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Do the Cubs Hold the Keys to Success?

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  • Do the Cubs Hold the Keys to Success?

    The Chicago Cubs have not made the playoffs in two consecutive years since the years 1907 and 1908. Both of those years the Cubs won the World Series championship. The Cubs came very close to returning to the playoffs in 2004 after a great season in 2003 but they succumbed to a rickety disaster that would stretch until last season. The Cubs will do all they can to not have anything similar to a repeat of the 2004 season. If the Cubs plan on playing in October again this year they will need similar production from many of their players and, in some cases, better years from some of their other players. Here are a list of players I think are keys to the 2008 campaign being a successful one.

    Carlos Zambrano: Zambrano did win a career high 18 games last season but he did not have a true ace type year. Big Z wasn’t very consistent and really needs to put up a marquee season with his multi-year contract signed, sealed, and delivered. Zambrano really put a great step forward putting together a great game versus the Diamondbacks in the 2007 NLDS and will hopefully put a stamp on opening day this year when he takes on the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Ted Lilly: Lilly, in my opinion, was the Cubs ace last year. Lilly is a fiery competitor who is coming off back to back 15 win seasons. Many are expecting Lilly to falter this year mostly because of comparisons to Bronson Arroyo which boggles my mind. Lilly has a lot to prove especially after his on the field show of frustration in the NLDS. He surely won’t need anyone to light a fire under him.

    Rich Hill: Rich Hill put up very good numbers last season and surely deserved a better fate as far as his record showed. Hill might be looking at his coming out party and really put a huge kick into the Cubs rotation this year. Hill definitely wants to have a better second half than last season so we hope that the Cubs lefty has more stamina down the stretch and show as much early dominance later in the season.

    Cubs Starting Rotation: Sure, everyone is worrying about the back end of the starting rotation but the front three have to improve or stay steady also. Jason Marquis has been really bashed here of late but he really should be commended for the job he did for the Cubs last season. Marquis was signed to guarantee a starter would take the ball every 5 days and keep the Cubs in games. Marquis did just that and really put together a really solid season (from what should have been expected) until the final 3 starts of the year. We can only hope that Jon Lieber, if inserted into the rotation, can do a similar job. Ryan Dempster, Sean Gallagher, and Sean Marshall may also play major roles.

    Ryan Theriot: Theriot did a remarkable job in taking over Shortstop last year but was noticeably failing in September. I’m one of those guys hoping it was fatigued because of all the other little things Theriot does for the ball club. He’s very patient at the plate, can steal bases, and can do the “little things.” He also brings an energy to the club while showing that gutsy desire to win. Sure, the Cubs could upgrade here but would that be good for the makeup of this ball club?

    Kosuke Fukudome: A big mystery because you just never know with Japanese players. On paper, Fukudome looks to be quite an all around player who can do it all. Many project the Cubs new Right Fielder to not be able to keep his power numbers up in the Majors. What the Cubs hope for is a big on base guy who can shoot the ball all over the ballpark. He also brings a solid glove to his position. He will be closely watched in every a single game.

    Felix Pie: It looks to be Pie time. He will get the same chance (ugh, I hate to even say this) that Corey Patterson got in his time with the Cubs. Pie has a very impressive minor league resume and showed flashes of that last season with the Cubs. He has all the talent in the world and no one else on the team that can fill in Center Field. The Cubs will need to keep close eye Pie and how he does against Lefties but the Cubs may find a platoon player to give Pie a break against Southpaws.

    Position Players: Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano would be a very good start for any organization but the Cubs have high hopes for everyone who will be on the field regularly. The Cubs think Geovany Soto will have a very good year behind the plate as he really showed a very good bat and solid defense. Mark DeRosa could end up being a super sub player this year but the Cubs have all the confidence in the world in him. The Cubs are still talking about adding to this team ,so, they may even look better come Opening Day.

    Carlos Marmol: Marmol was very key to the Cubs last year and will be in the spotlight again this season. It doesn’t look like Marmol will be the closer this year but that may in fact help the Cubs again this year. Marmol will likely come into the game any time the Cubs, and Pinella, feel the game is on the line. Marmol is destined to be the Cubs closer but will take a back seat to a role that really catapulted the Cubs to a division title last season.

    Scott Eyre: The Cubs may have only one Lefty in the bullpen this year and the Cubs hope to be getting the 06 version of Scott Eyre rather than the first half version of Eyre in 07. Eyre doesn’t want to be a mop up reliever and he hopes to regain faith so Lou has options in the 7th and 8th innings. Eyre’s Second half last season opened a lot of eyes because of rage he received from fans in the first half of last year.

    Kerry Wood: Wood as Cubs closer? It could happen. But can Woody really pitch 4 times a week, 3 days in a row, or all season without getting hurt. Wood got a hefty salary in hopes he can make the Cubs bullpen into great rather than good. Wood, if healthy, could be one of the most dominate relievers since the Lee Smith days.

    Bullpen: The Cubs have all the makings of a very solid pen and have depth. Michael Wuertz has been a solid contributor to the Cubs pen for years now. He’s struck out a batter an inning in all 4 years with the Cubs. The Cubs also have Kevin Hart who made the Cubs postseason roster out of nowhere. Jose Ceda might make a jump sometime this year as a rookie. Good Old Bobby Howry might be the closer but will be throwing his fastballs somewhere deep into games.

    Sure, you can make a case for every player on the roster to be a key player on the Cubs roster. Each year, teams get contributions from people no one would have suspected and this almost always happens to playoff teams. The Cubs want to be one of those teams in the fall classic and start to erase the loser stigma much like the Boston Red Sox have in recent years. As it stands now, the Cubs look to be one of the top teams in the NL but you never know what will happen. I guess everyone will be key.

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