... and, let's face it, who doesn't? ... check out andrew jackson over at espn. he's on the twenty-dollar bill folks. he MUST be right. right?
1) a healthy ryan dempster is still a ryan dempster with a career WHIP of 1.56 and ERA of 4.99. how high can expectations get?
2) the dominating starting staff -- even if it has a healthy wood and prior -- is still replacing matt clement's hard-luck 3.68 ERA with dempster and replacing the 2004 glendon rusch with the sparkling 3.47 ERA/1.23 WHIP in all likelihood with the glendon rusch of the career 4.93 ERA/1.45 WHIP.
3) joe borowski, mike remlinger and chad fox are all coming off arm troubles, and -- as we've discussed before -- the bullpen is only mediocre when healthy and will probably get more work this year.
4) nomar will be nice, but aramis is probably going to come back to earth a bit.
5) patterson, burnitz, hollandsworth and young jason dubois (if he makes the club with his impressive spring) may well constitute the worst outfield in the NL -- no blowing smoke about that, despite what our seventh president tries to spin. considering two of the cubs' top run producers occupied the outfield corners last season, that is a big difference.
6) defense remains a problem -- an important problem -- especially on the infield and especially if the bullpen sees more innings.
and most importantly -- mark prior's 2004 "achilles injury" was his elbow. the cubs have never really discovered what's wrong in there. larry rothschild can say things like "This is something he may have to learn to deal with regularly", and "... it shouldn't be a problem. Medication will calm it down" -- but he knows as much as you or i what is really going on mechanically in there, which is nothing. and how long do you imagine the cubs can or should trot the 25-y/o franchise pitcher out to the mound with consistent elbow pain -- pain debilitating enough to double his walk rate and raise his ERA by more than a run even after two months off -- of an indeterminate origin?
optimism... maybe it's merited. other teams have problems too, i know. but with its question marks in the outfield, the bullpen -- even in the assumed strength, the rotation -- this cub team is starting to look a bit too similar to cub squads past where it sometimes was hard to see the cheese through the holes.