General

Some conventional thoughts about the 2015 Cubs

cubsFrom the Saturday, Jan. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Five years ago, I attended my first-ever Cubs Convention in Chicago, and the team promptly went 75-87 during the 2010 season.

I haven’t been back since. And, really, neither have the Cubs.

Since that weekend spent hobnobbing with Cubs greats – and Ronnie “Woo Woo” – the club hasn’t enjoyed a winning season and has gone 346-464 overall. However, as the team’s 30th annual convention continues today and Sunday, hope finally has returned to the North Side.

Not coincidentally, it’s accompanied by talent.

In Joe Maddon, the Cubs again have a manager worthy of their stage, both in terms of leadership and personality (sorry, Rick Renteria, Dale Sveum and Mike Quade). They finally have a true ace in $155 million man Jon Lester. And if phenoms Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and others develop as hoped, they may soon have a team filled with true stars.

And as Theo Epstein & Co. fuel the fan fest excitement today, here’s some things that currently interest me the most regarding the 2015 Cubs.

Win now … and later

This week, while chatting with the Chicago Tribune about movies and baseball, Kevin Costner called the Cubs “a funny team – almost America’s team in a weird way. They need to win.”

And, yes, they do. But that doesn’t mean they have to win big now.

With the acquisitions of Maddon and Lester – which upped the Cubs’ World Series odds in Vegas from 40-to-1 to 12-to-1 – it’s seemed that many (including first baseman Anthony Rizzo) expect the team to immediately become a title contender. I don’t.

That’s because the plethora of prospects still need to prove that they’re actual big-league players. The Cubs still need another top-of-the-rotation type of arm to complement Lester. And Maddon still needs to gather his bearings in the weird baseball world that is Wrigley.

After going only 73-89 in 2014, my realistic hope for the 2015 Cubs is that they post a winning record and at least compete with NL Central heavyweights St. Louis and Pittsburgh for a Wild Card berth.

Like Costner said, this funny, weird team needs to win.

But winning big can still come later.

April is the cruelest month

After nearly a decade of languishing behinds tens of thousands of others on the Cubs’ season-ticket waiting list, my name actually came up this winter – along with dropping games, the team has shed a lot of ticket holders.

Weary from all the losing the past five years, I initially was going to pass on the opportunity. But then the Cubs lucked into Joe Maddon, and I figured it was literally now or never. So, I took the plunge and split a nights-and-weekends season ticket package with my brother and a friend.

Our pair of tickets, however, is located in the currently demolished bleachers, which almost certainly won’t be rebuilt in time for the season opener on April 5. For my money, though – as long as there are refunds – it will be fine if they take all of April to finish construction.

At Wrigley, it truly is the cruelest month.

And I won’t at all mind avoiding it.

Stuck in the middle

Starlin Castro needs to stay away from Dominican nightclubs. Javier Baez needs to stay away from pitches over his head. And Addison Russell needs to stay away from the big leagues and develop for another year.

But while all three players have question marks, their talent is undeniable. As a result, the Cubs have a logjam in their middle infield. And I think the most compelling storyline of 2015 will be how they unplug it.

But until we truly know who’s worth keeping, I hope they hang on to three.