Can the Chicago Cubs win it all in ‘16?

It may seem a bit early, but it really is almost that time of year again – baseball season. And every year at this time, Chicago Cubs fans think this could be their year to win a World Series. I think this year, they may be right.

This week, Major League pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona, while the position players will be arriving in a few days, so let me get you caught up on the offseason.

The biggest news of the winter was the lifetime ban from baseball given to former New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia. For the first time under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement, a player has tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) three times, and under the rules, the penalty is steep for a third violation. He has received a permanent ban from baseball.

This season, big league pitchers are expected to receive newly designed protective headwear resulting from collaboration between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. This is certainly a good move toward protecting the pitchers against line drives that come rocketing back toward the mound. In a day when technology has only improved the safety and well-being of athletes, it stands to reason that the pitchers need to wear something to protect their heads.

“A hybrid of a cap and a helmet,” is how MLB vice president Patrick Houlihan describes the customized hats that weigh 10 to 12 ounces. These caps have a carbon fiber shell and roughly resemble sun visors with extended forehead and temple coverage and single earflaps like batting helmets. The average thickness is about 0.7 inches and is thickest in places most susceptible to catastrophic injury, according to Boombang, the company hired to design and produce the headwear.

Regarding the Chicago Cubs, the team was rebuilt last year by baseball architect extraordinaire Theo Epstein. He put together some of the best position players in the game, and assembled a strong pitching staff that won 97 games last season and went to the NLCS. The last time the Cubs won a World Series was in 1908, when there were only 16 teams in Major League Baseball. This may very well be the year the Cubs get the proverbial monkey off their backs.

DRILLERS SPRING TRAINING

It will be the second year for the Tulsa Drillers as the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the team will train at one of the premiere Spring Training facilities in the country. The Drillers will join their parent club at the Camelback Ranch – Glendale complex. The $121 million facility is located in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, and boasts a Major League caliber stadium that seats 13,000 fans. It is the largest of all Arizona Spring Training ballparks.

The Drillers pitchers and catchers will report the last week of February and the full squad will begin combined workouts under new manager Ryan Garko by the second week of March. Tulsa is scheduled to play 16 exhibition games in Arizona. The opener is scheduled for March 14 against the Frisco RoughRiders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.

The Drillers 2016 Spring Training schedule will feature a variety of teams; as the Drillers face the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Akron RubberDucks, Biloxi Shuckers, Birmingham Barons, Jackson Generals, Midland Rockhounds, San Antonio Missions and NW Arkansas Naturals. All games will be played in the Phoenix area and are scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. MST. The Drillers final game in Arizona will be on Saturday, April 2 against the Generals.

Tulsa will open the Texas League season with a six-game road trip scheduled to begin on April 7 against the Corpus Christi Hooks. The Drillers home opener will take place one week later on Thursday, April 14 when the Drillers host the Hooks at ONEOK Field.