On the north side of the Windy City, at the corner of Waverly and Addison, there is a new and refreshing breeze blowing.
The Chicago Cubs are not your father’s or your grandfather’s baseball team anymore. They are seldom referred to as the cubbies and they certainly have discarded the title of the “lovable losers.”
This change in the direction of the wind came from the south as Joe Maddon, blew in from Florida and took the managerial role with the Cubs in 2015. Straight out from the batter’s box everyone, including the fans, knew the Chicago Cubs would be contenders because leadership starts with the leadoff man. In this case the leadoff man is Joe Maddon.
His managerial style immediately clicked with this young ballclub as he brought a positive attitude to the clubhouse which spilled over onto the field. He always accentuates the positive and in game situations he focuses in on what is done right and to learn from pressure situations and the ups and downs of the game. He is also a manager’s manager in that he keeps the team loose and emphasizes that even though it is about winning, it is still after all a game. Therefore have fun with it! Don’t beat yourself up with your own bat!
His antics are renowned! He is known to keep the team loose by bringing wild animals onto the field and during last year’s season, encouraged the team to wear their pajamas during a night flight back to the Windy City.
John Maddon blew into Chicago and he has changed the landscape of Wrigleyville.
Adding to the refreshing breeze of leadership and quality players on this year’s team is the gust of money invested by the owners of the Chicago Cubs into this franchise.
It will come as no surprise that the major leaguers of Major League Baseball want to be treated like major leaguers. This simply means that they want a field and a clubhouse that is worthy of winners.
The Ricketts family, the owner of the franchise, has delivered and put their money where their mouth is by showing the Chicago Cubs that they are winners on and off the field. This has been recently demonstrated as a 30,000 square foot area has been renovated and upgraded to add a homerun atmosphere to the player’s experience off the field. These upgrades have included a conditioning and strength center, the latest in hydrotherapy equipment, an auditorium that will seat 200 individuals, a center for the press to find out the latest about the ball team, a player lounge and batting tunnels that are placed underground so that the hitters can work on their batting technique before and after the games.
Although hitting is a significant part of the game, it is critical that a winning Major League team have a great pitching rotation and strong bullpen.
In 2015, the Chicago Cubs acquired Jon Lester who everyone thought was going to be the ace of the club. He put up solid numbers in that his ERA was 3.34, but unfortunately the bats last year did not support Lester and he ended up with a season record of 11 and 12.
Adding to the one-two punch was the acquisition of Jake Arrieta two years earlier. In 2015 he had a spectacular year and earned a winning record of 22 wins and 6 losses. His ERA was an amazing 1.77. Is it any wonder that he won the Cy Young award? Additionally, it seems that he is picking up where he left off for the 2016 season.
Adding to the rotation was the favorable westerly winds blowing in from St. Louis as the Chicago Cubs signed John Lackey. In 2015 he had a 13 and 10 record with a 2.77 ERA.
Rounding out the picture rotation is the return of Kyle Hendricks who had a fairly solid 2015 season by going eight and seven with a 3.95 ERA. The fifth pitching slot is taken by Jason Hammel who finished the season at 10 and 7 with a 3.74 ERA.
By doing the math and if the pitchers repeat their performance, the 2016 season for wins by the starters of Chicago will be at least 64 wins.
However, as is life, there are ill winds blowing at Wrigley. The bad news is that Kyle Schwarber is out for the season. In a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler, Schwarber tore the ACL and LCL of his left knee. The good news is that the Cubs lineup has depth and should be able to weather the stormy winds of this set back.
Yes, the winds have been favorable to the Chicago Cubs. Hopefully, the Billy goat will be kept out of Wrigleyville this year by the gale force winds of the pitching and hitting of the Cubs.
Besides, hell, they even have their own fight song…”Go Cubs, Go…Go Cubs, Go…Hey Chicago What Do You Say, Cubs are Going to Win Today.”