This is about the time of year everyone starts putting up their looks back at the year that was 2006. But hey, what's the fun in rehashing the misery that was last year when we can take a peek into next year? So here are tomorrow's headlines today:
Cubs sign Cliff Floyd....and every other remaining free agent. Rival GM's complain that "Spendry" hasn't left anyone for them. Hendry responds with "when you haven't won a World Series in 98 years, you have to do things a little different". Also petitions MLB to expand to a 60-man roster.
Mark Prior begins throwing program, Cub layout relevant dates for public. He'll play long toss for a week, then pitch off flat ground for another week and then slowly increase his pitch count off a mound. By February he'll be complaining of arm soreness, in March he'll come down with a "mysterious illness" that takes him out for a few weeks, April he'll start his rehab program from scratch, May will consist of minor league starts, June he'll make a few starts in the majors, get shelled and go back on the disabled list.
At the Cubs convention when asked by a fan that despite all the money spent, the team did nothing to address its problems with walks on the hitting or pitching side Hendry responds with, "Obviously we have no idea how to build a winning team, but we're obviously confident that even the most ill-conceived teams get lucky once in awhile. Obviously I'm also confident that with the hiring of another big name manager, that all the criticism will be deflected away from me."
Pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Zambrano comes into camp with twenty new bats and new gloves for first base and the outfield, says he's ready to play everyday and help the team anyway possible. When asked about cutting down his walks while pitching, he takes one of his twenty new bats and bludgeons writer to death who asked the question. Writers all agree to say nothing since it was Phil Rogers who asked.
Mark Prior complains about arm soreness.
The rest of the team reports, Piniella encourages Ramirez to hustle around the bases by releasing a bobcat whenever he puts a ball in play.
New hitting coach Gerald Perry begins working with hitters and explaining the concepts of patience and waiting for your pitch. Team looks on with bewilderment. Perry scratches head and proclaims, "Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue."
Piniella and coaches show up to morning practice and field is empty, ballplayers nowhere to be found. Finally tracking some down on the golf course, Kerry Wood explains that under the old regime they'd play catch for a few days and then could do whatever they want as long as they showed up for the Cactus League games.
Cactus League games begin. Trying to get back in the swing of things, Piniella gets into it with an ump over a third strike call. Not getting anywhere with the old standbys of kicking dirt on the plate and hand gestures that imply the umpire is blind, Piniella pulls out a stun gun and tasers the ump. After cracking a few jokes in the post-game news conference, the league basically ignores the incident saying it's just Lou being Lou.
Mark Prior complains about feeling fatigued and nauseous. Cubs call it a "mysterious illness" and say he'll sit for a month.
After Ronny Cedeno makes his 20th error of the spring by throwing a ball ten feet over Derrek Lee's head, Piniella runs onto field, demands Cedeno hold out his right hand and chops it off with a machete. Piniella holds it high in the air and exclaims, "We will play good fundamental baseball, damnit!" Cubs don't commit an error the rest of spring training.
Cubs and Zambrano agree on a six year/$100 million deal. Naturally Z negotiates the entire deal himself, including incentives for hitting .300, 30 Hr's, Silver Slugger and other offensive categories. No reporter dares question the structure of the deal.
Opening Day versus the Reds features Zambrano versus Arroyo and Zambrano celebrates his new deal by going 3 for 3 with two homers and six Rbi's, but falls short of the win when he's pulled in the bottom of the fifth after his 130th pitch and tenth walk. The team goes on to win 20-12.
Prior begins playing long toss for second time this offseason.
Cubs call up a number of AAA prospects and sit all their regular starters. Cubs not willing to tempt fate after Nomar and Lee's injuries happened on the same day the last two seasons.
Cliff Floyd's season ending injury occurs, blowing out a knee running the bases. Everyone who bet the under on May 25th smiles as does Matt Murton.
Despite batting .400 with a .500 OBP, Theriot can't crack the starting lineup over Cesar Izturis who's mired in a 10 for 200 slump with 10 singles. But the D's been good.
