What? Me worry?
The World Series Champion Cubs—let’s say that again—the World Series Champion Cubs, embark on their title defense in St. Louis on Sunday night.
I am very excited to see a batting order that begins with Kyle ``The Natural’’ Schwarber, Kris ``MVP’’ Bryant and Anthony ``Oh, what a Saturday Night Live sketch’’ Rizzo go to work.
I am also excited about a starting rotation in which Kyle Hendricks, who finished third in the Cy Young voting, will be the fifth starter in the Cubs’ rotation. That’s more of a procedural thing, as manager Joe Maddon uses his lefty-righty mix to best advantage. But still. . .
I have concerns about Jason Heyward’s ability to fix the troublesome swing that left him with a .230 batting average last season and made him an offensive liability.
But I am absolutely not worried about the 2017 Cubs.
I say this because there seems to be doubt and skepticism about the Cubs’ ability to repeat. Let’s say that again, too: ``The Cubs’ ability to repeat.’’[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Yes, pitchers Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are 30-somethings.
And yes, second baseman Ben Zobrist is 35 and had a neck thing in spring training.
And yes, Javier Baez, who can play anywhere, may have to do exactly that. Again.
But come on, people. These are the Cubs. They are stocked. (Stud second baseman Ian Happ, not to be confused with Badger forward Ethan Happ, was sent down.) And we should be stoked, not worrying about the perilous road to repeating, which hasn’t been done since the Yankees won three in a row in 1998-2000.
And yet, there’s gloom and doom. And questioning. . .
Just this morning, my friends at the Chicago Tribune ran a giant front-page headline that said, ``What if. . . ’’
That was above a story about. . . what if the Cubs had lost Game 7 to Cleveland and were not the World Series champions?
Their second story? ``Are Cavs a warning for Cubs?’’
In that piece, LeBron James talked about how difficult it is to repeat.
This stuff is fine from a journalistic standpoint. Face it. When you’re writing for an insatiable audience, and Cubs’ fans certainly qualify at this point, you have to cover every angle.
My friend Bob Verdi, the longtime Tribune columnist, used to call it ``feeding the goat,’’ this business of producing stories on a topic that fans have an unquenchable thirst for.
All I want to say is, I don’t know what the future holds for the Cubs.
Sports Illustrated picked them to be defeated by the Dodgers in the NLCS.
If Ernie Banks were still here, he would say, ``The Cubs will be heavenly in 2017.''
And a quick Ernie Banks aside. Long long ago, I was playing Waveland, the nine-holer on Lake Michigan near Wrigley Field with my friend Norm Werd, who was a pretty good southpaw in the Cleveland Indians' system for a while.
And who should be coming up the adjacent fairway but Mr. Cub himself? We watched raptly as Ernie lofted one toward the green.
And in unison, we shouted, ``That's pretty well hit. It could be, it might be. It is! Hey hey. Atta boy, Ernie.''
Mr. Banks turned toward us and doffed his cap.
What I do know is, baseball is back. And whatever happens, the Cubs are going to be interesting. It would be very nice if it continues to go well, and there’s every reason to think it will.
But whatever happens, I’m not worrying about it.
They can’t take 2016 away.
And what a roster Maddon has going into 2017.
My goodness, as Uncle Verne would say, we need the diversion of baseball more than ever.
I hope your team does well, too. Except, as Jack Brickhouse used to say with a cackle, ``when you’re playing the Cubs.’’[/membership]