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Are certain events conspiring to make this the Cubs’ year?

Don't hear much about Ryne Sandberg anymore since Mike Quade has taken helm Cubdom. | AP

Don't hear much about Ryne Sandberg anymore since Mike Quade has taken the helm in Cubdom. | AP

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It’s that time again.

That point in late winter, with spring on the horizon, when Cubs fans set aside the logistics and obstacles and allow themselves to think, “OK, this year is going to be different.”

Call it a long-running pre-Spring fling.

And certain events of the last week certainly could serve as a catalyst for such optimism.

First, there’s onetime ace Carlos Zambrano and his self-diagnosis, claiming he’s cured his staid anger-management issues. After regressing from his once-feared plateau, the mercurial right-hander won his last eight starts last year. This is going to be the year he puts it all together again, right fans?

Then the excitement -- well, as much excitement as there can be for a middle-aged coach -- about the leadership of Mike Quade. He surely is the mouthwash to remove the foul taste a string of underachieving seasons has left, right?

Additionally -- and perhaps more importantly -- is the uncertainty that seems to have befallen the St. Louis Cardinals.

There’s the Albert Pujols contract talks that are dragging on and, unless something changes quickly, won’t be resolved before the season. The company line, of course, is that this won’t be a distraction. It might not be, but since this is the time for optimism and overreaction, allow yourself to wonder if it is?

Searching for trouble when there is none may be a product of too much sports-talk radio, but when the situation has gone to the point where the club’s fiercest rivals, the Cubs, are saying they’d be interested in inking the future Hall of Famer, it’s not something to be ignored.

Add to that the news of staff ace Adam Wainwright’s injury and the people of St. Louis suddenly have a lot to deal with a month before the season even kicks off. Unless a second opinion changes the current situation, Wainwright will be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire year.

No, the Cardinals are not the reigning NL Central champs. There’s still the issue of the Cincinnati Reds and a bolstered-up Milwaukee Brewers team. It’s not going to be easy -- and it’s not going to be expected -- but the Cubs’ path to the postseason had to have gotten a little easier this week.

How passable that road remains is the bigger question.

Annoying or endearing, holding on to optimism, misplaced or otherwise, is a Cubs hallmark.

So too is debating its validity.

So we ask, is there any more reason to believe this year or is it the same old song and dance of glass-half-empty dreamers grasping at straws that aren’t there?



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