, Illinois (PressExposure) May 01, 2009 -- Manager of the Chicago Cubs, Lou Piniella, can only hope that back-to-back division titles will lead to the next step, a World Series appearance in 2009. Winning in October is the goal. What will it take to finally bring the World Championship back to Chicago?
After winning the most games in the National League last year, the Chicago Cubs expect to be right there at the top again, this time taking it all the way to that final series. Winning the division for the third year in a row would be the logical first step to that goal. Healthy pitching and the addition of Milton Bradley from the Texas Rangers may be the key to bringing home the World Series to a faithful fandom that have waited for a century to see a championship.
Being swept by the Dodgers in the N.L. division series last year was a surprise to many and this year anything less would seem to be somewhat of a shock to most. The Cubs are primed and ready to deliver. The Cubs pitching staff and line-up match each other in strength like almost no other team in baseball.
The Cubs pitching staff this year is possibly the deepest and strongest in the majors. Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA, 30 starts) and Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA, 33 starts) are an awesome beginning to phenomenal looking rotation that also includes Rich Harden, Ted Lilly, and Sean Marshall. Other notable names on the pitching staff are up and comer Chad Gaudin, Jeff Samardzija, Angel Guzman, and Aaron Heilman who is also a very good relief pitcher. This kind of depth in pitching, some say, rivals the 1985 Chicago Cubs staff that included Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Scott Sanderson and Dennis Eckersley.
Although the pitching staff is as strong as any, the real power for the Cubs may be in the bats.
There is so much to talk about it's ridiculous.
Catcher Geovany Soto is coming off a rookie of the year season and could very well be the best offensive catcher in the game.
Derrek Lee at first base should continue to be as good as he has been the last few years and maybe better because shared pressure at the plate. Mike Fontenot at second base knows how to hit extra bases and with an OBP of .395 and slugging percentage of .514 he's good to have even at the bottom of the line-up.
Shortstop, Ryan Theriot had a considerably improved batting average from 2007 to 2008 going from .266 to .307. There's a good chance he's figured something out in the big leagues. He steals bases too, averaging 25 or more in the last couple years.
Aramis Ramirez should give a very productive year offensively with the likes of Soriano and Bradley in the line-up. At third base, he may have another MVP like year.
Milton Bradley can hit but can he behave and cover rightfield? There are some questions about the logic in bringing in someone like Bradley but he is a productive bat and Piniella knows how to manage players like him.
Centerfield could be Kosuke Fukudome if he stays consistent. If not, Reed Johnson or Joey Gathright, acquired in the off-season, could step in and play Leftfielder, Alfonso Soriano will still be a power and if he is the 40-40 kind of player he is capable of the Cubs could win the pennant and bring home the World Series for the first time in over a century.