By Doug Halberstadt
Spring training for the 2012 Major League Baseball season starts all around the country later this week and early next week. It marks the beginning of another quest for a trip to the World Series for the Chicago Cubs. They haven’t won a championship since 1908, and haven’t played in a World Series since they lost to the Detroit Tigers in 1945. Don’t expect this year to be the one that breaks that streak.
Here are just a couple of reasons 2012 won’t be the year for the boys in blue from the North Side of Chicago. First of all, they have a brand-new manager, Dale Sveum. He’s promised to bring a new work ethic to the Cubs’ dugout. Sveum made it clear the lackadaisical work habits and casual clubhouse atmosphere that characterized the fifth-place Cubs the last two seasons would not be tolerated.
“You don’t want to have the other team looking into your dugout saying, ‘They’re dogs. Nobody plays hard,’” he said. “You want to make them respect you.”
They may end up earning the respect of their opponents, but that won’t translate to a trip to the World Series.
In addition to Sveum, the team has hired another new face, Chris Bosio. He’ll take over the duties as the pitching coach. The good news for Bosio is he won’t have to deal with the on- and off-field distractions created by Carlos Zambrano. He’s left the team and will be replaced in the starting rotation by a trio of newcomers.
The Cubs acquired the services of Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood during the offseason. They are all projected to find a spot in the starting rotation when the season does get under way.
Combine a first-year manager with a brand-new pitching coach and you have a recipe for … I’m not going to say disaster, but I don’t think it’ll equal success, either, at least not the amount needed to make it to the Series.
This experiment (orchestrated by new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein) is going to take some time to gel. I’d say the best Cubs fans can hope for this year is a team that hustles and gives 100 percent on every play. That’s a demand Sveum will make of his players. I hope that’ll equate to more wins on the field and maybe, eventually, a long-awaited return trip to the World Series, but it won’t be this year.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Feb. 15-21, 2012, issue