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Cubs camp report: Likes and dislikes


MESA, Ariz. -- What I like and don't like about the Cubs:


  The upside. The Cubs have good players. They have guys who have made All-Star teams. They have guys who have hit 39 home runs in a season, or even more. They have three starting pitchers who, at their best, can fit at the top of the rotation. A lot of these guys were part of a 97-win team just three years ago.

  The new tone. Lou Piniella was an outstanding manager, and Lou Piniella was the manager in that 97-win season. But it may well be that Mike Quade fits the Cubs right now better than Lou Piniella would.

  Quade's comfort. Before Piniella retired suddenly last August, Quade had never managed in the major leagues. But it quickly became obvious that he could handle the job, and the thing the Cubs liked best during his time as interim manager was that he didn't act like he needed to prove he deserved it. "He managed the team like he already had the job," general manager Jim Hendry said. And now that he does have the job, Quade has spent this spring acting exactly the same.

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  The memories of Ron Santo. The Cubs and their fans won't soon forget Santo the legendary player and announcer who died in December. In fact, they keep coming up with new ways to remember him. The latest (and one of the best): Chicago Tribune beat writer Paul Sullivan suggested dropping in sound bites of Santo's moans and groans after Cub miscues.


  The downside. Yes, they won 97 games three years ago, but the Cubs followed that with 83 wins in 2009 and 75 last year. Notice a trend?

  The contracts. Yes, the Giants won the World Series with their two highest-paid players on the sidelines. But for the Cubs to win, you've got to believe that guys like Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome will need to come a lot closer to living up to their mega-millions deals.

  The leadoff spot. Plenty of teams struggle to find a good leadoff hitter. But this is a problem the Cubs have been dealing with, mostly unsuccessfully, for a few years now. Fukudome seems to be Quade's first choice at the moment, but some have pointed out that in 48 games in the leadoff spot last year, Fukudome hit .193 with a .313 on-base percentage.

  No Santo. The memories are great, but Cubs baseball isn't the same without Santo around. And a Cubs World Series, if there ever is one again, won't sound the same without Santo there to call it.


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