I love spring training, usually, because there’s a small window where anything seems possible. But once the season begins in April, and the losses start piling up, it’s not too long before it seems as though the season is lost. That’s how it’s been for this Chicago Cubs fan each year since 2009, anyway.
But this year, given the the Cubs’ anemic offseason activity, contention and even competitive baseball isn’t going to happen. With a payroll that’s nearly $20 million below the big-league average (and that’s including the $14 million they will be paying Alfonso Soriano to play for the New York Yankees), there’s simply no way Chicago will be competitive this year. So for Cubs, it’s already “Wait ’til next year.”
With all of the attention being given to prospects Javier Baez and Albert Almora, it would be tempting to write off this season as an incubator for years to come. With an unproven new manager in Rick Renteria, there’s no reason to see this year as anything but a looming disaster. And it’s only the day pitchers and catchers report, too.
For most baseball fans, this day — the start of spring training — is what gets us through winter’s cold. And there’s been more cold than usual this winter, too. So I should be giddy at the prospect of baseball finally coming back after a long winter’s nap. And yet, the names Justin Ruggiano, George Kottaras, Wesley Wright and whatever other players the Cubs brought in this offseason (oh, I almost forgot about Jason Hammel!) aren’t doing it for me this year. And don’t get me stated on Clark the mascot, either.
So I’m glad baseball is on the horizon again, but not for the team I’ve followed since I was a young kid. Baseball, as a whole, is going to have to sustain me this year, because my team won’t do it. At least not until some as-yet-unidentified year a ways off. And that’s not a happy thought, either.