Usually at this time of year there is a strong wind blowing out of Chicago. And it's fueled by the breath of the local media -- not to mention Cubs fans, themselves -- who are shamelessly predicting and end to the Wee Bears' more than a century long championshipless streak.
But the brash predictions are conspicuously absent so far. And that seems a little bit odd to me considering that the team the Cubs will field is nearly identical to the one that was so highly touted at this point last year. While the Cardinals are better than they were in February 2009 -- at least on paper -- they still have obvious flaws that should prevent anyone from etching "St. Louis" on the National League Central Division crown before the season even starts.
In the place of the hopelessly positive predictions, the Chicago Tribune's Dan McNeil wrote an interesting piece this morning in which he tries to predict when Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano will have his first -- and inevitable -- complete mental breakdown of the season.
Put me down for the first week in May for not-so-Big Z's first implosion. Not sure if it will be getting tossed for undressing an umpire or pulling up lame trying to stretch a double, but an eruption is a certainty. Until the man-child proves he's as right between the ears as he is in the hips, I'm betting against the Cubs getting this cat's potential actualized.
That sort of criticism is usually reserved for Alfonso Soriano. I don't know if 101 years of failing to win a World Series is starting to wear on the Cubs... Or if it has finally been figured out north of Peoria that there is a reason why they actually play the games.
Either way, I'm not used to this quietness coming from Cubs fans. But, while I like it, I have to admit that it makes me a little bit nervous.