Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Am I Being Too Hard on St. Louis?

Am I being too hard on the Cardinals? After all, they somehow won the World Series last year after I wrote them off as being too old and not having enough depth. Didn’t I learn my lesson last year? Apparently not.

This year, I'm predicting the Cards will end up in 4th place in the NL Central. They only won 83 games last year and they are not as good this year as they were last season.

Just look at the make up of the team. The Cards have two all-star caliber players in 1B Albert Pujols and 3B Scott Rolen.

CF Jim Edmonds used to be an all-star, but the poor guy is a physical mess. I’ll admit, I’ve underestimated Edmonds before, but he’s not getting any younger or any healthier. When it comes to Jim Edmonds, I’m bound to be right eventually.

Depending on who you listen to, Chris Duncan is either a superstar on the rise or a league average player that just had a nice debut season. I have a feeling that Duncan is going to be a decent hitting, weak fielding player, but he’s not the kind of player that can carry a team.

The other starting position players include right fielder So Taguchi (Juan Encarnacion is starting the season on the DL), SS David Eckstein, 2B Adam Kennedy, and catcher Yadier Molina. None of these guys are exceptional players or the type of hitters that strike fear into opposing pitchers.

What I’ve just described is the strength of the Cardinals. Their pitching staff is their weakness.

Chris Carpenter has put together a very nice career and can be counted on to have another good year. After Carpenter, the talent falls off precipitously.

Behind Carpenter is Kip Wells. Wells was 2-5 last year with a 6.50 ERA. For his career, Wells is 57-74 with a 4.46 ERA.

Next in line is 25-year old Anthony Reyes. He was 5-8 last year with a 5.06 ERA. There were times during the year that Reyes looked unhittable, but those spurts were few and far between. Reyes has a career record of 6-9 with a 4.74 ERA,

Then there is Adam Wainwright. Wainwright stepped in as the club’s closer last year after Jason Isringhausen went down to injury. Wainwright did an impressive job, but is the 25-year old ready to be a starter? Who knows for sure. He ended last season with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 3.12.

Finally, Braden Looper will fill the fifth starter position. Looper also pitched out of the bullpen for the Cardinals last year, going 9-3 with a 3.56 ERA. The 32-year old Looper has pitched in 572 games during the course of his career, but he has never started a game. He seems like an odd choice for St. Louis to count on as they start the season.

So the Cardinals will be trotting out Carpenter, who was 15-8 in 32 starts last year, and then four guys with a combined record in 2006 of 19-18 and a total of just 26 starts between them. This is not a rotation I would be excited about starting the season with.

Maybe I’m wrong about the Cardinals this year, but I don’t think so. The team has a lot of question marks and very few things to feel good about. I don’t see them finishing ahead of either the Cubs or Brewers, and I think the Astros will also have a better season than the Redbirds. Of course, as with so many things in life, only time will tell.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Predicting the NL Central

In just over a week, the 2007 MLB season will officially begin. That means it’s time to make my annual prediction of how the NL Central should shake out.

First, I guess I should try to explain the miserable predictions I made last year. There were just a couple of things that went wrong. I overestimated the Cubs, underestimated the Brewers and Astros, wrote off the Cardinals as too old, and didn’t expect the Reds to do as well as they did. However, I did a pretty good job predicting the season the Pirates would have.

But last year is in the past. It’s a new day and my powers of seeing into the future are stronger than ever. Here’s what the NL Central will look like at the end of the 2007 season.

1. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs went on a spending spree in the off-season and completely rebuilt their 2006 team. On offense, they added Alfonso Soriano, Cliff Floyd, Mark DeRosa, and Darryle Ward. In addition, they re-signed Aramis Ramirez, who was arguably the best player available on the free agent market, and Derrick Lee should be healthy all year.

On the mound, the Cubs learned their lesson from previous years and they are not relying on Mark Prior or Kerry Wood. Instead, they added Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis to their starting rotation and they are returning a bullpen that was one of the bright points of 2006. If Prior adds anything to the starting rotation or Wood adds anything to the bullpen, it will be gravy.

Going from worst to first isn’t unheard of, but it is rare. Even so, I’m betting that the $300 million they spent over the winter is enough to beat the odds and win the NL Central.

