Thomas, the most underrated general manager in the league, made some nice improvements in the off-season, but he admits, "We have a lot of questions. 1 guess if I wasn't with the Phillies' organization, I'd have to pick someone else."
We're not, so we will. But you're fourth with a bullet, albeit a stray bullet.
5. CHICAGO CUBS
Manager Jim Lefebvre leans against the Cubs' batting cage, spits and says, "Our pitchers' numbers weren't impressive, but we have some good arms. If we get pitching...."
Freeze it right there. Replace Lefebvre with Frankie Frisch, Stan Hack, Leo Durocher, Herman Franks, any Cubs manager during the last 45 years, and the scene is identical. It's the longest-running story line in sports history. The same scouting report has been written about Chicago most every year since World War II.
And sure enough, most every year pitching kills the Cubs, and some outfielder named Doug Dascenzo ends up pitching after all the real pitchers have been shelled.
Chicago's 1992 pennant hopes rest on three key players—all pitchers, of course.
1) Mike Morgan. We're pulling for him because he lives in a log cabin without a phone in the off-season, hunts coyote in the middle of the night, owns a couple of car-wash operations and, until last season, had not had a winning season for 10 consecutive years—the third-longest such streak in history.
2) Danny Jackson. Every year we hear how great he's going to be, and every year he either ends up around .500 or on the disabled list for a month. Jackson is living off one big year: 23-8, 2.73 ERA for the 1988 Reds. Without that, he's 50-71 lifetime with a 4.11 ERA. This spring he was awful the first three weeks, great the next two. Who knows?
3) Dave Smith. He's coming off a season of injuries to his back, his right knee and his right triceps. He, too, threw well this spring, but at 37, he is the oldest closer in the league.