By Kevin Powell
For the first month of last season, it felt like there was some sort of pregame ceremony honoring the Cubs historic World Series championship everyday. Of course, there was nothing wrong with that. The team and fans had waited over 100 years to celebrate a title. But it made for a choppy start to the schedule and a mediocre record.
“We just weren’t ourselves the whole first half of last year,” Ben Zobrist said at the start of spring training. “We were trying, I mean, there was a lot of effort going into it. We just struggled to figure it out.”
Honestly, it was tough to criticize the club considering the amount of festivities and celebrations scheduled into their everyday routine.
“It’s hard to put into words the impact that the kind of championship in 2016 has on a team,” Zobrist said. “I don’t think anyone’s ever really had to deal with that in baseball.”
Obviously, we’re not hitting the panic button here. It’s just that the 5-5 start is worth noting, considering the team’s emphasis all spring on a strong start to the season. And who knows, they could win seven straight, and I don’t think any of us would be surprised.
“I’d say 25 games, maybe the first month, is a reasonable barometer to where you’re at with all that,” manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs home opener loss to the Pirates. “We’re finally getting home for the first time after being on the road. So we get home for the first time. You know, you get a chance to establish yourself on hopefully a consistent routine.”
Through 25 games last year, the Cubs were just 13-12. But Maddon is right, there’s no need to exaggerate the slow start, yet. And they did get off to an odd start with nine games on the road. One of those being a 17-inning marathon in Miami.
It was the first time the Cubs started a three-city trip for the first time since 2000. The nine-game trip to kickoff the campaign was the franchises longest stretch to begin a season since 1899 when they were known as the Chicago Orphans.
So yes, it has been an weird start to the season.
“I will say, I mean, I think the first month is an indicator of what’s going on a little bit better,” Maddon said.
We’ll be sure to check back in a few weeks.
The Cubs first baseman is dealing with a stiff lower back, something that’s plagued him for the past couple years.
“This is one of those things where we talked and I don’t want to be locked up all year,” Rizzo said ahead of the home opener. “It’s a back, it’s a lower back, so it’s not fun to deal with.”
“I feel like it is (getting better),” he added.
The hope is that he can return for Monday’s series opener against the Cardinals.
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720