The Chicago Cubs didn’t quite know what they’d be getting from new first baseman Carlos Pena when they signed him. He’s just two years removed from some dominant seasons, but last year, his OPS dipped substantially, and he hit under .200. But Pena says he was dealing with foot issues last year, and he’s now full-healed. Which Pena would the Cubs see in 2011?
Still, the Cubs did know that he would bring solid defense and clubhouse leadership. The latter has already proved true, as Pena has stepped up as one of the team’s primary leaders.
But did the Cubs know Pena would also bring Tony Robbins-like positivity into the fold?
With only the boldest forecasts in 2008 suggesting even a slight upward shift for the Rays, Pena and the rest of the team shocked the world — not to mention the Yankees and Red Sox — to win the AL East. Then they fought through the playoffs, including an epic ALCS against the Red Sox, to reach the World Series.
‘‘It definitely opens our minds to the possibilities,’’ Pena said. ‘‘And looking at what we have going on here in Chicago, I can’t help but in the back of my mind to kind of have a smirk on my face walking around, because I know how possible it is.”
Pena either is on to something or has no idea what he’s dealing with.
If it’s the former, then the Cubs also might be on to something as they draw on that giant-killing history — whether intentional or not — adding the lefty-slugging Pena as a free agent and acquiring Rays pitcher Matt Garza in an eight-player trade.
Unless you believe in the title-sucking power of a bar owner’s goat, it’s hard to imagine longer odds than the Rays getting to the World Series in ’08 — and then beating the Yankees and Red Sox for the AL East crown again last year.
‘‘This would seem more feasible,’’ Pena said. ‘‘For us to win this division and go forth to the World Series, this is more [feasible]. This team is extremely talented, and obviously we have what it takes. In Tampa, it didn’t seem like we did — and then we did it.
‘‘That’s why I think it’s a cool thing to be able to have experienced, quote-unquote, the impossible miracle happen. And we were there, and we saw what it was all about.’’ …
But a World Series at Wrigley? Really?
“I come to this club with the idea that everything is possible,’’ Pena said. “And I truly mean it. I’m not just selling a dream. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen what people would say is impossible all of a sudden materialize right before my eyes.’’ Chicago Sun-Times.
Damn. I know they’re just words, but if that doesn’t get you just a little excited for the mere possibility of success in 2011, you’re rooting for the wrong team. I already liked Pena, and now I like him more.
Of course, I would take issue with the comparison of a 10-year bottom-dweller succeeding to a 103-year sufferer succeeding, but I’m still a little pumped up, so I’ll leave it alone.