It’s safe to say that there are next to zero expectations for the Chicago Cubs in 2012.
As exciting of an offseason as it’s been on the North Side, fans are well aware of the fact that a championship is still a few years away, even with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer running the show now.
But that hasn’t stopped the Cubs coaches and players from expressing their thoughts about the upcoming season. And they’re quite a bit more optimistic.
All offseason, or since he was hired, Dale Sveum has refused to use the word “rebuilding”. He continues to reiterate that the Cubs are simply building and that he does have expectations for the season.
The tone around Cubs camp this spring is certainly different than it has been the past couple of years. It’s a more business-like approach, but there’s also a buzz all around camp and practice. The Cubs are expecting to be competitive.
There’s obviously the chance that the Cubs could shock everyone, and at least make a run at the division. Or, at the very least, make things interesting in the late months of the season.
Their roster hasn’t seen too many changes. If anything, it was addition by subtraction. They lost a major distraction in Carlos Zambrano, while picking up a hurler with a very high upside in Chris Volstad. That high upside quality is one found in several of their additions this past offseason, including rotation hopeful Travis Wood and new third baseman Ian Stewart.
Also gone from the roster is Aramis Ramirez. Though he brought a nice bat to the position, we all know the image of him portrayed that included a “me-first” attitude. Between Ramirez and Carlos Pena, though, the Cubs lost a ton of power in the middle of the order.
One thing is for sure. You’re going to see a different type of Cubs team than what has been seen at Wrigley in recent years. They’re going to rely less on home runs, more fundamentals, and a deep pitching staff.
Obviously, it’s difficult to see the Cubs doing anything except fighting for .500 this season, if you go based off of what some of these guys did last year. But don’t underestimate the new attitude in Cubs camp this spring, from the front office down to the pitching staff.
This Cubs team is built up with a bunch of high upside guys, who are looking to prove themselves. Add them to the young guys trying to stick and prove they can handle a Major League job (Darwin Barney), and the veterans trying to rebound (David DeJesus), and guys finally getting their first real taste of big league action (Bryan LaHair), and things could get very interesting.
Whether they are actually competitive or not, it’s clear that the winds are changing greatly on the North Side of Chicago.