However the starting lineup shakes out for the start of 2007, the days of grinding down players with the abundance of day to night home games will be non-existent.
I'm sure all of us have our favorite players and want to see them on the field, but no other team in baseball has such a preponderance of day baseball games on their home field. Therefore the Cubs of yesteryear with their weak benches, have actually had a home field disadvantage.
This now has been addressed for the first time since I can remember. With the depth of the bench, even the stalwarts have capable replacements that can actually give them a day off, not just pinch hit. The importance of having a capable bench is important on most winning teams but critical for the Cubs.
With Mark DeRosa and Daryl Ward, you have players that can spell Ramirez and Lee for a much needed day off. The Riot can do the same for the two middle infield positions, and with a starting outfield of Murton, Soriano and Jones, you have Floyd, Ward, Pagan, DeRosa and possibly even The Riot and Pie, to spell relief for them.
Pinella will have the flexibility to mix and match his lineup and keep all of his players sharp, knowing that playing time will be dictated in the best interests of the team. Of course the studs will garner most of the playing time, but the depth and quality of the bench will provide many more options for Pinella, and quite possibly allow one of the bench players to crack the starting lineup if their numbers justify it.
Regardless of our sentiments of who deserves to start or not, we have to understand that Pinella comes into the season not beholden to any player. Gone are the days of Dusty's pets, Macias, Perez and their ilk. Pinella understands the importance of players earning their playing time, and the competition for it can only make the team stronger.