Over/Under - 87 Wins
In no way do I disagree with anything Kurt wrote on the last post. In a year where very little was done in the offseason, save the removal of a soul-sucking parasitic tumor, we Cub fans are subject to a potent concentration of 'wait and see'.
Which, frankly, is the way it should be with so many players signed to long term expensive contracts. In theory, at the time these contracts were initiated and signed, the player in question was at or near the top of his game,or at least, his usefulness to the Cubs, and for the 3, 4, or God help us, 8 years of the contract, this valuable, 8-figure-making hero of a man should be more than capable of helping us win. Therefore, on a team with 8 men making more than $10 million in annual salary (including Jabba the Silva), you would assume you have 1/3rd of your roster of All-Star caliber.
It worked out that way in 2008, in which we won 97 games. Last year, when one of the 8 figure guys had a dislocated shoulder, another had knee surgery, a third had a desperately ill newborn, a fourth had both back problems and temper tantrums, a fifth ended up needing arm and knee surgery, and a sixth was a soul sucking leech...we won 83 games.
Kurt averaged the two outcomes together and set the over/under at 90. I merely choose to set it at 87. Because, even if Ramirez is healthy again, and Lilly does recover, and Z acts more adultlike simply due to age alone, and the drain on our economy as well as our oxygen supply, Milton Bradley, is gone from our existence...we still have the corpulent Carlos Silva taking up a roster spot that could be used by a Braden Looper or some other mediocre innings-eater that still would be better than Silva the Hutt. That's worth three games right there.
Then,of course, we have the Human Hitting Streak, the man who is more of a contradiction than the Scotch-Korean Starburst eater, the most well paid Cub and the actual heart and Key to the Chicago Cubs, #12 in your programs, and #5 in the most highly paid major league humans...
What is Alfonso Soriano bringing to work this year?
It is funny...yes, I have come out here, repeatedly, in fact, over the past three years and railed on and on about Soriano's isolated style of play. Some of you read that to mean I was saying he was 'selfish', which has led to the Goatriders meme of saying that "Soriano hit two selfish homers today" or something of that ilk.
I do not believe that Soriano is a self absorbed player, as Sammy Sosa certainly was. I don't think he goes back to the clubhouse between innings to check his stat sheet, and I don't think he mopes about an 0-for-4 when we win a game. It is fact, though, that he has balked at times verbally at his manager's suggestion that his role or position should change. So what, lots of guys do that. It is also a fact that his production at the plate tends to trend downward when he does change his position or his place in the order.
What is also clear, at least to me, that in the first two years of his tenure here, as the leadoff man for the Cubs, he did not operate at the plate in the manner of what I felt we truly needed. He was a run producer, yes. He hit a lot of home runs, and that produces runs. More on that in a minute. I think, though, what Jim Hendry was hoping to get was more of a Rickey Henderson-esque figure, someone who hits homers, yes, but at other times, draws walks, and otherwise gets on base, makes things happen on the basepaths, rattles pitchers, draws infielders out of position to make plays on stolen bases, etc.
To be fair, Soriano was never a plate discipline guy, so it was unrealistic to believe he would start once he came here. Also, his legs have failed him since he came here. In fact, this time last year, it appeared his legs were as healthy as they had been since his last year with Washington, and I had predicted a banner year on the basepaths for him. That worked out well.
What I was hoping for out of him, provided he was hitting leadoff for us, that he would become part of an integrated offense. For example, if the eighth hitter got on, and the pitcher bunts him over to second, and Soriano comes to the plate, that he would keep the inning going around 40% or more of the time with some sort of base-advancing contribution, a hit, a walk, or a grounder to the right side, something to keep things going to the heart of the order, where big innings with crooked numbers happen.
But, that isn't what his game is. He IS hot or cold. He is not a normal guy, he does not move the game along the basepaths. No, he is a sixth hitter hitting leadoff, not a true two-outcome guy, but he is a guy who hits a ton of homers, strikes out a lot, and hits a lot of fly balls. And when he is not going well, he kills rallies by the armfuls.
But why is he such a contradiction? Because, when he is hot, and he was hot for most of 2007 and 2008, he hits LOTS of homers, which produces a lot of production, and frankly, won us a lot of games we had no business of winning. He is like a secret weapon, who actually isn't so secret. I mean, if I had the choice of a ham-and-egger who hits singles a lot, and a guy who can mash, sure, gimme the mash. We NEED the true Soriano, the one that can carry a team for 10 days or two weeks. I always said he operated independently of the rest of the Cubs offense, and sometimes that has been good, particularly when he bails us out when nobody else is hitting.
Well, now he is down in the order, where hopefully his streakiness will be somewhat mitigated, and also hopefully a lot of his solo homers to begin games can take place with runners on base. Also, hopefully, he is healthy enough to play the games, take good swings, hit homers, and not be too much of a tinker in left field.
Whether you like it, or not, and honestly, I don't...but as Alfonso Soriano goes, so do the Cubs. Which is probably fair, since he makes the most money. And, since he's at 80 to 85% these days, I figure so are the Cubs. So...87 wins, over/under.
UPDATE: look! Good Soriano news!!