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TAKE 2: Cubs' pitching questions dampen optimism

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Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija works out Thursday in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf and Northwest Herald columnist Tom Musick discuss the Cubs' upcoming season:

Styf: In the movie version of "Moneyball" there's a moment where the David Justice character turns to Jonah Hill on the team plane and asks why players have to pay $1 for soda in the clubhouse. Hill responds, "Billy likes to keep the money on the field," and, when prodded, adds, "sometimes it's hard to see." Now that my re-enactment of the movie (I love it) is over, I do have a point. With the Cubs, coming off a 100-loss season, it's hard to see where the money is going. And it's hard to see any improvement. We can blindly have faith in Theo Epstein because he's smart, but guys like Edwin Jackson aren't making me a believer.

Musick: Great scene. I can assure both you and David Justice that the Cubs offer their players a free collection of sports drinks in the clubhouse. When I covered the team on hot summer afternoons, I used to be tempted to open the fridge and grab a drink when no one was looking. But that was when Carlos Zambrano's locker was a few feet away, and I was worried he might come after me with a bat. I'm with you, though. The Cubs' 2013 payroll will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million, and what will that buy? Sixty-five wins? Seventy? Plus sports drinks, of course.

Styf: It's no secret that you have to have pitching to win. And the Cubs have none. Matt Garza, Edwin Jackson, Jeff Samardzija, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman. Those guys aren't going to win games on a regular basis for you. Teams that want to be successful either have good pitching or compile a lot of young talent and play for the future that way. The Giants did it. The A's retool it every few seasons, same with the Marlins. The Nationals built that way, and the Orioles have one of the most talented pools of young pitchers around. I don't see any of that with the Cubs. Is there something I'm missing?

Musick: I try to avoid this whenever possible, but I think I agree with you. The new regime plans to build through the minor leagues, which is smart, and they have collected some talented young position players, which is great. But according to Baseball America, only three of the Cubs' top 10 prospects are pitchers. The highest-rated pitcher, Arodys Vizcaino (No. 4 out of 10), missed the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery. Theo's turnaround plan is far from a finished project.

Styf: Which makes me sick of the Cubs already. I'm predicting a lot of long, high-scoring games this year. It's just a matter of whether the Cubs will score a lot of runs too. If they do, it will at least be interesting. But I'm clearly not as optimistic as most heading into spring training, where optimism is alive in every clubhouse. I'm all for spending a few days at Wrigley, but I can't imagine fans wanting to watch what they're putting on the field on a regular basis.

Musick: Win or lose, the Cubs will sell plenty of tickets because they always do. To be honest, a sunny day at the ballpark sounds really appealing right now. And if people get tired of watching a losing team, they always can go home and watch "Moneyball."

• Write to Jon Styf at jstyf@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @JonStyf. Write to Tom Musick at tmusick@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @tcmusick.

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