Opening Day Sees Cubs Defying Odds, Now Time to See What Rest of Season Brings
After a forgettable 2021 season that saw them trade away nearly all of their recognizable stars, how do the Cubs’ odds stack up for this year? Analysts and sports betting fans alike doubt the former World Series winners are in title contention for 2022, but there has been a whirlwind of activity since last July.
Cubs management traded Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo, all core members of that 2016 team, then went to work reshaping the front office. Carter Hawkins, former assistant general manager of Cleveland Guardians was named Cubs general manager, replacing Jed Hoyer, who was promoted to president. They were adamant that they’d be given the resources to compete, a sentiment Tom Ricketts echoed this offseason.
While coaches took the brunt of the blame for the team’s inconsistent offensive output, manager David Ross, inked a three-year contract extension in March. Hitting coach Anthony Iapoce and associate pitching, catching, and strategy coach Mike Borzello were not as lucky and have been replaced and Ross’s staff has been reconfigured just like Hoyer’s.
Hoyer has projected an air of calm restraint the entire time, living the mantra of keeping “one eye on the present and one eye on the future.” Obviously, the Cubs’ main objective this season is not to win the World Series outright, but to build slowly and carefully, doing just a little at a time.
But the little they did over a winter broken up by the lockout was big enough to upset last season’s division champion Brewers. The Cubs were a huge underdog against Milwaukee, who sent last year’s Cy Young winner and then the fifth-place finisher to the mound in each of the first two games. A high-contact approach and a great deal of patience paid off in a big way as the Cubs did just about anything they wanted against a pair of power pitchers.
The present and future also converged as veteran righty Kyle Hendricks kept the Brewers off-balance with his offspeed pitches to win yet another Opening Day start. Newcomer Seiya Suzuki sparked a rally in the 5th with his first career hit after the Brewers scored the first run in the 4th inning, eventually coming around to score on a Patrick Wisdom sac fly.
Nico Hoerner, a relative newcomer given his overall lack of experience, smacked a two-run home run — his first since 2019 — to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead. After the Brewers fought back to tie it, Ian Happ’s second double of the game plated two more and provided just enough cushion for the 5-4 win.
It’s one game of a full 162-game schedule, but for Hoyer and the Cubs it’s a game to celebrate at a time when they are looking forward to each new step.