Cubs won't just win Central, they'll win it big

Published5/20/2008 12:10 AM

There will be bad news.

Of that, above all else, you can be certain.


You'll see heart-breaking losses and injuries galore, not to mention a return to Earth for some off to huge starts.

On the other hand, the Cubs have a surplus of pitching, which is unheard of, and Alfonso Soriano is going to have weeks like he just did, when he wins several games on his own.

He'll also have long stretches when he's the worst player in the league on both sides of the ball, and the club's ups and downs will, to some extent, mirror Soriano's.

The good news is GM Jim Hendry is not watching his team and thinking he's already got it won. He'll be watching his team and every other club, ready to move mountains or molehills.

As the blind and poor are forced to give up their few treasures, Hendry will be there to rob them silly, so the team you see today on the North Side will look different come playoff time.

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The biggest factor, though, remains the same as last year: this horrendous division known as the Comedy Central.

Between Eric Gagne up north and Jason Isringhausen to the south, it's all falling nicely into place for the Cubs, who ought to win the division by at least 10 games.

Yes, 10 games.

Anything less would be obscene.

The Cardinals won't last, the Astros are a mirage, and the Brewers haven't shown up at all.

So who's it going to be, the Pirates or Reds?

That's not even funny.

But, as some are wont to say, it is a funny game.

"It's a funny game,'' Hendry said a couple of days ago. "You hold your breath a lot.''

That would be necessary if there were a team to actually fear in the Norris, and let me remind you that a few weeks ago when you lost 8 of 11, I told you this team would win the division by double-digits.


"Yeah, you did,'' Hendry said. "Too early for any of that (bleep).''

How'd I do last year?

"That was a good call last year,'' Hendry said. "Not much agreement there when we stunk.''

When the Cubs were nine under .500 and 7½ games out in early June, we guaranteed the Cubs would win the Central.

This was not the stuff of genius, or having much to do with the Cubs. That was based if not entirely on the rest of the division than at least in great measure based on the division.

This year the contrast in talent between the Cubs and their Central brethren is even more startling.

So, yes, there will be ups and downs and weeks when they don't look like World Series champs.

And there will be injuries that send panicked fans running into the streets, causing mass hysteria and sewer covers to mysteriously hurtle through the air, though it should fall something short of dogs and cats living together.

In the end, however, the Cubs don't just win this division, they win it big.

"You did make a (heck) of a call last year,'' Hendry said. "I hope you're right again.''

Hendry began to back away and then snickered and stopped to add, "Considering how often you're wrong, the odds were in your favor getting one right.''

Someone with half a brain would recognize that as an insult, but, as my wife often reminds me, I don't qualify on that account.

Dempster street

Speaking of being wrong, how many times did I think last winter that the Ryan Dempster experiment would be a disaster?

Too many.

Granted, it's still early, but I didn't figure Dempster to make it through May in the rotation, and I'm happy to be wrong.

The B.C. native is one of the hardest workers around and always gives an honest effort. That's so unusual today that you can't help but pull for him. He also came to camp in perhaps the best shape of his career, obviously serious about returning to the rotation.

You might argue he has been the Cubs' best starter, or at least as good as Carlos Zambrano, with a better ERA and a sparkling WHIP of 1.03, which easily leads the rotation and is third in the NL behind only Arizona's Dan Haren and Brandon Webb.

Dempster has been through a lot with injuries and role changes since his early success as a starter in Florida, and for him to find this new career at age 31 would make him the Cubs' feel-good story of the year.

Tip of the cap

Congrats to Dusty Baker and the Cincinnati Reds, who didn't have a single incident of players batting out of order, or botched double switches, this past weekend.

David Stern Award

To NHL boss Gary Bettman, for ensuring the league's marquee team and model franchise, Detroit, and the league's marquee player and model citizen, Sidney Crosby, face each other in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Make me laugh

A few of Annika Sorenstam's Top Ten reasons she's retiring, as offered to David Letterman:

"Became less interested in aiming at green and more interested in aiming at spectators."

"I want to spend more time with Brett Favre's family."

"I just want a job where I can sit in a cubicle instead of being stuck on a golf course all day."

"The only putts I have to worry about now is my fiancé."

Just asking

Only the truth now: Since Tiger Woods had knee surgery, have you watched even one minute of golf?

Best headline "Justine Henin retires, exists.''

And finally …

Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "O.J. Mayo has denied taking gifts at USC. Really, it was more like salary and incentive bonuses."

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