The [Monday] Sports Pages

By Chris Rewers on Monday, April 5, 2010

Cubs fans have heard it before. Manager Lou Piniella believes this could be the year that the Cubs end their 102-year world championship drought.

"I think the Cubs, their time is coming to win the World Series," Piniella said after Saturday's spring training finale in Phoenix. "Hopefully, it's very, very, very soon.

"When we do, it will be an event," he added.

You think?

Of course, each of the 30 major league managers will say that his team is capable of achieving October glory if his players stay healthy and perform to the best of their abilities. But does anybody really believe that Pittsburgh manager John Russell really thinks his Pirates have a shot?

Perhaps the most honest preseason managerial assessment of a team from the Cubs' Phil Cavarretta in 1954.

"The Cubs have to win now," Cavarretta said late in spring training. "They are losing fans by the thousands. But the material isn't there. The future looks even worse. There just isn't any good talent coming up. The Cubs have to get some big league talent or they're sunk."

In this case, honesty was not the best policy.

"Phil seems to have developed a defeatist attitude," Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley said while announcing on March 29 that Cavarretta had been relieved of his duties. "We don't believe that he should continue in a job where he doesn't believe success is possible."

Building a new tradition

Piniella did not come to town with the bravado of Dallas Green in 1982, but like Green, Cubs manager has been intent on putting the franchise's "Lovable Losers" moniker into the scrap heap.

''It starts with expectations," Piniella said. "You don't go to that level (of contending every year) without going through the expectations.''

But talk is cheap. The Cubs will never shed their reputation for failure until they consistently play deep into the postseason.

For openers: MLB.com's Carrie Muskat recalls some of the Cubs' most memorable season openers. My favorite remains the 1969 opening win over Philadelphia that was capped by Willie Smith's two-run pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the 11th.

Devotion to accuracy: The Cubs opened the 1934 campaign at Cincinnati's Crosley Field. Riverfront Stadium did not open until 1970.

The Big Question: The Tribune's Paul Sullivan asks nine questions that will be answered by the Cubs during the 2010 season but fails to ask the question that is on the mind of many fans.

The Tribune Company usually did not spend its money wisely, but usually Cubs general managers were presented with an open checkbook. I suspect that those days are over.

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