As Opening Day arrives, predictions about the new baseball season are rampant, and The Baseball Project is no exception. The band, however, has put its projection to music with the latest "Broadside Ballads" song, "Cubs 2010."
Your favorite baseball scribe's prognostications don't sound very good on your iPod, but you can download an MP3 version of "Cubs 2010" for free here, exclusively on ESPN.com, or listen to it in the box at right.
If the Cubbies succeed in their quest to end their 102-year drought, the optimistic pop tune crafted by Scott McCaughey is destined to be the club's soundtrack in an epic journey to the World Series.
Chicago, which opens the season in Atlanta on Monday, simply needs Carlos Marmol to "finally show what it takes -- to hold down the closer's job," Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee to be "30/100 men," Carlos Zambrano "to keep his head" and Alfonso Soriano to avoid injuries.
Does McCaughey truly believe this could be the Cubs' year?
"Sure, why not? It's like the song says, if all these things happen, it could go that way," McCaughey wrote in an e-mail interview last week. "They need Zambrano to be dominant, they need to get [Ted] Lilly back soon, they need Ramirez, Lee and Soriano to be healthy, and see if Marmol really is going to be able to harness his closer stuff."
McCaughey acknowledges that's a lot of ifs, but he said he believes that offseason outfield acquisition Marlon Byrd could potentially have a huge year and that the offense "could be tremendous if Geovany Soto gets it back together."
As with many of the songs in The Baseball Project's repertoire, big baseball fans McCaughey, Steve Wynn, Peter Buck and Linda Pitmon give nods to the sport's rich and colorful history. McCaughey tosses in lines about Merkle's boner, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and the curse of the billy goat in "Cubs 2010."
The band debuted an early version of the song in January when it performed at the Len & Bob Bash for Chicago Cubs Charities, a fundraising event put on by Cubs play-by-play broadcaster Len Kasper and color commentator Bob Brenly. Kasper said he and Brenly first met the band in September when they played a show in Chicago.
After getting invited to play the Len & Bob Bash, McCaughey said he thought it would be fun to throw in some local flavor for the band's performance, so he came up with the basics for "Cubs 2010." McCaughey even worked a line about "Bob and Len" into the song.
"I am totally honored to be mentioned in the song," Kasper said in an e-mail interview. "Being a huge fan of Scott, Steve, Linda and, of course, Peter from R.E.M., to have them tip their cap to us in song is quite a thrill.
"The thing I love about the band is that the songs are great rock songs. They're not novelty songs at all and even if you're not a baseball fan, you can still appreciate the music and the great stories."
McCaughey equally enjoyed meeting the broadcast duo, calling Kasper a "super cool guy" and relating how he "got to geek out" with Brenly about his playing days with the San Francisco Giants, McCaughey's favorite team when he was growing up in the Bay Area.
"Brenly also rocks the guitar and is a big music fan," McCaughey said.
McCaughey said he was also a fan of the Oakland A's before developing a fondness for the Mariners when he lived in Seattle for 25 years.
"It's funny, though: I've noticed lately with doing these songs and just kind of reading a lot more books about baseball that I've kind of become more of an overall fan," McCaughey said by phone last month from his home in Portland, Ore. "I find myself being really drawn to other teams, too.
"Like the Cardinals, you know. I love the Cardinals, such a great history and it's such a great baseball city. I've spent time in Pittsburgh so I kind of always like the Pirates and I feel really terrible for them so I kind of want to root for them, too."
He said he pulls for the Twins because Pitmon is a huge Twins fan, but he does draw the line when it comes to the Evil Empire.
"And I always like the Twins, too, because they're always an underdog and they've done so well with so little," McCaughey said. "And Steve's the Yankees fan, and you know I can't really go there. I can't root for them out of deference to Steve. It just doesn't really work."
McCaughey backs the lyrics he wrote for "Cubs 2010" by boldly predicting that the Cubs will win the National League pennant and devour the Yankees in the World Series, "Grizzly Man"-style.
He expects the American League to be the same as last year with the Angels, Twins and Yankees winning division titles and the Red Sox getting the wild card.
"Tampa Bay could have something to say about that -- they look strong this year," he said. "Sadly, I think all the predictions about the Mariners being the team to beat in the West are a bit fanciful."
In the National League, McCaughey said the Rockies, Cubs and Phillies will win their divisions and the Cardinals will be the wild card.
Buck is more optimistic about the Mariners, who he said will "take pennant behind King Felix [Hernandez] and Cliff Lee." He said the Twins and Yankees will be the other division winners and Tampa Bay will be the wild card.
In the NL, Buck predicts the Rockies, Cardinals and Phillies to win their divisions and the Braves to get in as the wild card. But, he said, the Phillies will beat the Mariners in the World Series.
Wynn was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan while was growing up in Southern California but has adopted the Yankees now that he lives in New York.
"Are you kidding? The team to beat this year is the Yankees," Wynn said via e-mail. "They're defending champs. [Their] pitching staff has improved. They might have the best infield of all time. And let's face it -- they're rolling in dough and can (and will) spend more.
"What's more, [Javier] Vazquez, [Curtis] Granderson and Nick Johnson are an upgrade from [Johnny] Damon and [Hideki] Matsui. In other words the Yankees will be the first team to repeat since … the Yankees."
Pitmon said she expects her Twins to repeat as AL Central champions because of some decent offseason acquisitions to complement the solid bats of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span and Jason Kubel.
"But pitching is going to be problematic," she wrote in an e-mail. "The starting rotation doesn't look like a pennant winner and the loss of [closer Joe] Nathan is brutal. (I live in NYC so when the Yankees traded Pavano I thought he was out of my life for good …)"
As a result, she's in agreement with her husband, Wynn.
"The Yankees will take the AL and the Phillies for the NL," she said. "I predict a dismal 2010 for Boston (no tears here), with Tampa earning the AL wild-card spot.
"The Yankees have the best infield in the game -- both offensively and defensively -- and a super solid pitching staff with flashes of brilliance (re: C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Rivera).
"I'm hoping to see [catcher Francisco] Cervelli get more playing time this year. I predict he'll be a team leader for the next generation.
"The Phillies will be tough again this year but, my 2010 World Series prediction: New York Yankees in six."
If that song remains the same, then Wynn and Pitmon can have their turn in a later tune for "Broadside Ballads." But for now at least, it's the Cubs' year.
Jim Wilkie is the editor of The Life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.