The Cubs stole the national spotlight this offseason and with good reason. They signed a top of the line manager, Joe Maddon, stretched themselves to lure an ace, Jon Lester, and have one of the best young cores in baseball. That core is headlined by the top overall prospect in MLB, Kris Bryant, who is still sitting in the minors for the time being (Bryant likely would have began the year with the Cubs if not for a clause in his contract — expect him to be called up within a couple weeks).
High expectations have been immediately placed on the Cubbies. It makes sense. Their starved fan base is excited, and after chomping at the bit to field a competitive team for the first time since Steve Bartman made a name for himself, it appears Chicago could have that. That’s just on the surface, though. Much like the legendary Wrigley Field is still under construction this season, so is Theo Epstein’s roster.
Epstein certainly has built the foundation to bring the Cubs back to greatness, but after five consecutive seasons under .500, maybe the goal for 2015 should simply be finishing with a winning record. Then shift to making the playoffs as those young bats develop, and finally to winning the World Series in good time. But Cubs fans seem to be jumping the gun on a five-year plan, expecting it all to come together right away. Like I said, you can’t blame them for getting excited, but nationally, we all need to temper our expectations before we’re all disappointed.
Everyone seems to overreact to opening day but if the Cubs want to see what a true World Series contender looks like they only had to look in the visitors’ clubhouse. The Cardinals are a model franchise and have been for years thanks to their remarkable consistency.
On a rare night where Lester only pitched 4 1/3 innings, Adam Wainwright reminded us of his brilliance, throwing six shutout innings, almost under the radar. The Cardinals capitalized on their opportunities in their 3-0 Opening Day win — getting a monster game from their new piece, Jason Heyward, who seems to come with none of the hype that the Cubs’ acquisitions did.
The Cubs are simply 0-1, and I’m not saying it’s time to hit the panic button. Actually, I’m saying the opposite, for the first time that I can remember, I like their direction. Whether Chicago won or lost their first game of the season, I would still be here saying that we need to pump the breaks on the hype — at least for a year or two. But I’ll admit, it’s a whole lot easier to say after watching their ace struggle and their bats go 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
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