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I have friends who are actually planning their vacations around the Cubs' World Series victory parade and rally at Grant Park.

And spring training just began.

The reason for their cockiness: Yu Darvish.

To think the signing of a $126 million player can guarantee such instant success is silly, right?

Here's a 31-year-old guy who doesn't like the cold; who was guilty of tipping his pitches during two bad starts in last year's Series with Houston and who's had Tommy John surgery.

Darvish was traded to the Dodgers from the Rangers on July 31, going 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts.

Hey, Dan Plesac. Am I right to have doubts?

"Darvish will help. They needed another ace-type pitcher because it looked like they weren't going to bring (Jake) Arrieta back," said the Crown Point native and MLB Network analyst, adding: "The jury's still kinda out on Darvish.

"If you want to make those two starts in the World Series a bigger deal, then you can say, hey, maybe he's not a true No. 1."

Great athletes deliver on the big stage but in Darvish's Game 3 and Game 7 starts, the breaking-ball specialist lasted a combined 3 1/3 innings, yielding nine hits, eight earned runs, two home runs and a pair of walks.

Games don't get any bigger than that and to fail miserably is a kick in the groin when you're a four-time All-Star and boast a career rate of 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

"But I'm gonna tell you this. He's a very talented pitcher and I think going to the National League is gonna help him," Plesac said. "Lineups will be easier for him to face than American League lineups.

"He's a good athlete and I'd be really surprised if he doesn't pitch really well for the Cubs. I think he's a good fit for the Cubs."

Plesac said the market for free-agent pitching collapsed over the winter or Darvish might've commanded between $175 and $190 million. But the price came down on everyone.

Plesac believes the Cubs now have the advantage over division rivals Milwaukee or St. Louis.

"Their rotation is far better than anyone in the NL Central," he said.

I'd question those who still consider Darvish an ace.

"He's just a very good No. 1," Plesac agreed. "I think we over-use the term 'ace.' All 30 teams think they have one but when you're talking a true ace, there's about 10 legitimate aces."

According to many MLB web sites, the top arms — in no particular order — include the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, the Nationals' Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Cleveland's Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, Houston's Justin Verlander, the Diamondbacks' Zack Greinke, the Yankees' Luis Severino, Boston's Chris Sale and the Mets' Jacob deGrom.

Darvish is listed 14th or 15th on those sites.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci spoke to an Astros player who claimed Darvish was badly tipping his pitches in both starts, saying they often knew what the right-hander was about to throw by the way he brought the ball into his glove in the set position.

Darvish pitches exclusively out of the stretch.

The player said Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.

Hopefully, the Cubs can correct that before the games count for real.

"The best thing for him is to get off to a fast start," Plesac said. "The Cubs' fan base from 2016 went out the window. They want to win championships. They're not about having a good team anymore.

"They want to be one of the two teams remaining in October. That's what the Cubs are about now."

Darvish's six-year contract includes incentives that could push its total value to $150 million, says MLB insider Ken Rosenthal, though Darvish would have to win multiple Cy Young Awards to reach that figure.

Pressure? You can bet your season ticket.

For $126 million, Darvish should feel the pressure of a sinus headache with each trip to the mound.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at