2. Milwaukee Brewers – To listen to most experts, the Brewers are all about pitching. The Brewers starting rotation is considered on of the five best in the NL and the best in the NL Central. Led by the oft-injured Ben Sheets, the Brewers rotation also includes Chris Capuano, former Cardinal Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Claudio Vargas.

What is often overlooked is the offense that the Brewers will be bringing to the park. Lead-off man Ricky Weeks was injured for a good part of 2006 and should be rejuvenated this year. Geoff Jenkins suffered through the worst season of his career in 2006 but should rebound for a big year. Bill Hall should have another good year and Prince Fielder should have an even better year as he matures. Add in J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart, and the Brewers should have a potent offense. In fact, they should be good enough to finsh second in the NL Central and battle for a wild-card berth.

3. Houston Astros – The Astros still have a good offense, particularly with the addition of left fielder Carlos Lee, but their pitching isn’t going to be as strong as in past years. Andy Pettitte is gone and it is unlikely that Roger Clemens will be back. That leaves Roy Oswald as the only premiere pitcher on the team. Former Rockie Jason Jennings and former Padre Woody Williams are both question marks, and Matt Albers is completely unproven. Wandy Rodriguez, on the other hand, may turn out to be a bright spot for the Astros. He still has a lot to prove, but looks like he may be the real deal. All tolled, the Astros will not have the guns to be a serious contender for the NL Central.

4. St. Louis Cardinals – I predicted the demise of the Cardinals last year, but I proved to be a bit premature. Even so, I feel confident predicting that the Cardinals will not finish any higher than fourth in the NL Central. Other than Albert Pujols,Scott Rolen and perhaps Chris Duncan, the Cardinals do not sport much offense. Jim Edmonds is a walking injury, and So Taguchi, Juan Encarnacion, David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, and Yadier Molina don’t inspire much fear in opposing pitchers.

On the mound, Chris Carpenter will be back with a new contract. After Carpenter, the Cardinals are counting on Kip Wells, Al Reyes, Adam Wainwright, and Braden Looper. It will take career years from Wells, Reyes, Wainwright, and Looper for the Cards to even have a chance. Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan are often viewed as miracle workers, but even they do not have enough magic to turn this team into a contender.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates are a team on the rise. Young stars like Jason Bay, Freddie Sanchez, Jack Wilson, and former Brave Adam LaRoche are exciting to watch. Young pitchers like Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, and Tom Gorzelanny form a solid rotation that will give opponents fits. The Pirates are too young to be serious contenders this year, but if they can keep their team together, meaning ownership will have to spend some money, they could return past glory to a once proud baseball city.

6. Cincinnati Reds – The Reds overachieved in 2006. They had a great (and unexpected) first half, but faded badly in the second half. Once again, Ken Griffey, Jr is starting the year at less than 100%. In 2006, Adam Dunn hit 40 HRs, but proved that he is a strike out machine, whiffing 194 times and hitting only .234. The rest of the offense is just as unremarkable.

The pitching is what made the Reds contenders last year, but don’t expect the same type of overachieving in 2007. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are both decent pitchers, but neither one is capable of carrying this team. The Reds will finish in the cellar in the NL Central.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Remembering Sammy

Rob G. over at The Cub Reporter has a great article up today entitled "Can We Forgive Sammy?" It's very well written and talks about how a lot of Cubs fans are still mad at Sammy for the way his tenure with the Cubs ended. This, despite all of the great baseball Sammy provided to Cubs fans over the years. The reason Rob wrote the article about Sammy is because the Cubs are taking on the Rangers (Sammy's new team) today in Cactus League action and it will be the first time Sammy has faced his old club since leaving the northside.

I have to admit that I still have some hard feelings toward Sammy. His corked bat incident was an embarrasment, the steroid allegations, particularly his performance before Congress, was distrurbing, and the way he quit on his team at the end of the 2004 season were all sore points for me. Even so, the bad doesn't begin to outweight the good that Sammy brought to the Cubs. I never got the feeling that Sammy was giving less than 100% when he was on the field and his love of the game was infectious.

