Hey Cubs fans, great to see you again.
First off, happy Opening Day! In the words of the Grateful Dead, what a long, strange trip it's been.
The good news is we have made it and, for now, your Chicago Cubs are healthy (for the most part) and will be opening the season at 1060 West Addison tonight.
While this season presents a lot of concerns health-wise, it's okay to be a bit nervous about the product the Chicago Cubs will be rolling out onto the ballfield day in and day out. I have to imagine I am not alone in these feelings, and I am here to tell all of you that it is more than okay to feel nervous about your 2020 Chicago Cubs.
We start off with the wacky conditions that every single MLB team will be dealing with every single day — the consistent testing, the concern of catching a virus that has literally stopped the entire world, and most importantly the health and concern of the staff, players, and their families. All of the above will really take a mental toll during this shortened sprint of a season.
This brings me to my second point, the sprint season. While I agree with my fellow colleagues that a truncated season helps the Cubs, there is concern about first-year manager David Ross. He was already stepping in to fill the biggest shoes in Chicago Cubs' managerial history. Add in a global pandemic and a season where every single game matters and the margin for error is now minuscule for a human being who has never managed a single MLB game in his life.
The biggest concern about this season is the same one Cubs fans have had for years: the dreaded bullpen. Last season, the bullpen posted a WAR of 1.3, ranking 20th in the entire MLB. What did the Cubs do to bolster a clear weak spot? Virtually nothing. The bullpen consists of some of these names: Duane Underwood Jr., Dillon Maples, Dan Winkler, Casey Sadler, and James Norwood. It's safe to say the concern about the bullpen is very valid.
Another concern is health and age. Jose Quintana already had trouble doing the dishes and will not be back until midseason. The Captain, Anthony Rizzo, struggled with back issues throughout Summer Camp. Jon Lester is now a spry 36 years young. Craig Kimbrel is 32 years old and at times last season looked like a man in his mid-40s.
Looking for another concern? How about depth? The Cubs bench, if the best nine start, will have the likes of Albert Almora, Steven Souza Jr., Nico Hoerner, and David Bote. Jose Quintana landed on the IL and Alec Mills slots in as the fifth starter. Needless to say, it will get ugly at some point this year when a player inevitably needs to miss time.
There is also concern about this core's window of opportunity. 2016 could not seem further away. Since then, there have been multiple collapses and underwhelming seasons. Tom Ricketts went from savior of the city to public enemy number one in the blink of an eye. Jose Quintana becomes a free agent next season. Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber are all set to hit free agency in 2022. It's hard not to think about the harsh reality that this core could be dismantled and walk away from Chicago with only one World Series Championship to show.
That being said, cherish this time. One day, the players that brought us all the greatest sports moments of our lives will be donning different uniforms. Fans will look back on this time as the true glory days of being a Cubs fan. The window may be potentially closing, but that doesn't mean Chicago can't have one more moment in the spotlight. Don't forget this team has Bryant/Baez/Rizzo/Willy/Schwarber at the top of the lineup. Don't forget this team can put up seven-plus runs on any given night. Don't forget Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks have the potential to be one of the deadliest one-two punches in all of baseball. Enjoy the ride, folks, and happy Opening Day to you all. We will see you on Clark Street soon.