2006 -- Start Shitting your Pants Early
If Corey reacted to breaking balls the same way he reacted to hecklers and naysayers, maybe his OBP would be higher
The 2006 schedule has been tentatively announced, and like the Cubs' offseason so far, it shows that we're not here to fuck around. Despite all the talk I've seen from Harold Reynolds so far (his 3 NL teams to watch in 2006: the Pirates, the Brewers, and the Astros) about virtually everyone else in the NL Central, our schedule has put in place what we need: a good kick to the solar plexus in April.
2 series against the Cardinals, a home set against the Marlins and a trip to a probably-retooled Dodgers. Along with the usual showdowns with Milwaukee and Cincinnati, April is no bullshit any more.
There's 2 series with the Pale Hose in the mix before the All-Star Break, and the only other nasty stretch comes in the fortnight following the ASG: home and away to the Mets, the Astros at home, away to the Nationals and home to the Cardinals again. Pass me the Tums, that might be our death rattle if we're especially unlucky.
In fairness, Harold Reynolds is not the only one I've heard ramble about the rest of the NL Central. Lots of pontificators reckon that the young gun styles of the Brewers and Pirates might help them launch an attack on St. Louis, so here's hoping that if that's true, we're not left behind in the mix.
Why would people think that Milwaukee and Pittsburgh are more threatening now? Could it be that as soon as their postseason aspirations were cut short, they let themselves lose a few more games by playing a lot of prospects everyday? The Pirates let SPs Paul Maholm (3-1, 2.18 ERA) and Zach Duke (8-2, 1.81 ERA) loose on the league, while C Ryan Doumit (.255, 6 HR, 35 RBI in 75 games), 1B Brad Eldred (12 HR, 27 RBI in 55 games), and OF Nate McLouth (.257 in 41 games) got some much-needed experience before 2006 rolls around. Granted, these are not incendiary numbers, but at least they're all ready to form a nucleus in '06.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee is looking more ominous. Their pitching still suuucks (although Jorge De La Rosa and Jose Capellan are shaping into reasonable relievers), but 1B Prince Fielder and 2B Rickie Weeks, both of whom are YOUNGER THAN ME, are going to be nasty next season. They got their licks in 2005, but both performed well, and their success gives the Brewers a lot more freedom in this offeason. Now, guys like Lyle Overbay, a vet with some value, can be used as leverage to upgrade positions in-depth, and there's no cause for concern.
I wish the Cubs had been a little more like this towards the end of 2005. Dusty's comments about "putting a team on the field that gives us the best chance to win" was, in the context it was said, absolute bullshit. He misunderestimates the Wrigley fanbase, and that alone should have been enough to maybe show him the door. Fans would be turning up to see the stars of tomorrow whether we lose or not, and they certainly would be happier in doing that than showing up to watch us lose while putting shite like Macias and Grieve and Corey in the regular lineup. How that gives us the best chance to win is beyond me. It's short-sighted, and we lost a good month of letting prospects show us (and other MLB teams) just what they were capable of, all the while prepping them for a full season of battle in 2006.
After all, let's say that the approach we took, the narrow-minded decision to field below-average "vets" gave us 8, even 10 extra wins over the course of August and September. What, if anything, did those wins get us? Respect? Surely not. The postseason? Couldn't be more wrong.
So Murton and Cedeno are "ready". That is definitely a good thing, but if we'd had more balls in that last 6 weeks once A-Ram was hurt (and we chose not to rush him back because of our record, so if we're able to do that, why not go that extra yard and call up more guys?), we could be in a much better position now. The gaps we are making a priority to fill could be a lot more stable. We could be making trades/offers in the months to come that offer us depth, not an immediate, big-salary fix-it to hide a deeper problem.
Fingers fucking crossed, lads, fingers fucking crossed. Our problems are only just beginning. We could be talking about a full, solid lineup instead of having question marks every other position. Lead-off? Center Field? Right Field? Relief?
I bet we have 3 or 4 guys who could fill all those positions pronto, if we'd had more balls.
The schedule for 2006 is tentative, and so is our starting lineup. Let's see which gets set first.
2006 Tentative Schedule
PS. I did hear from credible sources that Nomar will not be returning in 2006. That is a good thing. Discuss.
PPS. What are we to do with our lineup?