It has not been a good stretch for professional sports in Chicagoland. The Bears after a strong season let fans down by just missing, literally, the playoffs. The Blackhawks are still struggling to get out of a sinkhole of a start. The Bulls? Rebuilding, trying to find the chemistry to contend, maybe next season. Not much happening to soothe us winter-weary, disappointed fans.
But now the Cubs and White Sox are in Arizona, Cactus League Land. The Sox team is making its own noise with its young talent while the Cubs are flexing muscles that went limp the last grueling month of their 2018 season. Although their off-season has been surprisingly quiet in reshaping their team to “be the Scene in 2019,” they seem to believe they’ve got what it takes to be just that and the best once again. Can’t blame them or their management for being believers.
If talent talks, those dark forces predicting a meltdown season for the Cubs aren’t listening. On the field the team has proven – and improving – players at just about every position. And depth. On the mound there are some question marks but also some key exclamation points.
The bullpen, however, remains an Adventureland all its own.
Spring training is no crystal ball. A spill of puzzle pieces is more like it, with management working to fit them together in the shape of a pennant and World Series trophy. It does happen even if it takes a hundred-plus years! And it can happen again, a couple of years later.
The season looks promising. The key and proven pieces are on the table, with other surprising ones looking to fit in, if not by Opening Day sometime during the season. Last year the Cubs played through some injuries and karma-upsetting, off-field headlines as well as a pile-up of make-up games in the final weeks of the season. Given a kinder fate in the months ahead, the team has everything it needs to reprise 2016.
Mr. Maddon needs to work his magic. He’s been doing that during the off-season, showing his team and Cub fans that his focus is on the game itself more than money, which he feels will take care of itself in time. He seems to know that the pleasures of the game happen on the field and not in the corporate offices.
Wrigley is ready and waiting. And so are we.