The Cubs will win 110 in 2009 - and the World Series, to boot
It's that time of year again. Last year - as you may recall - we predicted that the Cubs would win 120 games. Mostly we did that for the humor. This year, though, we've all grown up a bit and have come to the conclusion that it's better to be realistic than ridiculous. And so, with no fanfare or surprise, Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is unveiling the new model of the Carlos Zambran-0-Meter; and this one goes to 110.
- 97 wins. That's what the Cubs had last year to the surprise of pretty much everybody - even the people who expected them to win the division. They easily won the NL Central despite the Brewers acquisition of the single most dominating starting pitcher in baseball last year (sorry, Cy Young winners, Sabathia was better). And what's the difference between 2008 and 2009? Simple - Sabathia is gone. So is Sheets.
Meanwhile, as we can see visibly how the Brewers have gotten worse, we can also see how the Cubs have gotten better. Milton Bradley is a Cub and he brings with him monstrous production. Mark DeRosa is gone and while it's a scary thing to some fans, Mike Fontenot brings a better balance to the Cubs lineup and can produce just as well. Not to mention there's the addition through subtraction. Jason Marquis and the butt-clenching terror that his pitching causes us is long gone. Bob Howry and his tendency to serve 7th inning batting practice to the opposition is a thing of the past.
In other words, the Cubs are actually a better team, at least on paper. Look closely at the other teams in the NL Central. Can you honestly say that any of them are better than they were last year? Really? If the Cubs were good enough to win 97 last year, and to enter the playoffs with a 7 game lead over the second place team, then they're good for way, way more than that in 2009. Book it. Done.
- The Dusty Purge is Complete. Go check the box score from yesterday's game. The Cubs drew 9 walks en route to their defeat of the Rockies. The game before that, they walked 10 times. That's 19 walks in 2 frickin' games! Dusty Baker is spinning in his grave and he's not even dead!
Do you know how amazing it is that the Cubs are a patient team with solid fundamentals? It only took a few years, but they are now a team more resembling the Yankees than the Barnum&Bailey's. Imagine the 2004 Cubs and all their potential had they been directed by Lou Piniella and his staff of qualified coaches. It's insanely depressing because they would have won the friggin' World Series FIVE YEARS AGO!!!
I ask you, how can the Cubs not win 110? How can they not blast their way through the World Series? They're practically a team of destiny!
- Three Times is the Charm. Okay, fantastic. I've convinced you the Cubs can actually win 110. (What, you're not convinced? Just work with me here, okay?) History has shown that while there are teams out there that remain hard luck losers no matter how well they play, the odds are in the favor of the Cubs. I'd even dare say they are in overwhelming favor of them.
After all, statistically speaking, the more something has the chance to occur, the more likely it is that it will occur. If a team plays a sport for, say, 100 years, and there are only between 20 and 30 teams playing that sport, then the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of everybody winning at least once. And more to the point, if a team reaches the playoffs consistently - and we all agree that actually winning in the playoffs is a total crapshoot - then the odds are in favor of them winning in the playoffs! It's a mathematical pseudo-certainty!
- Jim Hendry's Got the Horses. Imagine that it's June. The Cubs are playing well, but so are the Cardinals who've just acquired, oh, I dunno, Roy Halladay from the Jays for about half their minor league system. Jim Hendry will retaliate. Jim Hendry will improve the team if it means an improved likelihood of winning.
Maybe that improvement will be Jake Peavy. Maybe it'll be somebody else. Either way, the Cubs aren't afraid to get better -- and odds are, they will.
I say to you again. The Cubs will win, and win big in 2009. If they aren't the favorites to win the NLCS then there isn't a favorite to win the NLCS. They are a team with the experience, the balance, and the drive to go all the way. And so I say to you, without a shred of reluctance or doubt ... this is the year. Enjoy it if you're a Cub fan, and despair if you're not. This is the year. Yes They Can.