Then there is the homerun race in 1998 between Sammy and Mark McGwire. In hindsight, I feel a little dirty being so excited and following so closely the daily contest between those two. The steroid allegations make it seem less special than it seemed at the time. But there is no denying that at the time, it was very special. I still have fond memories of following the HR chase with my daughter who was just three years old at the time. It was her first real introduction to baseball and she still loves it today.

Read Rob's article here. It's a great read.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ranking the NL Central Pitching Staffs

They say that pitching wins championships, so it makes sense to look at the pitching rotations each team in the NL Central will be trotting out come opening day. The experts are saying that four of the best rotations in the NL will be those owned by the Dodgers, Padres, D-Backs and Phillies. Another team that is routinely mentioned in the top tier of pitching staffs in the NL is the Milwaukee Brewers.

1. Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers starting five is the only group in the NL Central considered to be among the best in the league. They are led by ace Ben Sheets. Big things are expected from Sheets this year, after he missed most of the year with an injury in 2006. He’s a guy with a ton of potential, most of it unrealized.

Another strong point for the Brewers is that their closer, Francisco Cordero, may be the best closer in the NL Central. He can sometimes be erratic, which is why he lost the closer job in Texas before being traded to the Brewers. But when he’s on, as he was during his tenure with the Brewers during the second half of 2006, he’s lights out.

The Brewers full rotation includes:

1. Ben Sheets
2. Chris Capuano
3. Jeff Suppan
4. Dave Bush
5. Claudio Vargas

2. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs have the second best rotation in the NL Central, but theirs is not an elite rotation. It is probably fair to call them a second tier staff. Led by 2006 Cy Young contender Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs also sport former Toronto lefty Ted Lilly. Lilly will be the lynchpin in the Cubs rotation. Z is as close to a sure thing as you can get in baseball. If Lilly can successfully contribute to the team (meaning 15+ wins), the Cubs are in for a successful year. If not, it will be a long year for the Northsiders.

Although the Cubs bullpen is expected to be a strength for the team, their closer is a big question mark. After a great 2005, closer Ryan Dempster imploded last year. If he doesn’t rebound, look for Bob Howry or Kerry Wood to take over the closer role.

The Cubs rotation is:

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Ted Lilly
3. Jason Marquis
4. Rich Hill
5. Wade Miller/Angel Guzman

3. Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates have a good (but not great) starting rotation. They are young and unproven, but they are talented. The key for the Pirates is for lefty Zach Duke to have a successful year. In 2005, his first year in the majors, Duke was 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. That success was tempered a bit in 2006 when Duke went 10-15 with a 4.47 ERA. On a positive note, Duke pitched 215.1 innings in 2006, including two complete games.

The Buccos 2006 closer, Mike Gonzalez is now with the Braves, so the closer role falls to Salomon Torres. Torres has 17 career saves, 12 of those coming in 2006 in 15 opportunities.

The Pirates young staff includes:

1. Zach Duke
2. Ian Snell
3. Paul Maholm
4. Tom Gorzelanny
5. Tony Armas Jr./Shawn Chacon

4. Houston Astros – The Astros are a bit of a crap shoot. Ace Roy Oswalt is probably the best pitcher in the NL (at least in the top five), but the rotation falls off quite a bit after Oswalt. The Astros picked up Jason Jennings from the Rockies in the off season and are counting on him to make a big impact for them in 2007. Jennings had an impressive 3.78 ERA for the Rockies in 2006, but an unimpressive 9-13 record. In the off season, Jennings was a hot commodity, which meant the Astros had to pay a high price for him. Only time will tell if Jennings was worth the price.

If Roger Clemens returns to the Astros, their pitching staff will be much better (I have a gift for identifying the obvious), but when Clemens looks at the Astros bullpen, he may not be too thrilled about coming back. The most glaring weakness in the bullpen is closer Brad Lidge. In the second half of 2006, Lidge just fell apart. He’s been given every opportunity to work his way out of his slump, but hasn’t taken advantage of it so far. Spring Training statistics may not mean a lot, but Lidge’s ERA of over 13.00 so far this Spring does not bode well for the upcoming season.

