CHICAGO -- As a whole, there were two bad moments in Week 1 of the Chicago Cubs' highly anticipated 2016 season.
One was devastating. Seeing Kyle Schwarber collide with Dexter Fowler on Thursday night changed the team's dynamic in an instant, but it doesn't have to change the outcome of the season. It simply makes the road a little more difficult. Still, his attitude afterward is what makes him such a favorite among fans and teammates alike.
"I'd rather get hurt playing hard than not get hurt not playing hard," Schwarber said.
The second moment doesn't nearly have the far-reaching implications that the loss of Schwarber could. Still, if manager Joe Maddon simply elects to walk Paul Goldschmidt on Friday night, the Cubs are probably 6-0 going into Monday's home opener. That's about the only noninjury negative of Week 1. It was that good.
Arrieta/starting staff: His second start wasn't as good as his first, but call me when Jake Arrieta doesn't produce a quality outing. He's 2-0, and the zip is back in his fastball. The rest of the staff was fine save for a few moments early for John Lackey in Game 3. He didn't seem locked in, which looked like a carryover from the spring, but once he started pitching and not just throwing, he fared better. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks also fared better in Games 4 and 5 than they did many times in the second half last year. Hendricks thinks he figured some things out; let's see how that plays in the early portion of the season. And Jon Lester simply looks like a different pitcher and person in his second year with the Cubs. It's not like he was all that bad last year, but he could be in line for an even better Year 2.
The offense: The add-on ability was missing from this team in years past. How many times would the Cubs score a first- or second-inning run or two for Jeff Samardzija, for example, only to end the scoring there? Even as recently as a year ago at this time, the Cubs would lose games such as Sunday's in which Arrieta was a little off. But after the Arizona Diamondbacks tied the score, the Cubs had runs in innings six through eight. Game over. Hitters have been great showing patience at the plate -- the Cubs lead baseball in walks. They've also gotten a few big hits. Has anyone noticed Miguel Montero? He could have about five home runs by now if not for a high wall at Chase Field. I could go on, but if Fowler's first week isn't the major highlight at the plate, I don't know what is. His .640 on-base percentage leads all regulars in baseball. The offense is as devastating as we thought it would be.
The bullpen: Hector Rondon was magnificent in his only save opportunity, striking out Goldschmidt on Sunday with the nastiest stuff he's thrown all spring. Run down the rest of the relievers from newcomer Adam Warren (four straight retired) to Justin Grimm to rebound guy Neil Ramirez (1-2-3 inning) and there were no issues. It helps to pitch with comfortable leads, but right now the bullpen is picking up where it left off last season. Remember, pitchers were throwing in favorable hitting conditions all week. That's going to change.
Coming home: More than one player felt as though the Cubs were on a two-month road trip, as if spring training never ended and it just continued on into April. At least that's what it has felt like since the trip out West. Now the real season begins. The Cubs will have to grind their way to wins using the aforementioned patience at the plate and a highly undervalued running game on the base paths. The Cubs steal bases on hits to the outfield not on pitchers and catchers. 'First to third' might become their team motto. At some point, they'll need to hit in the colder temperatures just as the opposition has to. Jorge Soler says he's done donning the ski mask on colder days. It's one thing to say it in Mesa, Arizona, in March; it's another to follow through in April. We'll find out soon enough how Soler and the rest of the team fare.
So the Cubs passed every test in Week 1 mostly by dominating the opposition at the plate. Consider their victory margins: 9, 5, 8, 2 and 4. It's just six games, but the Cubs have so far proved to be everything we thought they were in the offseason. And they haven't even played a home game yet. That comes next -- and so do colder conditions.