's on them to fill out the other 20%.

  3. Over-under: 82½ wins

  4. Take the ... Over, since Lou Piniella is not a quitter.

  5. Getting creeky: The only regulars still in their 20s, catcher Geovany Soto and infielder Mike Fontenot, will likely hit seventh and eighth in the lineup.

  6. Trending: No. 1 starter Carlos Zambrano threw almost 40 fewer innings last season than he did in 2007.

  7. The Leafs of baseball: It's not so much having a captive market (even with a second team in town), it's that like the Leafs of a few seasons ago, they were tied up with a lot of dispensable players, such as starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells.

    (Actually, the old ownership owed as much to the ramshackle Harold Ballard-era Leafs as it did to MLSEL.)

  8. Charting their downfall: They won't score enough runs, even in their piddly penny-ante division.

  9. New meaning to ringside seats: Apparently, it's a rarity for a Cubs-White Sox interleague game to be played at night, since evening games bring out a different class of drinker. They're playing at night on June 26, though.

  10. Canadian connection: Former pitcher Steve (Slapper) Wilson, a Vancouver native, is the Pacific Rim scout who was responsible for signing Cubs shortstop of the future Hak-Ju Lee (picture Derek Jeter, except he hits left-handed and is Korean).

  11. The whole hope is eternal deal: Between Lee and Starlin Castro, the Cubs have two up-and-coming shortstops in the minors who each turn 20 years old this year.

  12. The need to know: That's not a slump their hitters are in; it's more like water finding its own level.

  13. The lesson of Milton Bradley: Bringing a DH over from the American League and expecting him to field a position works almost never.

  14. Ryne on time: Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is managing the Cubs' Triple-A team, so the clamour for him to take over the big club is inevitable.

  15. Outside shot: They have a 27% chance of making the playoffs by Diamond Mind's figuring.

  16. But they don't stay long: They've been swept 3-0 three of the four times they've made the playoffs in the wild-card era.

  17. Case of the Rick Mondays: You could look it up; the last homegrown Cubs outfielder who had any sustained success was Billy Williams, who played so long ago that he's getting a statue outside Wrigley.

  18. New rule: Predicting a team will finish with 85 wins is code for not being ready to admit they're going to suck out loud this season.

  19. What's Japanese for 'tweener: Kosuke Fukudome hits like a centrefielder but can't actually play centre.

  20. Future Hall of Very Gooder: It's tempting to say Alfonso Soriano, but it's not clear if he even met the criteria of being very good.

  21. PECOTA says: 78-84, tied-third NL Central, 715 runs scored, 742 against.

  22. In English, please: 102 years and counting.

    (Why 22? It was 22 years ago that the Cubs put in lights at Wrigley and expected to be congratulated for only being a half-century behind the rest of the baseball world.)

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