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CUBS, WHITE SOX PREPARE FOR ANOTHER BASEBALL SEASON IN THE ‘WINDY CITY’

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Baseball season begins anew in the ‘Windy City’ of Chicago and in many ways the storylines are familiar. The long suffering Cubs are coming off yet another losing season and still looking for the championship that has eluded them since 1908. The White Sox are bringing back the same lineup as last year and looking to avoid the miserable start that left them out of the playoffs despite a torrid 64-41 record from June 9th onward. 
The Chicago White Sox return a lineup that is essentially identical to the one they started the season with last year. The only major change is a definite upgrade, as the White Sox signed Adam Dunn in the offseason to give the team a left handed power hitter at the DH position. Dunn should single handedly add 35 to 40 home runs on a team that collectively hit only 24 from the left side of the plate and just 18 from the DH position in 2010. The only other major transaction in the off season was a pair of contract extensions for veterans Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. The team lost closer Bobby Jenks and will have to find a replacement, but for now manager Ozzie Guillen has settled on Matt Thornton, though he has options should he struggle.
It’s hard to blame the White Sox for the relative stability in the roster—the only thing they need to do to improve upon last year’s results and make the postseason is to get off to a better start early in the year. The loss of Jenks is a minor concern, but with the rest of the team intact and a huge upgrade at the DH with the acquisition of Dunn and the White Sox should be back in the playoffs this October.
Across town, the Chicago Cubs only dream of having such an easy task returning to the playoffs. The team slumped to a 75-87 record in 2010 finishing 16 games out of first place. They actually had a better record on the road (40-41) than at their Wrigley Field home (35-46). It’s not really an oversimplification to say that the Cubs didn’t do anything well in 2010—they didn’t hit well, didn’t pitch well and played shoddy defense. 
There is hope for an improvement thanks to the no-nonsense approach of new manager Mike Quade, who took over as interim boss after Lou Pinella stepped down and earned the full time gig by leading the Cubs to a 24-13 record down the stretch. He’s not going to settle for lowered expectations saying: “We're going to approach this thing like we're going to win a division." 
That’s easier said than done in the tough NL Central, but the Cubs have some talent starting with a potentially very good pitching staff led by Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano. They’ve also got a potentially dominant closer in Carlos Marmol with longtime Cub Kerry Wood as a set up man or backup closer.    There’s a lot of optimism in the Cubs’ prospects and the farm system looks as good as it has in years.
The Cubs could see a considerable improvement if their pitching staff returns to form and they simply minimize stupid mistakes. If everything works out, they’ve got a chance to be a surprise contender in the NL Central but the combination of players improving from a down year and the improved clubhouse chemistry under new manager Quade should easily produce a much better team than in 2010.