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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Future Suck: Padres 5, Cubs 1

The book on the Cubs this 2012 is that they'll need an awful lot of things to go right for them to even hit breakeven, which, among the Wrigleyville faithful, will amount to something like an impossible dream. The soberer thinkers among them seem to have scoped out a 71-win season as the greatest likelihood, which is to say a long, dreary spring and summer lie ahead. The offense has little to offer in the way of legitimate thrills. Save for young Starlin Castro (whom Al Yellon recommended the team long-term recently), the team's young position players largely fall into the placeholder category.

The good news, such as there is of it, is that the team's downside due to creaky veterans is somewhat limited. The lone bad Jim Hendry-era deal appears limited to Alfonso Soriano, who will haunt the lineup (or at least the payroll) through 2014. Marlon Byrd, not a liability but not really a star, has one more year on his contract, this one, as does the surprising (but not overwhelming) Ryan Dempster. Even more good news — perhaps the best in generations — came from the exodus of Theo Epstein to Chicago following a tiff with ownership in Boston. With an unmistakable "we're getting the band back together" vibe, he hauled in Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, both who had only briefly been running things in San Diego as the team's GM and AGM, respectively.

"I had low expectations — and they were dashed!"
— my friend Genny Dazzo
Something very like that happened with the Cubs yesterday, who committed two errors, both of which were followed by runs by the Padres. What surprised me immensely was that starter Travis Wood was charged with no unearned runs. Is this the opposite of homer scoring? However you call it, Wood seemed to me to be beset by much worse numbers than he really deserved, and pitched reasonably well the first time and a third or so through the order, his plunking of Will Venable notwithstanding.

That said, it was a Padres split squad he succumbed to, and that team is notably not going to be very good, either. They finished last in the NL West last year at 71-91, a record the 2012 Cubs might even envy if things go really badly for them. One spring game is never going to tell you the whole story for an upcoming season unplayed; the whole point of the exercise is hope. For the Padres, much of that has to come from the crazy rich $1 billion/20 year TV deal the team unexpectedly pulled off in February. For the Cubs, it's all about the draft and international signings. Neither team has much real hope for winning 2012, and only limited aspirations the year after, either.


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