Cubs Hype: Expected but at what cost?

It’s easy to say there’s been no higher excitement for a season on the Northside in quite some time. In what’s regarded as “The Year” for the Cubs, it’s easy to get swept up in the hype. At what cost can Cubs fans be excited though? In most major sports, it’s the teams that aren’t widely projected to win it all that surprise people. The issue that arises most often is the pressure, especially the pressure that builds with so much expectation heading into a season. Where I think this year is different is in the team itself. In most teams that fall short of expectations, the Capitals of the world, it’s the small pieces that don’t quite gel that cause the wheels to fall off.

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Many have said this Cubs team is “built to win”, and for good reason. With veteran leadership on not only the pitching staff (Lester), but added leadership in the infield/outfield (Heyward and Zobrist), all the pieces are there for this Cubs team. That’s not to say that anything is handed to a team like the Cubs, but coming off of a resounding success of a season in 2015, and the growth around the board, it’s easy to want and believe in this ball club more than ever.

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Spring training is drawing to a close, and it’s been important for the Cubs as Opening Day is just a few short days away. Just five games remain in Spring Training and in the past few exhibitions we’ve seen more of the lineup, as well as seeing more of the lineup gel. In Sunday’s game against the Mariners the offense shined on multiple occasions, albeit during some insane bee swarms, in a 12-9 loss.

For me, one of the brighter spots throughout Spring Training has been Munenori Kawasaki. Kawasaki has been fantastic in his short time with the Cubs. In 38 at-bats, the Kagoshima, Japan, native has 15 hits with six runs and five RBI’s. It’s also hard not to mention his .395 batting average, his .489 on-base percentage, and his 1.042 OPS. Kawasaki as well as some of the other lesser known Cubs, like Jeimer Candelario, have shown up nicely, and should prove to be useful additions come regular season.

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When Dexter Fowler re-signed with the Cubs it was met with shock, mostly at the fact that no one believed the outfielder would be back. He was welcomed openly however, and in 2015 Fowler proved to be one of the better assets on the entire club. So far in Spring Training, Fowler and his “Fowler’s Howlers” have taken over Mesa, with the centerfielder having three homers with six RBI’s and 12 runs scored in his 39 at-bats.

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Whether it’s to be said or not about the hype around this team, it’s expected, it’s warranted, and it’s believable. It’s a long road to October, but after last year’s incredible season, the new additions to the roster, and the belief around the organization can carry this team. Whether it’ll pan out is to be seen, but God knows Cubs fans are eagerly waiting for April 4th.

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By: Connor Ulrey @ConnorUlrey

 

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Wrigley Weekly Wrap-up

081415-MLB-Jake-Arrieta-Jon-Lester-SS-PI.vresize.1200.675.high.1Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta will skip their Cactus League starts this week. Lester will throw in a minor-league “B” game Tuesday instead of his scheduled Cactus League start against the Padres. Clayton Richard will get the start instead. Lester had a shaky first outing that included a few fielding mistakes, but Joe Maddon said that had nothing to do with the decision. Maddon said it’s just a matter of Lester “getting his work in” while allowing the team to “see some of the other guys against the varsity competition, and ensure we stretch Lester out comfortably.” He also added: “It wasn’t that he has to work on anything like throwing to the bases. That wasn’t the motivation. Jake (Arrieta) will do the same thing. It’s just to shield them from other teams seeing them.” Arrieta will also throw in a minor-league game Saturday, skipping a Cactus League game against the Indians. The Cubs and Arrieta are discussing a contract extension this spring. He has two years left on his contract, but the team would love to lock him up now before he hits the market.

 

The Cubs released left-handed reliever Rex Brothers on Thursday. After getting Brothers 571521from the Rockies last November in a trade for minor-league lefty Wander Cabrera, the Cubs were hoping he could recapture his 2013 form, when he was a promising young closer in Colorado. Brothers struggled during his appearances this spring. In three outings with the team, he allowed three hits, walked three, and notched four strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings. Things got ugly for Brothers in a relief appearance against the Diamondbacks last week as he threw four wild pitches in one inning. The release of Brothers officially puts the 40-man roster at 39 while the spring training roster is down to 62 players. The Cubs and Brothers avoided arbitration this winter when they agreed to a partially-guaranteed, one-year, $1.42 million deal. The partially-guaranteed contract means the Cubs only owe Brothers 30 days of termination pay, which amounts to around $300,000. With the release, the Cubs are saving close to $1.12 million while Brothers will get the rest of the month to catch on with another team in spring training before the regular season starts.

 

1170118_1091511394221820_2058096610_nHall of Famer Ryne Sandberg returned to Cubs camp last week. Sandberg worn his familiar No. 23 Cubs uniform and joined his former team for workouts at the invitation of Joe Maddon. “He was really eager to get back, and I was excited to have him,” Maddon said of Sandberg, who played for the Cubs from 1982-94 and again from 1996-97. “He seems to really be in a good place and it’ll be a blast to have him around, and we’ll definitely rely on what he has to say.” Maddon is hoping Sandberg will work with the middle infielders this spring. “I want him to be comfortable and relax and enjoy his moment right now,” Maddon said of Sandberg.