The Cubs’ crystal ball
Ward also looked into his Cubs crystal ball to make some prognostications about the season ahead.
“First,” he said, “let me state the obvious. It’s very difficult to repeat as champions in any major sport––except for the NBA, which we won’t recognize as a real sporting organization! Only one team in the three major sports––MLB, NFL and NHL––has done so since 2000. But can the Cubs, once loveable losers but now world champions, be the team to break this trend? I believe so. Not only because I’m a diehard, lifelong Cubs fan but also because they’re that good. Sure, they needed some time to get past all the early season celebrations, time to gel with new teammates and adjust to a few major changes, such as Dexter Fowler signing with St. Louis, as well as moving the ‘beat the world champs’ target off their backs as every team they play focuses on doing just that.
“They’ve added some starting and bullpen strength in Anderson, Davis, Duensing and Uhehara, though I think they could use one more strong middle reliever and/or closer,” he continued. “On the field and at the plate, they brought in a one-to-one quality replacement for the exiting Fowler in Jon Jay; he may be a little better than Fowler! And they brought back Matt Sczur, Tommy La Stella and Albert Almora, Jr. All three would be starters and major contributors on any other MLB team. So that may be Coach Joe Maddon’s biggest problem: too much talent and trying to make all that talent work in the strategy. And he is a master strategist, so he will make it work. Now that they are settling in, and KB is ready to come out of his traditional slow start, look for the Cubs to run the table in many of their match-ups and to dominate through the rest of the spring, all of summer and finishing up with, my prediction here, more than the 100 wins again and a stronger, more dominant trek through the post-season. Of course, these predictions are notwithstanding injuries and other maladies, such as big baseball egos, which Joe is also a master at handling.”
It is, said Ward, sure to be a great season ahead.
“Look for Heyward to continue a great season after working tirelessly on his swing in the off-season,” he said, “and Zobrist to break out and come back to his two world championships, including one with Kansas City in 2015. He should be in top form, and youngsters Scwarber and Baez should get past their ‘big boy’ excitement and settle in for great numbers at the plate. And that, along with the bullpen, is where, no pun intended, the rubber will meet the road. In the field, they will dominate as they did last year, if the pitching staff does what they are capable of. And if the bats find the ball like they did last year, we could be looking at a repeat and even three-peat. You heard it here first. Ding-dong, the curse is dead!”
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