The sun is shining, the temperature is getting warmer (well, not really), the trees are getting ready to bud and the start of the 2016 Major League Baseball season is only a month away.
As the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues begin spring training and preparations for their springtime match-ups, more and more buzz is growing over which teams this season will dominate the majors and which teams will fall to the way side.
Like any baseball fan, I’m absolutely stoked for the start of the season.
While I’m not certain how far my beloved Pirates will go in their quest for a shot at the Fall Classic, the anticipation and excitement to see them take the field again is as high as ever.
However, the Pirates aren’t the only team I’ve got my eye on: several teams have piqued my interest and perhaps none more so than the Pirates’ Central Division neighbor and post-season rivals, the Chicago Cubs.
I never thought I’d see those words together, least of all coming from me.
The team that personifies heartbreak and despair has me the most intrigued this preseason.
Setting aside their century long playoff woes, why shouldn’t a team of their caliber generate buzz?
The Cubs are coming off a surprise playoff run that saw them dismantle both Pittsburgh and St. Louis in-route to an appearance in the NLCS.
Now, many see them as favorites to win the World Series.
Apparently that sentiment isn’t lost on the roster, as many players, including Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Dexter Fowler, have signed contracts for less money in order to play for the team.
Fowler in particular was expected to jump ship and leave Chicago for more lucrative lands, yet, to everyone’s immense surprise, decided to have another go with Chicago and signed on for a one-year, $13 million contract.
It certainly says something that so many Cub players have decided to take cuts in their paychecks in order to stay with the team, and it certainly assuages their hopes of breaking a certain streak this upcoming season.
With such transactions, the Cubs look to be one of the more balanced teams in the league, with an offense poised to generate runs and a pitching rotation prime to dominate opposing batters.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Jake Arrieta, arguably the best pitcher in the league, leading the charge for your rotation.
The Cy Young Award winner is coming off a record-breaking season, producing the lowest post All-Star break ERA (0.75) in history and managing to pitch a both a non-hitter in the regular season and a complete game against the Pirates in their Wild Card matchup.
With numbers like those, Arrieta is poised to duplicate- and perhaps even surpass- his efforts in the summer of ’16.
Add in a more than stellar farm system in the waiting, and you could be looking at the makings of a championship team.
Yes, something is most definitely brewing in the Windy City, and it might just take the National League by storm.