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One Down, 161 To Go

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- I'm going to ratchet up the cliche meter today, so bear with me -- I started with the title here, and of course, that's silly; the Cubs aren't going to win 162 games, no team could, or has ever even come close. And just to prove that a win on Opening Day doesn't mean anything, the Tigers beat the Blue Jays convincingly 7-0 today, going nine games ahead of their 0-9 start in 2003.

So the Cubs, with their 7-4 win over the Reds on what looked like a gorgeous day but was only 45 degrees, cold indeed for someone like me who's spent 2 1/2 weeks in summertime here in Arizona, are tied with the Tigers with a 1-0 record.

A win in April means just as much as a win in September, of course, even though those late-season wins feel more important, and often the second game of the season is more telling than the first, because all the pomp of Opening Day is gone, the crowd's half as large, and it feels then like the season has truly begun. So when Greg Maddux takes the mound tomorrow for his first Cub start since September 30, 1992, we'll get a better idea of what's really going on as the season begins.

Not that this was a bad example today. The club looked a bit sluggish even after Corey Patterson's first-inning homer and Moises Alou's bases-loaded double in the third inning, and Kerry Wood, after throwing so well all spring, couldn't seem to find the plate with a lot of his pitches today, walking three and throwing a wild pitch, and seemed to labor through his five innings and 95 pitches. But the club had given him a 5-4 lead and the bullpen pretty much breezed through the rest of the game, though Joe Borowski, also having gotten an easy two outs, then lost the plate himself and walked two batters before striking out Barry Larkin to end the game. It was a good thing the club had a 7-4 lead when Alou singled into a double play with Mark Grudzielanek and Patterson thrown out on the bases. I'd like to blame Wendell Kim for this, but I think I'd have sent the runners in that situation too. It took perfect throws to get both of them.

Mike Wuertz, who had such a good spring and made the ballclub as a result, had a nice debut, striking out two in a scoreless inning. You know, sometimes I wish these guys who wear the high jersey numbers in the spring would keep them during the regular season. Wuertz wore #70 all spring, and there have only been a handful of Cubs who have worn numbers that high during the season (the forgettable Daniel Garibay in 2000, #76, and the guy I wish I could forget, Todd Hundley, #99). Alas, Wuertz took over #43, last worn by Dave Veres last season. Let's hope he has more success than Veres did.

I don't often get to watch a Cubs game on ESPN and though we sometimes complain about Chip Caray, listening to Joe Morgan, inveterate Cub-hater, try to justify his dislike for the Cubs (I think it stems from lingering resentment over Ryne Sandberg breaking his HR record for second basemen), made me want to turn the sound down and listen to Pat & Ron. Oops! Can't pick them up in Arizona, and I'm not going to buy the MLB audio package just to listen to a couple of games the first week of the season.

So I'll just chuckle at Morgan saying the Cubs had arrived "from Florida"... gee, Joe, there's 12 teams with training camp in Arizona now. A little East Coast-centric, are we? And Jon Miller, who I actually like, at one point said that today's game was being played "in Chicago", though I suppose he could be forgiven for not knowing where he was, considering the two of them were in Baltimore last night, and flew in to Cincinnati just this morning, and maybe the cold weather froze both of their brains.

Tomorrow, with the Cub off-day, and being still here in Arizona, I will be attending the Diamondbacks' opener against the Rockies, and will report on that game tomorrow evening.