Mark Prior makes his first start of the season against the Padres and pitches reasonably well going five innings and giving up two runs. Unfortunately in the bottom of the fifth he collides with Marcus Giles and breaks his arm ending his season.
Marcus Giles hitting 300/380/460 for the Padres, Derosa struggling at 250/310/410. Theriot still can't crack lineup and the readers of TCR can be seen collectively banging their head against the keyboard since I run a Giles/Theriot/Derosa comparision every day in the game previews.
All-Star teams are announced and the Cubs place 6 on the team including Zambrano, Ramirez, Lee, Soriano, Barrett and Rich Hill. TCR's write-in campaign for Ryan Theriot falls just short.
In a complex seven team deal in which Stephen Hawking was brought in to help consult with, the Cubs manage to land Miguel Tejada and Dontrelle Willis and only give up Mike Fontenot, Mark Holliman, Clay Rapada and Grant Johnson. Hendry completes deal while under anaesthesia undergoing his third angioplasty within the last year.
After a beanball fest between the Cubs and Cardinals, which resulted in two bench-clearing brawls and ten ejections, Piniella responds in the post-game press conference with, "Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. I think Larry killed a guy with a trident."
Cubs clinch division title in St. Louis on a 3-2 victory. Reporters question LaRussa's move to pinch-hit for Scott Rolen with Gary Bennett against Ryan Dempster who strikes out Bennett to end the game. Larussa wearing all black with sunglasses and constantly looking over his shoulder defends decision by saying Bennett's hit Dempster better in his career.
Cubs win Division Series over the Dodgers when Nomar can't get to an easy grounder to his right due to his ankle, oblique, hamstring and back ailments that he's trying to play through.
The Cubs and Indians begin the 2007 World Series. Pigs seen circling the Sears Tower.
In a eighteen inning marathon at Cleveland where the teams exchange the lead eight times and fire and brimstone can be seen falling from the sky, a groundball goes through the legs of Derrek Lee down the right field line in the bottom of the seventeeth with a man on first for the Indians. A suspicious looking fan wearing headphones and glasses reaches down and touches the ball and the umpires rule it a ground rule double and force the runner to stay at third. Bob Howry walks the next batter and has to face Travis Hafner with the bases loaded and nobody out. Hafner appears to win the World Series with a single to right field but Grady Sizemore trips attempting to score and Soriano forces him out at the plate and the Cubs pull off the miracle triple play when the other runners are ruled out for leaving the basepaths thinking the game was over.
In the top of the eighteenth, Piniella pinch-hits for Mark Derosa with Carlos Zambrano who hits a 500 foot homer to give the Cubs the 11-10 lead. Z stays in the game to close despite pitching a nine-inning shutout the night before to force game seven and strikes out the side on ten pitches. The final pitch bounces in the dirt though and Barrett is unable to locate it despite it being right underneath him. Z runs to the plate shoves Barrett to the ground and throws a 150 mph strike to Derrek Lee to nail the runner by a half a step.
Temperature in hell drops to 0 degrees.
Lou Piniella retires and Jay Mariotti writes article saying the Cubs were one of the best teams ever and that Hendry did an amazing job building the team and is the best GM in the business.
At the team's organizational meetings, team discusses potential promotions and tie-ins for World Series win for 2008. Roster is never discussed.
When asked about the manager search, Hendry announces an American Idol like search around the country and the winner will be announced in February. Asked whether that will negatively effect any pursuit of free agents, Hendry responds by saying the Cubs have no intention of making any moves this offseason or for the next 99 years. Pleads with Cubs fan not to be greedy.
Jay Mariotti writes article saying that Hendry is an idiot and is ruining the the ballclub. Hendry sends Zambrano to teach Mariotti "a lesson".
Dusty Baker seen outside of Wrigley wearing sign saying, "Will Manage for Food".
Hendry sleeps through the entire Winter Meetings.
Cubs raise 2008 ticket prices to $100 a bleacher seat and up to $1000 for a premium seats. No one notices.
Feel free to include your own predictions in the comments and Happy New Year!