Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Breaking down baseball: Chicago Cubs

No team in all of sports has had worse luck/fate/destiny than the Chicago Cubs. Over the past couple years the team has spent money like crazy, picked up a seasoned coach, and established a roster that should, at least on paper, be one of the strongest in the National League.

The good people down at Wrigley can blame it on the billy goat or whatever they want, but the Cubs are just destined to lose. It’s been 101 years and counting…

Offense

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After offering Alfonso Soriano such an outlandish contract four seasons ago, the team put its fate in his hands. For the Cubs to have any hope of contending with the St. Louis Cardinals they will need Soriano to find the form that made him a $100 million man.

Upon arriving in Chicago, Soriano’s production has declined in every category across the board.

Since the 2006 season (his contract year) when Soriano hit 46 home runs and stole 41 bases, his home runs, RBIs, stolen bases and average have all dropped significantly. Last year, in 117 games, Soriano hit .241 with 20 home runs, 55 RBIs and only nine stolen bases.

For this team to reach the next level, these numbers — as well as his shaky knees — will have to improve.

Last year saw a resurgence for Derrek Lee, the Cubs’ 6-foot-5 cleanup hitter.

While Lee has consistently hit well across the board for years, in 2009 he upped his home run total by 15 to 35, while driving in 100 runs for the first time in four years. The Cubs will need Lee’s consistency and leadership if they are to make any noise this year.

An injury to Lee would be devastating in Wrigley.

In half a season last year Aramis Ramirez hit 15 home runs and drove in 65 RBIs while hitting .317. If he can stay healthy (always a question with Ramirez) he will give the Cubs the firepower needed to contend in their division.

Marlon Byrd had a solid season last year with Texas. His 20 home runs and 89 RBIs will help in this lineup assuming he can produce. Last year was the 31-year-old’s first season with more than 10 homeruns, so only time will tell whether he will continue to produce.

Geovany Soto, looking to regain his 2008 form when he was Rookie of the year, will start behind home plate, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot will start at second and short, and Kosuke Fukudome will man centerfield. If he can also find his 2008 form, this lineup will have what it takes to win the division provided the pitching can keep up.

Pitching

Carlos Zambrano, who apparently has arrived at spring training in better shape than last season, will have to step up his game and return to being the dominant pitcher he was in 2008 when he pitched a no-hitter. A 9-7 record with an ERA encroaching on 4.00 will not be enough for the ace of the Cubs.

If Zambrano is able to control his mental game his physical gifts should come to the forefront and help him return to his dominant form.

With Rich Harden now in Texas, Ted Lilly moves into the second spot in the rotation.

While many believed that the Cubs paid too much for a pitcher who had one strong season, Lilly has been the most consistent pitcher on the Cubs roster since he joined the team. He has logged 15, 17 and 12 wins over the past three seasons, and Lilly had the lowest ERA of his career last season.

The Cubs’ only concern is that Lilly is coming off shoulder surgery. All seems well now, but we are dealing with the cubs, so nothing is a sure thing.

Ryan Dempster will pitch in the third spot, trying to prove that his blistering 2008 season was no fluke (17 wins, 2.96 ERA with 187 Ks). Randy Wells looks to build upon a 12-win season in the fourth rotation spot and Tom Gorzelanny will start in the final spot in the rotation.

In the bullpen, Carlos Marmol will begin the year as the Cubs closer.

Prediction

On paper, there is no reason to think that Chicago can’t win the division. They have a plethora of offensive bats, and enough pitching to make sure those runs are not wasted.

But when it comes down to it, there is something about the Cubs that always seems to keep them from maximizing their potential. One cannot be sure if it is supernatural, or just a case of bad luck. Who knows if $20 million will be completely wasted on Alfonso Soriano, or if Carlos Zambrano will loose his cool and slug Lou Piniella.

Something always goes wrong for this team, and the distractions seem to always keep them out of first place. The Cardinals will more than likely walk away with the division this season, but if the Cubs can keep their composure there is no reason that they could not pull out a wild-card berth and make some noise in the playoffs.

Except of course the fact that they’re the Cubs.

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