Here we go again?
May is here, which means it’s time for my annual “Woe is me. I’m a Chicago Cubs fan” column.
Only, that’s not where I’m taking it this year. I figure the Cubs have been beaten up enough already — by other teams, media men and online commenters, alike. They don’t need a schmuck like me jumping on the pile.
Well, maybe one joke to appease you Cardinals fans.
Have you heard the one about the lady who left her kids at Wrigley Field?
“They’re beating the Cubs 4-1 in the bottom on the ninth.”
Yep, the Cubs are an easy target to ridicule thanks to the last 104 years. However, I’d say there’s plenty to be positive about right now. Yes, I’m talking about the 9-15 Cubs.
To be honest, I haven’t found a lot of time to catch Cubs games this season, what with the high school spring sports schedule demanding as it is, but I finally seized an opportunity Wednesday night. Jeff Samardzija took the mound for the Cubs in Cincinnati, and it turns out it wasn’t a bad game to get reacquainted with my favorite team not called the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Jekyll-Hyde Samardzija came with his ‘A’ game to lead the Cubs to a 3-1 victory, allowing just one run in seven-plus innings. The 27-year-old pitcher lowered his ERA to 3.41 and now has 32 strikeouts in five starts this season.
Is Samardzija of April the Samardzija of the future? No one knows, but the answer should go a long way toward writing the Cubs’ future.
Though the Cubs have had a power outage in April and rank last in the MLB in home runs, rookie Bryan LaHair is certainly not to blame. The former Iowa Cub hit another home run last night — his sixth of the season — and while he’s no Matt Kemp (who’s scorching the ball at a .411 clip with 12 homers), he’s currently second only to Kemp in slugging percentage (.794). We’ll see soon enough if LaHair’s play is just a mirage, but I think he belongs in Chicago.
And the Cubs’ youngest building block, 22-year old Starlin Castro, added a pair of hits to his .340 season average Wednesday. Another youngster, table-setter Tony Campana, didn’t record a steal in the game but has already tallied seven in limited play.
Alfonso Soriano’s fielding, while still a little cringe-worthy, has definitely improved since he started roaming the outfield in ‘07. He even made a dirt-eating catch to rob Joey Votto of a hit in last night’s game, which had me shaking my head in disbelief.
Even the shaky Carlos Marmol (everyone’s favorite reliever unless you’re a Cubs fans) got the save to close out the ninth inning.
And then there’s new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. While I don’t think Epstein is the second coming like some fans have been so quick to label him, his philosophy to build through the farm system is reassuring. It’s nice to see things going in a positive direction in the front office, regardless of record.
With all that being said, I still recommend to all Cubs fans to hold off on the motto “There’s always next year!” At least for a few seasons, anyway.
Michael Leach is sports editor of The Fairfield Ledger.