March 28 was the greatest day on the calendar this year. It was Opening Day, meaning I could finally watch Cubs games every day. I call it my Christmas because all I thought about that day was baseball, which is why my professors saw me nosed into my computer all day.
The Cubs have only played four games, but I’m already yelling at the TV.
Opening Day went about as well as you could hope. The Cubs beat the Texas Rangers 12-4 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas and proved the offense had woken back up after President of baseball operations Theo Epstein said it was “broken” after last year.
It wasn’t just a one-game success story, though. The Cubs scored six runs in the second game and 10 in the third. The offense is awake once again, and it’s fun to watch. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber look great at the plate after having rough seasons in 2018.
But it’s not all peaches and cream; the Cubs are an underwhelming 1-3 to start the year. It’s clearly not the offense’s fault, though.
This time, the bullpen’s broken. And it doesn’t show signs of fixing itself anytime soon.
The bullpen was the biggest weak spot on the roster coming into this season. Fans and radio hosts alike were hoping Epstein would pull off a big move and land a big-name relief pitcher to come in and save the day.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the only addition so far has been Brad Brach, who’s pitched two innings this young season. The rest of the bullpen has remained largely the same, even though big-name relievers — Craig Kimbrel comes to mind — remain free agents.
Yu Darvish, the $126 million man, didn’t look great in his season debut March 30. He couldn’t find the strike zone and almost looked like he should’ve been pitching for the Cleveland Indians in “Major League” when he walked seven batters in 2 2/3 innings. First start, worst start, maybe? Let’s hope.
It’s a small sample size — four games out of 162 games isn’t a lot — but it’s not the start anyone imagined. Committing six errors against the Braves April 1 didn’t help anyone’s case, either. Fans are overreacting left and right.
I’d like to think I’m not overreacting. In fact, I’m downright calm compared to some of the callers I heard on sports talk radio this week. But am I a little more nervous than I thought I’d be after four games? You bet.
This is a crucial year for the Cubs. Joe Maddon’s in the last year of his contract as manager and the pressure’s on to win the highly-competitive National League Central Division. In the team’s third season since winning the 2016 World Series, the window of opportunity’s closing on another championship.
Maybe I’m a spoiled Cubs fan now. That World Series victory was my first year at Loyola, and they haven’t missed the playoffs since I’ve gotten to Rogers Park. My friends and I agree we’re living in the golden age of Cubs baseball.
But for a team that’s living by the “October starts in March” mentality, October isn’t looking that great at the moment. Given how last October ended — the season-ending losses to the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies still sting — I was hoping this year would be different.
I expected more this offseason. I expected more over the first few games. Maybe the train will get back on the tracks in the next few weeks, but there’s work to be done. We saw last season when the Cubs blew a five-game division lead that every game matters, whether it’s in April or September.
Now’s not the time to overreact. Now’s the time to see how things shape out.
Let’s have some fun.