The season is fast approaching, and what seems to be on every Cubs fan’s mind, or at least the diehards, is who will be the Cubs opening day starter? Although the matter is completely insignificant in the grand scheme of a 162-game schedule, it can almost be viewed as the “who’s your quarterback, Lovie?” situation fans dealt with during the football season; whoever receives the opening day nod will be perceived to be the ace of the staff. However, all football and insignificance aside, the three candidates for opening day starter will be Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano.
Option One: Carlos Zambrano
Big Z has gotten the nod the last six years, and in no way, shape, or form should 2011 be his seventh; it is about time his privilege be revoked. Listen, Zambrano has excellent stuff and enormous potential, but as I said in my other piece concerning his attitude, he is a loose cannon and is just coming off a trouble-ridden 2010. It would not be wise to put him in such an emotion-wrapped, high-motor game right away. Rather, let him ease his way back into things in the third game. It is a much safer bet.
Option Two: Matt Garza
Personally, I love Garza, and I think he would be an excellent choice for the opening day slot. The guy is going to be crucial to the Cubs’ season this year, and will remain a prime candidate for ‘ace’ status. Yet, all this said, I think it is important to note this will be his first game pitching as a Cub at Wrigley, and it can be rather intimidating for a perennial Cub, let alone one who is trying to prove himself to the city of Chicago. Give Garza the second game, and let him raid the Pirates with a little less pressure.
Option Three: Ryan Dempster
Over the last couple of years, Ryan Dempster has undergone one of the most magnificent transformations in the hearts of Cubs fans. Knowing he would blow it, I can vividly remember cursing insults at my television when he was brought in to close a game. However, I have come to love him as a horse in the starting rotation. Dempster, out of the three options, deserves this start the most. He has proven himself as an effective pitcher, and has won the respect of Wrigleyville. He, unlike Zambrano, has displayed maturity and class every time he performs. Give him his shot at opening day, and watch as he takes it to the next level.
Remember, it’s only one of 162 games; the end is not in the beginning, nor is the beginning the end. All three starters need to perform at top caliber if the Cubs are to have a shot this year.