Chicago Baseball is Around the Corner

Well wouldn’t ya know, baseball is back, the sport has been off for a solid 4 months. Baseball fans are probably itching for a stadium hotdog, cold beer, peanuts and to sing the lyrics of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”  Do not fret, as of Friday, the Cactus League (click for schedule) will have started it’s 2012 spring training season. Fans will be able to tune into Cubs and White Sox games on TV or take a little vacation if you can scrape up the dinero.  What a rough life professional baseball players have, in the midst of the winter when most of us are itching to escape the cold, Cubs and White Sox players get to head down to Spring Training in Arizona- real tough guys.

If you want to get away and find your Chicago White Sox, head down to Camelback Ranch in Glendale. The Sox are hoping to prepare for a solid recovery season, gain some confidence that had been long lost last season, and find a way to compete in a division that recently got even more competitive with many off season trades (example one: Prince Fielder to the Tigers). Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham all under performed last season, and Sox management is hoping they get back into the groove. Jake Peavy expressed this weekend that he feels his healthiest since joining the White Sox, his shoulder is “amazing” and he is hoping to perform at an elite level again.

Focus has been placed on 22-year-old lefty Chris Sale, who is being added to the starting pitching rotation. He has come out firing, extremely impressing his teammates early on in spring training. He is hoping to pitch 200 innings as a starter this season. Known for looking much like a string-bean, Sale is looking more manly according to A.J. Pierzynski, “Chris Sale looks good, looks like he put on a pound or two.”

With ex-manager Ozzie Guillen happily in Miami and the security of a four-year, $10 million contract, any and all scrutiny of the team will be fully placed on White Sox general manager Ken Williams. Kenny will be starting his 12th season as the Sox GM, but after not advancing to the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, he knows this season will directly effect his future with the Sox. He told Comcast Sportsnet, “It’s professional sports. If you do not win, and it has been three years since we’ve gone to the playoffs, if you don’t win, changes are made. I have gone into this situation knowing that. I can accept it if ultimately that’s the call. And we can go out the next day, he can call me up and we’ll go out for a steak and a cigar. It will be all good.”

The Cubs are over in Mesa, hoping that their move of snatching Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations will break their World Series curse (I’m not holding my breathe just yet, I’m going to give him a few years to get things right).

First order of business was to settle the Theo Epstein compensation issue with the Red Sox, I like to think of it as a consolation prize for the Sox. The Red Sox acquired right-hander Chris Carpenter — not the Cardinals’ former Cy Young Award winner — and a player to be named in exchange for a player to be named. Seems like quite a few ?? to me.

The Cubs are currently a team without many big names, and their only well known player is Alfonso Soriano, who to most people has seemed like an overpaid, 36-year-old unreliable outfielder, with no-trade rights and $54 million guaranteed through 2014. As the veteran on the Cubs, Epstein is looking to Soriano to be a leader this season. “The past couple years we had a nice group, but some people (weren’t) giving 100 percent,” Soriano told CSN. “Now this group is kind of young. They’re hungry to play and we’re ready to compete.” As a role model for the younger players, he should begin by not dropping any fly balls in left field this season.

Both teams are going to have a challenging season, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that both the Sox and Cubs can make it to the post-season this year. It might be a long shot.

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