Cubs And Sox Fans – With Spring Comes Change
Often times, these Chicago winters are brutal enough to question the sanity of all who willingly choose to stay here from November through February. While this year hasn’t caused most of us to go to that extreme, the final days of February always bring a huge relief as visions of cacti and sand, along with a baseball diamond, begin taking over the sports segment of your local news.
Yes, we have made it through another baseball offseason, and pitchers and catchers have begun to report to their spring training facilities in either Arizona or Florida. For our Chicago teams, it will be Arizona, a state I was able to visit in mid-March just a few years ago.
I went down to Glendale, Ariz. in 2009, and spring training is a trip I would highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t been able to experience it. The exhaustion from work and cold weather is replaced with sunny skies and relaxing with a couple cold ones in a pool after a long day of watching superstars and no-namers try to perfect their craft.
From the moment we walked out of our hotel room, to the times at Camelback Ranch, to the local bar full of patrons (from more states than I care to remember) and the restaurants for late night dinners, it was a three-day baseball paradise that simply can only be experienced, not explained.
The White Sox will once again head to Camelback Ranch this year for spring training, a facility they share with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chicago White Sox have faced many questions heading into spring training in the past, but none like what they have in front of them this season.
Out is World Series-winning manager and former White Sox player Ozzie Guillen. He has been replaced by another former player, Robin Ventura, who played to Guillen’s right for much of his White Sox career.
Out is the White Sox franchise record holder for opening day starts, Mark Buehrle. So is last year’s leadoff hitter Juan Pierre and last year’s closer Sergio Santos. Buehrle’s spot in the rotation is being taken over by Chris Sale, a reliever for much of last season.
The leadoff hitter and closer are still up for debate, and with the current assembled roster, a solid camp by a prospect could land them on the 25-man roster.
Meanwhile, in Mesa, the Cubs enter camp with just as many questions as the south siders, although with what seems to be a more clear direction. Manager Mike Quade, starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano, and sluggers Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez are all out as Cubs.
So is most of the coaching staff. In are guys like manager Dale Sveum, pitcher Chris Volstad, super-prospect Anthony Rizzo, and Ian Stewart, among others.
But the biggest splash made was in the front office. Highly-regarded general manager Theo Epstein, the architect behind the Boston Red Sox World Series championships, was brought in as team president.
Jed Hoyer, who worked with Epstein in Boston, came over from San Diego to be the Cubs general manager. Together, the expectations for the Cubs have never been higher, and that includes the expectations put on the team after a trip to the NCLS in 2003.
The 2012 expectations for each Chicago team aren’t exactly reaching the heights of what are seen in New York and Boston each year, but those are just expectations.
As the old saying goes, you don’t play the games on paper. What will be fun to watch this year will likely have little to do with this year at all. How will each new manager adapt to their new role? Can a mix of young prospects and leftover veterans put together a “magical” run that can keep their team relevant in this town in 2012? And most of all, which players will show enough to make an impact in 2013, 14 and beyond?
These are just a few of the questions and story-lines to watch all season. But for now, it’s warm, sunny weather which signals summer will soon be approaching.
It’s players with numbers in the 80’s and 90’s on the back of their nameless jersey as they try to make an impression on anyone watching. But most of all, it’s the crack of the bat, the smell of a new glove, the sight of a tightly stitched baseball that brings me the most joy at the end of a cold, dreary winter. Welcome to the start of spring!
This is a guest post by Chris Gasper from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Chris Gasper grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He went to and played baseball at Columbia College. Wanna read more from Chris? Click here.
Photo Source: ChicagoTribune.com