The Astros starting rotation includes:

1. Roy Oswalt
2. Jason Jennings
3. Woody Williams
4. Wandy Rodriguez
5. Matt Albers/Francisco Nieve

5. St. Louis Cardinals – The Cards lost most of their 2006 World Series winning rotation to free agency. Gone are Jeff Suppan (Brewers), Jason Marquis (Cubs), and Jeff Weaver (Mariners). Chris Carpenter is a perennial Cy Young candidate, but the rest of the rotation is manned by four question marks. Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright showed signs of brilliance in 2006, but how will they react pitching a full season? Braden Looper has never pitched more than 84 innings in a season and will now be asked to contribute many more innings as a fifth starter. Finally, Kip Wells is being counted on as the number two guy in the rotation. Wells showed a lot of promise early in his career with Pittsburgh, but over the course of his career he is 17 games below .500 (57-74) with a career ERA of 4.46.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan is often credited with working miracles, but it appears even he may be in over his head in 2007. Duncan will also be able to do precious little with closer Jason Isringhausen who is not 100% yet after undergoing season ending hip surgery in 2006. Of course, the trio of Walt Jockety, Tony LaRussa, and Duncan always seem to find a way to get things done. But 2007 may prove to be the year that the mountain is too steep, even for the Three Amigos.

The Cardinals 2007 rotation is:

1. Chris Carpenter
2. Kip Wells
3. Anthony Reyes
4. Adam Wainwright
5. Braden Looper

6. Cincinnati Reds – I am accused of not giving the Reds starting pitchers enough credit. After all, their 2006 pitching staff kept them in the running for the division title for the majority of the year in 2006. Of course, that may have been the result of some otherwise mediocre pitchers overachieving. In 2006, the Reds were led by the former Red Sox right hander Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo pitched an impressive 240.2 innings, posting a 14-11 record with a 3.29 ERA. He will have to duplicate what was in essence a career year if the Reds are to have any hope in 2007.

The Reds have yet to identify a closer. The most likely candidates are either Dave Weathers or Mike Stanton. Weathers has 41 career saves while Stanton boasts 84 saves in his career. Neither pitcher is considered a natural closer, but the Reds have very few options to fill the vacancy.

The Reds starters are:

1. Aaron Harang
2. Bronson Arroyo
3. Eric Milton
4. Kyle Lohse
5. Matt Belisle/Elizardo Ramirez/Bobby Livingston/Kirk Saarloos

Monday, March 12, 2007

Prior Sent to Minor League Camp

Mark Prior has been sent to Minor League camp to work on his pitching problems. Lou Piniella said sending Prior to the Minor League camp will allow him to work out without all of the media attention. He said he wants Prior to just relax and get back into the groove that saw him go 18-6 in 2003.

Mark Prior is a complicated guy to figure out. He was lights out in 2003 and has struggled since then through injuries and inconsistency. He missed a good part of 2006 with injuries. He had that time to rehab, as well as the off-season. He came into camp saying he felt great and he was ready to go. Even so, he has struggled so far this spring, pitching only 3 1/3 innings, while giving up seven runs, eight hits, and walking five batters.

Cubnut over at The Cub Reporter says he thinks Prior is pitching like a man who is afraid he’s going to injure himself.

“He didn’t look like a guy pitching through pain or an injury; he looked like a guy who was terrified of getting injured and was throwing accordingly.”

I think Cubnut makes a great point. If what he says is true, Prior’s problems aren’t physical, but mental. To me, this makes sense. Prior has been a guy who has experienced tremendous success in his life because of his ability to throw a baseball. Now, he has experienced three consecutive years of adversity due to injury. When he has pitched, he has gotten knocked around like never before. His magic right arm is letting him down and he’s not sure how to deal with it.

Now that he is healthy (or at least is supposed to be), he’s afraid he might injure his golden arm once again. So he compromises his pitches and changes his arm angle in an attempt to save his arm. But instead, what he is doing is getting away from doing the things that made him so effective in the first place.

If Prior wants to experience another season like 2003, he needs to get back to what got him to the big leagues. His velocity will come with time. But what he needs more than velocity is the movement his pitches once displayed. And to get that, Prior needs to recapture the mechanics he once had. To do that, he’ll need to have his head on straight. I hope he can do that in Minor League camp.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A lot of people are unhappy with the pitching staff that Jim Hendry put together for this year. The argument being made by the naysayers is that Carlos Zambrano is too emotional, Ted Lilly gives up too many home runs, Rich Hill is too unproven, Jason Marquis is no longer effective, and the Cubs 5th starter is still undecided. While there are bits and shreds of truth in these criticisms, overall I disagree with them all.

