Monday, April 09, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal Part II: A Blog About The Home Opener

If I had one wish for today, it'd be that I had one last good reason to be excused from class today. Why? Because I should be in Chicago for Opening Day. Instead, I'm in Carbondale writing this blog wishing I was there.

It's not like I haven't cut class before to go to Opening Day. I was there when Karl 'Tuffy' Rhodes hit three home runs off Doc Gooden of the Mets, and the Cubs still found a way to lose. I also cut class in 2005 to take a 3 a.m. train from Carbondale to Chicago on a Friday morning to catch the Cubs/Brewers Opening Day. Again, they lost thanks to LaTroy Hawkins blowing a ninth inning lead.

On second thought, maybe it's a good thing I'm not at Wrigley today.

Seriously though, I do wish that I was there. I should be there. It's the beginning of a new era of being a Cubs fan. Again, it starts at the top with new 'interim' president John McDonough. McDonough hired new manager Lou Piniella. Piniella kept only pitching coach Larry Rothschild while hiring a whole new coaching staff.

One of the few holdovers from the last regime, GM Jim Hendry helped change the product on the field by going on a spending spree that the Wrigley Field trixies would envy. Spending spree might not do it justice, it was more like what Adam 'Pacman' Jones pulled by 'making it rain.' Yes, Trader Jim 'made it rain' on dem free agents.

$300 million of off-season signings and a lot of the focus will go on two guys: Piniella and Alfonso Soriano. This has to be the first off season in which the Cubs got the two biggest names on the free market. It's not every day the Cubs go out of their way to pay for the best free agent on the market while he's still in his prime. It's not also every day the Cubs have a manager that I trust.

So what's the significance of the home opener. In a sense it is just another game, but with a lot of pomp and circumstance. The bunting along the brick, the introduction of every player and coach, the initial opening of the gates. And knowing that you've got a whole summer ahead of you, there's something special about the whole ordeal. Opening Day is one of the few days that as a Cubs fan, you're allowed to believe that this is the year you finally get the monkey off your back. 98 years later, it's more like Donkey Kong.

As for the game itself, it's gonna be 42 degrees at game time with clouds and a chance of snow. On the field Ted Lilly gets a chance to prove his worth (4-years $40 million) to the Wrigley faithful. His first pitch today will be his first pitch at Wrigley ever. Lilly opposes Houston's pitching free agent acquisition, Woody Williams.

Inside the game, Chicago native Cliff Floyd just might get the start in left field today. I know I've been a strong advocate of Matt Murton playing full-time, but it's hard to ignore Floyd's .467 (14-for-40) career average against Williams. Look for Houston's Mark Loretta to maybe find some playing time today, he's carrying a career .357 average against Lilly (5-for-14) with 2 home runs. On the other hand, Lilly has handled perennial Cub killer Carlos Lee to the tune of a .143 batting average (2-for-14). But every Cub fan knows that Lee loves hitting at Wrigley.

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