Hope springs eternal

Some years ago, I asked the actor and big Cubs fans Joe Mantegna how he felt about the Bartman play, that unfortunate moment when a big fan named Steve Bartman merely reached for a foul ball and was promptly blamed for the Cubs failing to make the World Series. Joe shrugged and said that if the Bartman play had not happened, there would have been some other disaster like the earth opening up and swallowing everyone. The Cubs, he said, are never going to the World Series.

Well, now, a dozen years after Bartman, the Cubs might be the most exciting young team in baseball. Theo Epstein helped make it so. The Cubs have a half-dozen young hitters who look like future stars, beginning with this year’s spring training sensation Kris Bryant. He will start the year in Iowa because of a quirk in baseball’s salary structure, but  Bryant should bring his Roy Hobbs act to Chicago after a couple of weeks.

He’s not alone. Twenty-five year old first baseman Anthony Rizzo hit 32 homers last year. Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcanatara and Jorge Soler are all big-time hitting prospects. The team added ace Jon Lester and all-star catcher Miguel Montero. There are others.

Is it enough? Maybe not quite yet. But maybe. The Cubs are contenders. And this puts president Theo Epstein in an unusual spot. If Epstein helps the Cubs break their curse after leading the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series in almost a center, what’s left after that? Become GM of the Washington Generals? Take over the U.S. World Cup effort? Build a team around Charlie Brown? He has already done one miraculous thing; I got an email from Joe Mantegna just a couple of weeks ago. He believes.

— Joe Posnanski

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