For the 98th year now, the Cubs are dissapointing fans on the Northside of Chicago. However, there is reason to believe that they could turn it around this year and make a serious run at the pennant come October. Here's a list of reasons why:
1. Solid starting pitching- Now, I don't expect that Marquis and Lilly will be able to continue their dominance into the summer months, but one thing they will do consistently is eat up innings. Lilly, for example, has averaged around 6 innings a start on a consistant basis since he became a starter for Toronto. Marquis, who seems to be hitting his peak under coach Larry Rothschild, has averaged around 6 and 2/3 innings throughout his career as a starter. By no means are these two overpowering, but they get the job done cosintantly and keep their team in the game. Oh, and one more thing. Did I forget to mention that we have Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill too? We're set.
2. We Have the best lineup in the NL- It is beginning to look like Lou Pinella is grooming Ryan Theriot to become our everyday leadoff man. What does this mean for the Cubbies? It means that we have a guy with a career .313 batting average paired with a career .390 on base percentage getting our juggernaut offense started every game. Oh, did I forget to mention that he has already stolen 7 bases this year in his somewhat limited playing time? We're lucky to have this versatile player leading us off. The fact that Theriot is leading off means that slugger Alfonso Soriano will likely bat second in the lineup. A position I think he will be far more comfortable in that will earn him a lot of RBIs as well as a few chances here and there to steal a base. Personally, I don't think the rest of the lineup needs much of an introduction, but here it goes anyway: Third in the order, we have Lee, a perennial Triple Crown contender. Following Lee, there is Aramis Ramirez, who along with his improved glove has contributed 9 home runs and 28 RBI's in the young season. Michael Barrett, who I believe is the best hitting catcher in the NL, bats fifth. Thus far, Barrett has hit 5 home runs and contributed 21 RBI's. He is easily one of the best hitting catchers in the league today. The Cubs weak point comes in the sixth hole. Jaques Jones, despite putting up decent power numbers, swings at way too many bad pitches. Look for him to be replaced in center by prospect-stud Felix Pie mid-season. The Cubs finish off their juggernaut line up with two solid hitters; Mark DeRosa and right fielder Matt Murton. Murton ended last season with a .297 batting average while DeRosa put up a career stat line for his former club The Texas Rangers.
3. The third and final reason I believe the Cubs will be in serious contention for the pennant come October lies off the field- Jim Hendry and Lou Pinella make a great team. Hendry is a great GM who is clearly not afraid to open the team pocket book. Hendry pieced together this club starting back in 2003 when acquired third basement Aramis Ramirez in exchange for shortstop Jose Hernandez. He followed up that blockbuster trade by acquiring several key free agents during the past off-seasons (See Derek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Bob Howry, Cesar Izturis, Daryl Ward, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, and Alfonso Soriano). Not to mention that Hendry has made great calls concerning the Cubs farm system (See Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Theriot, Angel Guzman, Angel Pagan, and Felix Pie). Finally, Lou Pinella is the hardnosed, no-nonsense manager the Cubs have been yearning to get for decades. This guy is a flat-out winner, and he even has the rings to prove it.
I admit, its been a rough start. But of all the Cubs teams I've seen come and go, this is the best on paper. If we execute how we should execute, I have no doubt this team will be in contention come October.