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The Cubs Factor

Welcome to The Cubs Factor, where the Beachwood Lost Causes Affairs Desk will track the 2007 season of the most ill-fated franchise in the history of professional (and amateur) sports.

Among our reoccuring weekly features this season on The Cubs Factor:

* The Second Basemen Report. The Cubs tend to have a lot of second basemen on their roster at once, most playing out of position. We'll track their progress and check in with old favorites like Bobby Hill, Todd Walker, and Mickey Morandini.

* Sweet and Sour Lou. Lou opens the season 55 percent sweet, 45 percent sour.

* Mount Lou. Innings until eruption: 36.

* Beachwood Sabremetrics. For example: A heavy statistic analysis indicates that the Cubs tend to lose low-scoring games when the wind is blowing in at Wrigley, and they tend to lose high-scoring games when the wind is blowing out.

* Over/Under. For example, the Over/Under on the number of players used in the two-hole this season is 5.5

* Cubs Blog Review. We'll bring you best insights from around the Cubsosphere, as best as we can keep up.

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But for now, let's get you in the proper frame of mind for the season.

Season Preview
These being the Cubs, let's take a look at the projected lineup and high-profile roster positions and what is likely to go wrong with each.

SORIANO: A slow start or Sosa numbers, it doesn't matter. He can't win a division single-handedly, and from the leadoff position.
MURTON: Will hit a smooth .300 but never satisfy the fans because of his lack of power and the number of times he collides with Soriano in left-center.
LEE: A torrid start will end quickly with another freak injury. He'll never be the same.
RAMIREZ: Stone glove, stone legs, stone head. Piniella will throw a base at him and give him a concussion.
BARRETT: Least impact per RBI ever. Holes in swing exploited. Hot head and poor defense will cost team a couple games. Pitchers will grumble.
JONES: A slow start, a hot finish, and boos for the number of times he collides with Soriano in right-center.
DEROSA: Will lose starting job to Theriot, fill in for Izturis at short, play lousy in the outfield.
IZTURIS: Will be king of the nagging injury.

ZAMBRANO: This is the year he hurts his back.
LILLY: High pitch counts, low innings, 10 wins at most.
HILL: All-Star Game contender will grow frustrated, lose cool and strike zone.
MARQUIS: Every third game will be strong, mediocre, and awful.
MILLER: Will gut out eight or nine wins but end the season on the DL.

DEMPSTER: Will end season as someone else's set-up man.

PRIOR: Will appear on Dr. Phil and/or join a cult.
WOOD: Will go back to school for that physical therapy degree.

BENCH: Cliff Floyd will appear in about 50 games, collide with Soriano or Jacque Jones in left-center in a dozen of them, suck in two dozen of them, hit a dozen home runs and otherwise spend his time on the DL or the hot tub.

PINIELLA: Will survive season with sanity intact, but rumors of the Yankees job will heat up around July.

HENDRY: Will have sudden desire to spend more time with his family.

*
Some other Cubs notes to get you ready for the opener.

Santo Sucks
We know everybody's afraid to say it, what with Ron Santo being an object of idolatry around here, but he just makes Cubs radio broadcasts unlistenable. Now Santo comes forward to tell the Sun-Times that he thinks the geniuses at Tribune Co. have been "great owners . . . I think they've been fabulous."

That's laying it on just a bit thick, Ronnie.

Moonlight Greenberg
Adam Greenberg was the subject of a New York Times magazine story on Sunday that included this tidbit: "When he had something negative to say, he went on and off the record as frequently as a politician, and some of what he said about his treatment by the Cubs was definitely off the record."

Lou's View
We'll say this for Lou Piniella: he sure seems to like Matt Murton and Ryan Theriot a whole lot more than Dusty Baker did. And Lou is right. Wouldn't it be nice to see them in the lineup everyday along with Felix Pie and Buck Coats in the outfield? And maybe with some bona fide prospects in the rotation acquired from other organizations in trades of Juan Pierre before the end of last season and - when their value was highest - Jacque Jones, Michael Barrett, and Aramis Ramirez? But then, that would've been the sort of team you'd want Joe Girardi to manage. That would've been fun.

Small Ball Out
Though I can't remember when it was in.

* "More Slugfests, Less Finesse."

Because the Cubs have been such a finesse team these last few . . . decades. Haven't we been down this road before?

* "Cubs Trade Gloves For Bats."

Because the Cubs have been so well known for their gloves.

"The Cubs are gambling that a questionable defense won't have ill effects on the pitchers because because the bats of Soriano, Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones will offset any deficiencies," the Trib's Paul Sullivan writes.

Because higher pitch counts, more men on base, and more unearned runs isn't likely to have ill effects on the pitchers.

SI Jinx
"Chicago ranked last in the National League in on-base percentage in 2006 and, not surprisingly, second-to-last in runs," Sports Illustrated says. "Soriano's career on-base percentage is a mere .325 and his strikeout-to-walk rate remains alarmingly high, yet the Cubs are committed to batting him leadoff. Then there is the issue of where he plays in the field. Last week Piniella revealed that he wants Soriano in centerfield. Not only has the 31-year-old never played the position, but the swirling winds of Wrigley make it one of the most perilous centerfields in baseball."

So-So Soriano
"They're gonna be a little disappointed with Soriano," Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said on ESPN recently. "He just happened to be the guy who was fortunate enough to be the man when there wasn't much out there."

* "I think they're putting a big burden on him," Frank Robinson, Soriano's manager in Washington, told The New York Times over the winter. "He was just starting to get the hang of left, and he had a long way to go."

As a left fielder, Robinson said, "He was below average when he started out there, got better as the season went on and was average by the end of the season."

* "The Soriano signing so far in advance of the Winter Meetings surprised many baseball observers, and the amount and length of the agreement was an even bigger surprise and caused some clubs to re-evaluate their positions with respect to the market," MLB.com said over the winter.

* "That makes $230 million Hendry has spent on five players (Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and Henry Blanco) during the last six days," MLB.com noted.

E-7, E-8, E-9
"Piniella has said repeatedly he doesn't expected Gold Glove play from his outfielders; he just wants to see basic plays made," the Trib says.

Most money spent per basic play ever.

Scrubs
* The Cubs are raising the price of a 16-ounce beer to $6 this season, the Trib noted recently. Should beer at a ballgame really cost that much more than a gallon of gas?

* The Cubs as an authentic phenomenon are over.

* How long until In Lou We Boo?

Don't Trust in Dusty
"Baker said he is preparing for [his new broadcast] job by becoming more computer-savvy and by consulting with Joe Morgan, Jon Miller and others at ESPN," the Tribune reports.

So he'll be more computer-savvy as a broadcaster than he was as a manager? Will he brush up on his talent evaluation too, now that he's got some free time?

"Baker has many friends in the game, and he sounds as if he won't risk an alliance by spilling inside information," the Trib account says.

"I have an obligation to the public but also an obligation that not everything is public knowledge. It's a very fine line. I'll ask the person I'm talking to: 'Hey, is it OK if I say this?'"

In other words, don't expect an honest day's work from him in this job either. It's all about Dusty and his pals, never about the team, the franchise, his employer, or the fans who pay his salary.

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