How full is YOUR cup?
Since it certainly appears that the bulk of the off-season manuvering is complete, today's question is: when you look at the roster today, how full is YOUR cup? Oh, I suppose Hendry's got his sights on some depth positions, like a backup SS and/or a LOOGY. We don't have a Left-handed One Out Guy, and Aaron Miles is our backup shortstop. Since Lou Pinella has noticed that Ryan Theriot has ran out of gas the last two seasons, Lou has pledged that Ryan will get somewhat more rest during the course of the season. He did attempt to put Cedeno in there in May and June, and Ronny did Ronny-esque things, like get picked off of bases. That's why Theriot was left out there every day, to wilt under the hot summer sun.
So, when I go out to the official site and peruse the roster, I see a team that, assuming those two small parts are thrown in, will compete in the Central. They may even win the Central, perhaps even sooner than last year's team. When you consider that no other teams in the division have made any big improvements, and that we won by 6 games last year, the fact that our net impact is relatively flat can be forgiven, at least as much as the Central is concerned.
I imagine at some point a Kurt or Colin will list out all 25 roster spots, compare and contrast the incumbent (2008) entry with this year's entry, compile the sum values, and draw conclusions based on the numerical facts. I'm not going to dig that deep today, primarily because I am suffering from the combined effects of a vile winter's cold and the intentional overdose of NyQuil. But also because I am numerically lazy too. Hell, let's be honest. I just want to divert attention away from the epic PTBNL struggle.
I see rough improvements in productivity from RF and the front end of the bullpen. I also see slight dropoffs in CF, SS and C, and a substantial dropoff at 2B. We may gain an edge at closer if Marmol can grow into the role. Re-signing Dempster was huge, although we will be fortunate if he can merely match his 2008 performance. In fact, the way we are constructed, I cannot see our starting staff performing any better in 2009 as they did last year.
This team won 97 games last year - they may drop down several games, and that may still be plenty to win the Central.
My big question for you, the reader today, is what we have enough to win a World Series?
The logical answer, all else being equal, is sure. If a team can qualify for the playoffs, then "anything can happen" once you're there. It's a very old, very tired adage, but it is so old because for nearly every other team in the league, it holds true. Last year, Tampa Bay won a Pennant in their first post-season appearence. The Cardinals won a World Series in 2006 after having won only 85 regular season games as the weakest qualifier that year. The White Sox broke a 78 year old drought in 2005, and the Sawx broke their own 70-some year old drought the year before. So I understand that a casual fan can stand there and toss out the "anything can happen" screed without fear of ridicule. The 2009 Cubs, as constituted, can make the postseason, so therefore they have a shot.
But I know, and if you read this every day, you should also know, by now. It isn't enough to just MAKE the playoffs. Are there gaps? Are there low spots? Are there parts of this roster that can come back and bite us next October? I have maintained, and will still maintain until proven otherwise, that for the Chicago Cubs to overcome the competitive and karmic hump placed on themselves, that they need to be built to be foolproof, a sure fire lead pipe lock of a roster, so that any margin for error is eliminated.
If all you want is to win the division, then your Cubs glass is fairly high and brimmin' with refreshing blue Cub Kool-Aid. But we're no closer to a title than last year, not really. I can't help but to be a bit disappointed. This is what the Peavy trade would have accomplished. We wouldn't be foolproof, but we'd be closer than we are now.
What do YOU think?