Since the year 2000 (20 seasons ago!), the Chicago Cubs have had just seven Opening Day starters: Jon Lieber (3), Kerry Wood (2), Carlos Zambrano (6), Ryan Dempster (2), Jeff Samardzija (2), Jon Lester (4), and Jake Arrieta (1).
After an historic 2015 Cy Young Season, Jake Arrieta took the 2016 Opening Day gig away from Jon Lester (who was given the honor in 2015 and again from 2017-2019), but his reign is officially coming to an end per Manager David Ross:
Darvish or Hendricks to start season opener, Ross says
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 11, 2020
David Ross declines to name the Cubs' Opening Day starter, but indicates the decision will come down to Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks, with Jon Lester slotting in as the No. 3 starter.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) March 11, 2020
Before we get into it, I’ll remind you upfront that although it’s often fun to discuss and debate and decide on the Opening Day starter, the job is more ceremonial than it is strategic. You might assume that guy will line up for more starts by the end of the season, but with rain outs, injuries, the All-Star break, trades, call-ups, double-headers, etc. it all just usually evens out in the end.
With that said, I think this is a laudable decision from Ross.
I think it would’ve been very easy to simply hand the job to the Lester – not only because he’s the incumbent, but also because he’s entering what’s likely to be his last year with the Cubs and is the elder statement of the rotation. But instead, he’s giving it to one of the two most deserving arms in the rotation – Hendricks or Darvish. And ultimately, the Cubs can’t really go wrong – whomever doesn’t start on Opening Day will surely get the nod on Day 2 (i.e. the matchup against the Brewers isn’t much of a consideration).
So as more of a ceremonial decision, Ross can go one of two ways: Hendricks, the six-year veteran who’s spent his entire big league career with the Chicago Cubs and looks strong in Spring Training. Or Darvish, the third-year Cub who ended the 2019 season on one of the loudest tears in Major League Baseball. I love them both. I can’t decide.
Who ya got?