Optimism abounds as Cubs spring training gets underway

Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs
Colorado Rockies v Chicago Cubs / Abbie Parr/GettyImages

For the first time in years, things feel normal around the Cubs spring training home in Arizona. After the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the owner-instituted lockout brought the sport to a standstill in 2022.

Cubs spring training has a very different feel this year

Both of those factors played a role in Jed Hoyer's decision to strip the roster down and re-tool, which led to Chicago playing sub-.500 baseball in each of the last two seasons. After an offseason in which the Cubs emerged as one of the busiest teams in the game, there's a new vibe around the complex this spring, according to Marquee Network: optimism.

"Last year felt a little rushed.It was shorter, trying to ramp guys up and catching up on where everybody’s at because you couldn’t communicate with them. These guys have been talking to our coaching staff for months on end and having plans when we ended our season last year. So everybody’s coming in hungry and excited. We got a really good vibe in the locker room already and camp hasn’t even started. "

David Ross, Cubs manager

In 2022, a slow start proved costly for the Cubs. The team got off to an 8-13 mark in April, following it up with a 12-16 mark in May, despite a run differential of just -7. Now, obviously any negative mark there isn't great, but it's not like they went out and got obliterated on a daily basis. That sort of baseball came, though, in June, when Chicago posted a -59 run differential en route to a 10-17 mark.

Post-trade deadline, Ross' club seemed to find its footing behind a resurgent starting rotation, finishing with a second half record of 39-31. But the early season struggles had long since sealed the Cubs' fate. With a 'normal' offseason in the books and what should feel like a fairly straightforward spring training (with the exception of those players taking part in the WBC), getting off to a better start in 2023 will be key for this club.

Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini and other veterans brought in this winter have transformed the lineup - and adding Jameson Taillon to the rotation should bring a steady presence on the pitching side of things. That doesn't even take into account the pieces added to the bullpen, including Brad Boxberger and Michael Fulmer.

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Soon enough, we'll see if new faces and new vibes translate to a new era of winning baseball on the North Side. For now, though, it's just good to have baseball back regardless.