Wednesday, February 18, 2004
First of all, I think you've got to admit that nobody has a better chance than the Cubs of being the class of the National league. Obviously, it could all go horribly wrong, but that rotation is absolutely sick. Prior, Wood, Maddux, Zambrano, Clement. I can now say that without sighing wistfully.
Mark Prior is the best young pitcher I've ever seen, hands down. He has all the talent and brains a ballplayer can have, and he ain't scared of nothin'. If he hadn't tried to put an Albert Belle on Marcus Giles halfway through the year, he would have had a great shot at the Cy Young. Hell, he almost won it anyway.
Kerry Wood has always put up exceptional numbers without winning that many games, but he's always had an excuse. The Cubs just never scored him enough runs. He should not have that excuse this year. In 2003, Wood seemed to thrive the more it became clear that Prior was the true ace of the staff. Well, now there's even less pressure on Kid K, so watch out!
Greg Maddux, obviously, is one of the three elite pitchers of his generation. Right up there with Clemens and Johnson. But that's the past, and the question is, how good will be be in 2004? Well, first of all, he's only 37. When Barry Bonds was 37, he'd never even hit 50 home runs in a season. If Maddux's next three seasons go as well as the ones Clemens and Johnson had between the ages of 37 and 40, nobody on the North Side will be complaining! I think that's a possibility, too. He absolutely tore up the second half last year, after the umpires were given a little more wriggle room from the universally despised QuesTec system (which, I might add, has not been installed in Wrigley and never will be).
Carlos Zambrano is the X-Factor. No one has any idea how good this guy might turn out to be. Dusty said last year that he was the most talented of the bunch. I never really saw that, but when he can find the area just below the strike zone with his splitter he is a sight to see.
Matt Clement...is now officially the best #5 starter in baseball. Congrats, Matt!
Pete's next Cubs roster-change prediction: Unless Michael Barrett has a great first half, which is not likely, Jason Kendall will be the Cubs catcher by the trading deadline.