First, Carlos Zambrano is a legitimate ace. He’s proven his worth and there are only a few pitchers I would prefer to have at the top of the rotation than Big Z. He’s emotional, but he’s nonetheless effective. And once he gets complete control of his emotions and can harness that energy, he’ll be even better.

Ted Lilly is a flyball pitcher, which normally does work well in Wrigley Field, but I’m not ready to write him off. He was effective in Toronto and his switch to the NL should help him.

Rich Hill is unproven, but so is every other pitcher with his level of experience. That last sentence may not have made complete sense, but what I’m trying to say is that every young pitcher is unproven. That just means that Hill is in the process of proving himself.

Jason Marquis is better than a lot of people think and he is better than he showed in 2006 with the Cards. Obviously, I can’t prove he’s going to have a good 2007, but that is what I expect.

As for the 5th starter, I’m not upset that the position is not set yet. That’s what Spring Training is for. The Cubs have five legitimate pitchers who could fill this position, including Mark Prior, Wade Miller, Angel Guzman, Neal Cotts, and Sean Marshall.

I’m not buying into the doom and gloom about the Cubs pitching staff. There are only a few pitching staffs in the NL better than the Cubs. Barring unexpected injuries, I expect the Cubs pitching staff to be a strength for the 2007 team.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cubs Win Ugly

The Cubs improved their ST record to 3-3-1 on Wednesday by beating the Oakland A’s 9-8. A masterpiece of a baseball game by the Cubs it was not.

Carlos Zambrano started the game for the Cubs and survived three innings. He threw 61 pitches and gave up two runs. Z also walked three batters in his three innings, setting the tone for a day that saw the Cubs give up a total of 10 walks. The defense committed four errors and there were two hits credited to the A’s that could have easily been scored errors.

The offense carried the day. Derrick Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Jacque Jones all had three hits. Alfonso Soriano, Matt Murton and Michael Barrett all contributed two hits apiece.

But the story of the day was the poor pitching and poor defense displayed by the Cubs. I’m afraid this may become the MO for the 2007 team. I expect a good record (89-91 wins), but I also expect a lot of ugly games. I guess winning is winning, but it’s a lot easier to lose when you play ugly.

Cubs Improve Cactus League Record

After starting the Cactus League season 0-3-1, Lou Piniella got pissed. He complained that the team was neither pitching well nor getting timely hits. He didn’t throw a tirade, but he let his players know that he expected more.

Over the past two days, the players have given more. On Monday, the Cubs defeated the Mariners 6-5 and yesterday they beat the Brewers 3-2.

In Monday’s game against the Mariners, Mark Prior made his Spring debut and didn’t look very good. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, threw 40 pitches, gave up four hits and three earned runs. Kerry Wood pitched one inning of no-hit baseball.

Felix Pie was the hitting star, going 3-5. He drove in a run and scored another. Mike Kinkade had a HR and a single, driving in two runs.

On Tuesday, Jason Marquis shined in his Cubs debut. He threw three scoreless innings against the Brewers, giving up just two hits and striking out two. Ryan Dempster looked good in his one inning of work, giving up a hit and striking out two.

The better play by the Cubs followed the tough words by Piniella. Is there a cause and effect? Probably not. The better play is more likely the result of Cubs regulars getting more playing time an shaking off the rust of the winter. Even so, it was good to see the Cubs’ manager show some emotion. It was a nice change all the way around.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Forbes Ranks Pro Sports GMs

Forbes Magazine, which likes to print lists of all different kinds of stuff (i.e. richest people, richest celebrities, value of sports franchises, etc) has come up with another interesting list. This time, Forbes has ranked the GMs in the four major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

According to Forbes, each GM is graded in two ways; First, on regular season winning percentage and post season wins versus the regular season winning percentage and post season wins of their predecessor. Second, they are graded on their relative payroll compared with their predecessor’s relative payroll.

