January 25, 2007

This story is not real. All names are made up, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. All quotes are fictional and any similarity to actual quotes is coincidental.

CHICAGO--After a 2006 season in which they finished 30 games under .500, the Chicago Cubs had some work to do in the offseason. GM Jim Hendry, who bore the brunt of the criticism for the poor performance, signed several free agents, including Alfonso Soriano (8-years, $136 million), Ted Lilly (4 years, $40 million), and Jason Marquis (3 years, $20 million). The busy offseason has Hendry and the Cubs confident that they'll have a more expensive team next year.

"We certainly spent a lot of money this offseason," said Hendry. "We went out and got the people we wanted no matter what the price. That's a bit of a departure for us, but we felt it was necessary to bolster our roster. I think now we can look our fans in the eyes and say we have a more expensive team. What that means for the standings, I don't know. I can't control that. They're the ones that go out there and perform. All I can do is overpay them."

The Cubs free agent frenzy began early with the signing of Soriano. Though several teams pursued the talented outfielder, the Cubs outbid them all with a staggering 8-year offer. That signing was justified by Soriano's production at the plate, but the decision to offer $10 million per year to lefty Ted Lilly was a bit harder to explain.

"I think the Lilly signing sent a real message to our fans that we plan on throwing bags of cash at pretty much anybody who's willing to accept it," said Hendry. "The thought process, of course, is that if we pay them enough money, they will magically start to get good. Is it sound logic? No. Can it work? Maybe. Does it matter? A little. Do I know what I'm doing? Not really. The most important thing is that our players are well compensated. That way if we finish last again, nobody can say that I'm cheap. They can only say that I'm a shitty judge of talent."

Last year, the Cubs had a payroll of around $94 million. This year the payroll should soar over $110 million. By increasing the payroll, the team has put the onus on new manager Lou Pinella to get the most out of their new acquisitions.

Pinella stepped down as manager of the Devil Rays after three miserable seasons, and says he is looking forward to managing in Chicago.

"It's nice to be in a place where they're not afraid to shell out a little bread," said Pinella, who has a lifetime managerial record of 1519-1420. "Over in Tampa it was a little different. You would get one, maybe two free agents a year that nobody else wanted, they would spend the whole season trying to get traded, and we would finish last. Now I'm here, and I don't care if we lose 100 games. I will be totally at peace as long as I don't have to set foot in a teal stadium with fish painted on the walls."

Upon first arriving in Chicago, Pinella was struck by the contrast between the two organizations.

"Wow, what a difference," he said during his introductory press conference. "You've got so much history here. Those ivy covered walls, the crazy fans, the classic pin striped uniforms, you even have your own little curse. What is it, the curse of the billy goat? That's interesting. Well, I'm here to break the curse of the billy goat! Okay at least they never made me say that in Tampa Bay."

With the arrival or pitchers and catchers just weeks away, the buzz is building on the south side of Chicago for what should be an eventful season. After last season's debacle, most observers believe the only way for this team to go is up.

That sentiment is shared by players, too, including pitcher Mark Prior, who was one of many Cubs who had a 2006 season to forget.

"This year will be better than last, I can guarantee you that much," Prior said Saturday in a telephone interview. "Management has definitely shown a commitment to spending more money and we have some guys here who can really play. And our new manager is supposed to be one of the best. And... I don't know. Every year is supposed to be good around here, and most of them end up sucking. I'm keeping a positive attitude, though. Remember, we finished strong last season with a one game win streak. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going into beginning of this year."

Dave Saraiva is the author of thebrushback.com. Click here to buy his book, The Brushback Report: All the Sports News That's Unfit to Print.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)