All professional athletes, especially baseball players, repeat the mantra "we've got to play them one game at a time." Of course, this notion was cemented when Nuke LaLoosh had to learn his cliches in the classic film Bull Durham.
But this series is all about April, so we're going to look beyond the opener on April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals. You can see the Cubs' full April schedule here. It breaks down like this:
- 22 games, 4 off days (not counting days before the opener)
- 12 at home, 10 on the road (trips to Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati)
- 9 of the first 12 games are at home, interrupted only by a trip against the Colorado Rockies
- 16 games within the division, including 10 games against last year's playoff teams (Cards and Pittsburgh Pirates)
So what stands out to me? The Cubs may hope to be Wild Card contenders, but Mother Nature will be the real wild card in April. The Cubs don't play a single April game at what we can expect to be a warm weather site. We have a young team, particularly on offense. And many of these young hitters haven't spent much time swinging in colder temps. So let's add that to the reasons we hope spring warms up in a hurry.
We talked the other day about how important it is to get off to a .500+ start in April. That will be amplified by playing so many division games early on.
So the April schedule provides challenges and pitfalls. But there's also opportunity. The Cubs spend the first two weeks at home, outside of a (likely cold) trip to the probable NL West bottom-dweller. They can take on the two division big boys and show them from the start of the season these aren't the same old Cubs.
Tomorrow, we'll wrap up the series with some April predictions. So polish your crystal ball.