Chicago Cubs: April will set the tone for the 2016 campaign


2016 looms as an important step in the direction of the Chicago Cubs. With a successful campaign behind them, the Cubs know that they won’t be able to catch anyone by surprise this time around.

Cubbie Nation will be tested early and often with a slew of divisional games that will be crucial to another playoff run.

April can be a tough month if teams aren’t physically or mentally ready for the season to start. After departing spring training, the Cubs will open up the 2016 season on the road and in an unfamiliar spot.

Enjoying the sunny skies of Southern California, the North Siders will take on the Los Angeles Angels in an interleague series. Just a short, two-game stop, the Cubs still need to entertain the question of whether they should carry an extra bat on the active roster because of the DH.

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The added days off at the beginning of the season usually allows teams to limit the pitching help they need.

Before returning home for their home opener on April 11th, the Cubs will head to the desert for a four-game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite the Cubs success against them a year ago, the NL West could be up for grabs, so a lackluster performance in the first week would be setting a bad tone for the weeks ahead.

The Chicago Cubs will open their home portion of the season under the lights against divisional rival Cincinnati Reds. Built to be a strong home stand, a three-game set against the Reds and Colorado Rockies is a great way to start in front of the Cub fans. Although these seem winnable, these two ball clubs present a problem if the Cubs are not ready.

This early in the season, teams like the Reds and Rockies are still figuring out what they will be, which makes them very hungry in the first month or two.

The expectations that these fans will have when the Cubs come home should be electrifying. Season ticket requests are just about maxed out while the increase in prices are not expected to keep people away.

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Cubs players know very well that the “lovable loser” mentality is gone and it’s time to get to work.

So let’s assume the Cubs have a successful homestand, things don’t get comfortable for them after that. Starting at the second road trip of the season, the Cubs will face a jaded St. Louis Cardinals team that will undoubtedly be angry at how their season ended.

Cardinal fans and players alike will be looking to prove that the path to the top still goes through St. Louis. If we recall last year, the Cardinals got off to one of the hottest starts in MLB history. By season’s end, the Cubs were only a few games back. What betters proof as to the importance of a strong start in April.

After the heavyweight showdown in St. Louis, the Cubs then finish with four games in Cincinnati before returning home to face the Brewers and Braves.

All in all, the Chicago Cubs will have a great opportunity to start 2016 strong. And uncharacteristic west coast starts followed by a gang of divisional foes, the Cubs better be primed for what lies in front of them.

If someone says that April doesn’t matter in the way that August or September do, keep this in mind; 13 of the 24 games in April are against the NL Central. Talk about a tone-setter.

So what happens when the calendar flips to May? Two words…..playoff gauntlet.