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2004 Standings


St. Louis;105-57;.648; --




Pittsburgh;72-89;.447;32 1/2

Milwaukee;67-94;.416.37 1/2



CF Corey Patterson

LF Jerry Hairston

SS Nomar Garciaparra

3B Aramis Ramirez

RF Jeromy Burnitz

1B Derrek Lee

2B Todd Walker

C Michael Barrett


RHP Mark Prior

RHP Kerry Wood

RHP Carlos Zambrano

RHP Greg Maddux

RHP Ryan Dempster


RHP LaTroy Hawkins

Best move: Re-signing Garciaparra to a one-year deal. He could have a monster year, trying to re-establish his superstar status as he enters free agency again.

Biggest loss: RF Sammy Sosa. The Cubs may feel they have better chemistry without their superstar, but they are going to miss those 40-plus homers.

Top rival: St. Louis Cardinals

Anybody picking the Cubs to win the NL Central does so with one caveat: It only happens if Prior and Wood are healthy. Otherwise, the Cubs are basically the Milwaukee Brewers with a cooler stadium and actual fans.

Case in point: In 2003, Prior and Wood combined to make 62 starts, and the Cubs came within five outs of making it to the World Series. In 2004, however, they combined to make only 43 starts, and the Cubs collapsed down the stretch.

So far, it doesn't look so good for the Cubs' dynamic duo -- both missed stretches of the spring with arm injuries (Wood's was a shoulder, Prior's an elbow), and were using the final couple of weeks of camp to see if they would be ready to go by Opening Day. Carlos Zambrano, the third choice if Wood and Prior are out, is a formidable pitcher himself, but he looks a lot more intimidating as the No. 3 starter than the No. 1.

And as if the injuries to Wood and Prior were not enough, the Cubs lost closer Joe Borowski for the first month of the season when he was struck by a comebacker and suffered a broken hand. That leaves -- uh-oh -- LaTroy Hawkins to fill in as closer, a role he struggled in last season when he converted only 25 of 34 save opportunities.

This was supposed to be the season the Cubs put forth a new organizational face, now that superstar right fielder and noted clubhouse DJ Sammy Sosa has been jettisoned in a January trade.

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