Here we go, my first Chicago Cubs' article of the 2009 season! I cannot wait for April 6th! Hopefully, all of these articles will be positive during this journey towards October.
Today (Friday, Feb. 13, 2009) marked the first day of Spring Training practice for the Cubs down in the desert. Good thing I don't believe in superstition, because some believe Friday the 13th is unlucky.
As the Cubs head down to Fitch Park in Mesa, Arizona for practice, many questions are still unanswered.
Who will leadoff in the batting order? Theriot, Soriano, or Miles?
What will the batting order be?
Who is going to be the closer? Marmol or Gregg?
Who will be heavy contenders in the NL Central?
Who will be the fifth starter? Marshall or Samardzija?
Experts from a wide range of sources say that Alfonso Soriano will still leadoff.
In my opinion, it should be Ryan Theriot. Last year, "The Riot" had a .307 batting average and a .387 on-base-percentage, while Soriano had a .280 BA and a .344 OBP.
Not only do those numbers favor Theriot, but Soriano had 37 more RBIs and 28 more home runs in 2008 compared to Theriot. Not to mention, Soriano went 0-2 almost every other at-bat in 2008 as leadoff. And, don't worry, Theriot has decent speed—he stole 22 bases last year while Soriano only stole 19.
Even with Soriano's injury, he should had more towards the end of the season. The only thing that worries me is the fact that Soriano has always been a leadoff man. I think Sweet Lou and his staff should at least try out Ryan Theriot at leadoff and see what happens. In addition to, newly acquired Aaron Miles may fit this role, but I think he should stick to the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Another subject that will be addressed in the desert is the 3-4-5 in the batting order. Will Derrek Lee still be the Cubs' No. 3, or will it be the "board game brand" player, Milton Bradley? In my opinion, they should leave it as is, Lee and Ramirez, and then slide down Soto to fit in Bradley in the No. 5 spot. I don't want the Lee-Ramirez chemistry to go out of whack. I like them back-to-back.
With the sad departure of fan favorite, Kerry Wood, comes the question of—who will be the new closer in 2009? It could very well be ex-Marlin Kevin Gregg, or the highly praised prospect, Dominican Republic native, Carlos Marmol.
I kind of hope that Gregg will get the job, but I have a feeling that Marmol will. In my opinion, Marmol would be a better 6th, 7th, and/or 8th inning relief pitcher. Marmol would be utilized better as a set-up man, while Gregg has the experience needed to be a great closer.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be a main threast as usually, but Chicago should also look out for the Cincinatti Reds and the Houston Astros. I have a feeling that the Milwaukee Brewers will not do as good with the departure of C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets.
Sean Marshall will win the position over Jeff Samardzija. That is the one thing I am most certain about while dealing with these topics. Marshall has been used as a starter in the past, and he deserves the position. However, if Lou and his staff for some reason put "the big man from Notre Dame" as the fifth starter, I would have no problem with that.
All of these unanswered questions will most certainly make an interesting Spring Training for the Chicago Cubs. Coming off a devastating postseason last year, and more than 100 years of no championships, the Cubs need to step it up and prove themselves worthy of the World Series.
This could be the year!