The magazine only included GMs with at least three years of experience. And because winning is more important than payroll, winning percentage was double weighted.

Of all of the GMs in all four sports, Kevin McHale of the Minnesota Timberwolves was ranked first. The top five in all of sports looked like this:

1. Kevin McHale (Minnesota Timberwolves)
2. Jay Feaster (Tampa Bay Lightning)
3. Billy King (Philadelphia 76ers)
4. A.J. Smith (San Diego Chargers)
5. Lou Lamoriello (New Jersey Devils)

Two things strike me about this top five list. First, there’s no one from MLB on the list. In fact, the highest ranking MLB GM is ranked #26. The other thing is, how many championships have the top five GMs won with their current teams? As best I can tell, the answer is zero. The Tampa Bay Lightning won a championship a few years ago, but that was before Jay Feaster became the GM. So obviously, winning championships doesn’t enter into the rankings, although in my opinion it should since that is what every team is built to do.

In any case, now that we understand the shortcomings of the rankings, let’s take a look at the rankings of the MLB GMs.

The top five MLB GMs according to Forbes are:

1. Billy Beane (Oakland A’s)
2. Omar Minaya (New York Mets)
3. Theo Epstein (Boston Red Sox)
4. Brian Sabean (San Francisco Giants)
5. Pat Gillick (Philadelphia Phillies)

Considering the top five names on the MLB list, it seems to me that this whole exercise is flawed. Of the top five, only Theo Epstein with Boston has won a World Series. The thing that helped Epstein so much in the rankings is that his predecessor was spending a lot of money (but not getting the commensurate winning percentage), so Epstein is not gigged for having such a high payroll.

Our beloved (or hated) Jim Hendry came in 58th overall and 14th among MLB GMs. Since there are only 23 MLB GMs with three or more years of experience, Hendry is in the bottom half of the rankings for MLB GMs. Although I don’t agree with the top five, I really can’t argue with Hendry’s ranking. Of course, a successful 2007 season could substantially upgrade his ranking.

Interestingly, Ken Williams from the White Sox is ranked 19th out of the 23 MLB GMs. I’m no fan of the White Sox, but it seems to me that Williams deserves better. He has built some excellent teams (especially over the past 3-4 years) and he won a World Series. Winning a World Series should count for something.

Not surprisingly, the bottom three GMs are:

21. Jim Bowden (Washington Nationals)
22. Dave Littlefield (Pittsburgh Pirates)
23. Bill Bavasi (Seattle Mariners)

Honestly, Dave Littlefield probably deserves better, but since he doesn’t have much to work with, I guess he’s stuck at the bottom.

The Forbes listing is interesting, even if I don’t agree with the way it was done. Winning a championship in any sport is the ultimate goal. Building a team that is consistently good, but never wins it all is nice, but it still falls short of the goal. For this reason, Forbes should have considered and weighted for championships won.

The article and rankings from Forbes can be found here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lou Isn't Happy

The Cubs are 0-4 so far this Spring and Lou Piniella isn’t happy about it. On Sunday, after losing to the White Sox by a score of 13-2, Piniella showed the first signs of the fiery nature he is well known for.

“Our pitchers aren’t pitching well, and our hitters aren’t hitting very well,” Piniella said. “Outside of that, we’re OK.”

Piniella went on to say, “I’ve only been here four days, but I certainly don’t like what I see. I’m being truthful. There’s a whole lot of work to do here. I’m talking about everything. You walk people, and right after the walks come the big flys. The ball carries well in Arizona, but it seems like its only carrying for the other side right now.”

I appreciate what Lou has to say. I know it’s only Spring Training and it’s only been four games, but the Cubs don’t look good. In four games, the Cubs have been outscored 36-15 and they have left 28 runners on base. These are not the characteristics of a successful team.

It’s way too early to panic about the 2007 season. The Cubs made a lot of changes over the Winter and it’s going to take a little time for the team to gel. In addition, Spring is the time to try out some of the players who likely will end up spending the season in the minors. Even so, an 0-4 start to the Spring isn’t something that a fragile Cubs fan can use to build their confidence in their favorite team. We’re a vulnerable lot and we could use a few wins to bolster our spirits.