As the calendar prepares to turn over, it’s about to become “Next Year”. As each new season rolls around, there’s a sense of optimism, a new hope that this year will be a little bit better than the last. As 2014 approaches, I’m taking a bit more realistic approach to the Cubs this year. I’m still a terribly optimistic Cubs fan, and that won’t change. But I am going to make a few resolutions this year about this years edition of our Cubbies.
I’m going to stop predicting an 80 win season in my friends/family prediction pool. It’s something we have done for about 10 years. No wagers, nothing on the line. Just bragging rights. Many of the participants are friends of my father. Some have passed now, but they have seen much more Cubs baseball than I have, which is why they have won this more often. I have never won. The Cubs are a step further in the rebuilding process, but this still won’t be the year. We may see some of the prospects we’ve been clamoring about the last few years, but not because they’re helping make a push for the division crown. I believe the Cubs will be competitive, but not 80 win competitive.
I won’t bash and critique Starlin Castro with every error and mistake. Look, I get what the Cubs have put into the young man. But he’s 23. And he started hot. Two good seasons out of the gate. A so-so season, and last years disappointment. But he wasn’t the only one on the roster. Yes he has to become mentally stronger. Physically he can make the plays, but your shortstop has to be in the game at all times. Lots of players have a mental lapse in their career at some point. Forget a runner is on a base, how many outs, etc. But Castro seemed to make it a common occurrence. The Cubs called him up early. As fans we have to deal with some growing pains at the major league level. But this is a short leash. I’m not forgiving everything, but he is really a work in progress. But the time is now.
Just because Bill Mueller is the new hitting coach, I won’t expect 8 runs a game. Personally James Rowson may have been a great individual. But in his time with the Cubs several players had a decline in their numbers. The player has to hit, but coaches are there for a reason. Mueller was a solid hitter in his career, and did win a batting title with Boston. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, I do believe he will be able to right some of the issues the Cubs have had the last 2 seasons. More importantly I look for him to light a fire with Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Darwin Barney. As I’ve written before, I believe in Barney. Some have written him off, but I feel he’s in the same category as Rizzo and Castro. He can be productive. Hopefully the changes in staff can help the entire club, but these three specifically.
I’ll stop being a “homer” fan just because Samardzija is from Notre Dame Come spring training, If Jeff Samardzija is still a member of the club I’ll stop rallying for him just because he played for the Irish. Clearly he has talent. And at times has shown flashes of brilliance. But inconsistency, and the long ball, have plagued his growth. The Cubs want to believe he’s a #1 guy in the rotation, but the honest truth is the proof isn’t there. The Masahiro Tanaka drama also plays a key role for his future with the Cubs. He will surely be a key member of someones pitching staff, but it’s yet to be seen if it’s with the Cubs.
I will continue to preach that Wrigley Field is the finest ballpark in baseball. Yes. It’s old. It needs work, and is getting it, slowly. But there is no greater place to see a baseball game. Wrigleyville, the Ivy, Vienna Beef Chicago Dogs, the scoreboard, 7th inning stretch. And there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Upper deck, bleachers, box seats. You feel like you’re still part of the game. And I’ve sat in all of them. I don’t get to Wrigley near as much as I’d like now that I live in Charlotte, NC. But I try to see the Cubs when they come to Atlanta. Not. The. Same. Seeing the Cubs at Wrigley is something every Cubs fan far and wide needs to do at least once in their life.
These are just a few of the things I’m focusing on as the New Year arrives. Feel free to share if you have resolutions, thoughts, or anything else on our 2014 Cubs. I wish you all a Happy and safe New Year. Tip your bartenders, don’t drink and drive, and be safe!