The inspiring song by Eddie Vedder that allows the eternal cubs fan to cling to that hope that all the grief and disappointment of bleeding Cubbie blue will one day be vindicated and make that magical year all the more immaculate when the Cubs will finally win the whole thing.
This is the kind of year that will make Cubs fans say "Someday...".
Our presumptive ace, Matt Garza, out. Shawn Baker, the -let's take a chance- middle of the rotation strength, out. Ian Stewart, out. All three starting off on the DL. LaHair moved to Japan, we released Campana for reasons that I can't begin to fathom. They are a distant memory now. So lets look to who we are putting out on the field.
First Base: Tony "I'm not a Mob Boss" Rizzo (.285 BA/15 HR) - having played for team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, a lot is resting on this guys shoulders to come out and give opposing pitchers SOMETHING to realise that they aren't just playing catch with their catcher.
Second Base: Darwin "The Golden Boy" Barney (.254 BA/7 HR) - Coming off a solid defensive year and returning the 2nd Base Golden Glove to it's rightful home in Chicago, a lot may be asked of Darwin as far as base running to help produce some small ball offense.
Shortstop: Starlin "Defacto All Star" Castro (.283 BA/14 HR) - Slowly showing some more maturity, Castro is now considered a seasoned veteran on this infant team of infielders.
Third Base: Luis "What happened to Ian" Valbuena (.219 BA/4 HR) - Earning a fair amount of starting time last year with Stewart suffering from leg issues, Luis starts this year... earning starting time while Ian nurses a leg injury.
Catcher: Welington "There is only one 'L' in Welington" Castillo (.265 BA/5 HR) - He's had some great offensive years in the minors, and his defense has been improving. With Soto gone the Cubs are expecting a lot from this 26 year old.
Left Field: Alfonso "1/3rd of the payroll" Soriano (.262 BA/32 HR) - He's been averaging 4 steals a year the last few years, but that's ok cause he was healthy pretty much all of last year. Waitaminute...
Center Field: David "d.Jesus" DeJesus (.263 BA/9 HR) - He hasn't been an everyday center fielder since '07. But the 33 year old is preferred over the 'not quite ready for the bigs' Brett Jackson. This
Right Field: Scott "Please stay Healthy" Hairston (.263 BA/20 HR) - He'll probably loose a lot of playing time to veteran and already named opening day starter Nate Schierholtz, but Scott is the best pick up we made as far as position players this off season. We really need him to take swings in the 5 spot in my mind to offer some protection to Anthony and Alfonso.
It was a rough off season, we aren't in a position to pick up a huge free agent since we have little to surround them with. I'm very confused though why we picked up a couple decent outfielders while letting LaHair and Campana walk away, and then picked up one new infielder, especially with so many question marks around third base. We grabbed Lillibridge, we can plug a whole defensively just about anywhere, but that's it. I have no idea what would happen if any of our infielders went down at this point. Vitters is a distant possibility to free up Valbuena to move over somewhere. I'm not being blown away by anyone in spring training. Baez needs a couple years yet. If we would have grabbed/held on to a Scott Moore or someone like him this off season I'd feel a little better about not completely shooting ourselves in the foot as far as infield depth.
I also want to make one more point about letting Campana go, this was the stupidest move the Cubs have made since Maddux for that other guy. We are gearing to be a small ball team with DeJesus, Castro, and Barney having the best chances of crossing the plate, so why on earth did we get rid of a guy who was built to pinch run in the 7th inning. He could have racked up 50 stolen bases just from doing that 5 times a week. I think this move in itself cost the team 40+ runs and probably a dozen wins this year. Nothing but love for him in Arizona now.
When Baker had to leave his first spring training start after recording only one out and three earned runs, I started to get that feeling that things where not going as planned. Here is who was have to fill out the opening five rotation spots;
Jeff "The Shark" Samardjiza (9-13/3.81 ERA) - Showing some great strides in improvement last year as a starter, but a far cry from an Ace. The Cubs need him to smooth out the edges and pitch to his potential.
Edwin "The Big Pick-Up" Jackson (10-11/4.03 ERA) - I'm always a little Leary of players that need more then one hand to go through the teams they've played on <cough...Milton...cough...Bradley...cough>. Excuse me. If you recall though, I suggested this pick up back in October. Just try re-reading this rotation without him in it.
Travis "Not Kerry" Wood (6-13/4.27 ERA) - We gave up a lot with left handed specialist Sean Marshall and we're still waiting to get a return on that trade. He is looking pretty good so far this spring training, so here's hoping.
Scott "Also Recovering from Injury" Feldman (6-11/5.09 ERA) - After the '09 season, the sky seemed the limit for 17-8 Feldman. But, since then he has stumbled and battled injury. $6 Million seems a bit steep for the question marks surrounding this guy, but with so much talent on the DL, Cubs need to this to turn out to be a smart pickup.
Carlos "The .500 Pitcher" Villanueva (7-7/4.16 ERA) - That's right, the guy who got moved into the 5 spot after two key injuries is the only person standing on the bump who didn't have a loosing line last season.
It could have been worse, we even have Casey Coleman who is looking great in spring training should one more guy go down to injury. We knew we had a lot of question marks so we went out and grabbed more pitchers then we should have needed to get into the scenario we find ourselves. Hopfully Garza and/or Baker bounce back quick and gives up options for the year.
We do, fortunately, have a decent bullpen forming, Hoping that Marmol earns his salary, Fujikawa is as good as advertised and keeps his impressive line going past spring training. Camp is back, Russell is looking good. And a few other guys are looking good in limited action that could round out a decent list of options. Of course, the pessimist in me reminds you that if out starters have trouble getting through 6 or even 5 innings then you need about 8 awesome arms in the bullpen to make up for it.
All in all, the expectations have to be pretty low for the 2013 season. We're still waiting for the players of tomorrow to grow up while hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with high risk free agents. Who knows, maybe we have the next Mike Trout in the wings and our rotation puts up career numbers... OR.... The Cubs will fight and flail to avoid another 100 loss season, will trade anyone with value (DeJesus, Jackson, Soriano) and we'll try again next year.
But, I recall again, the great words of Eddie Vedder,
...Someday we'll go all the way.