In baseball, spring is the time for either optimism or expectation. Historically put-upon teams and their fans get to convince themselves that the upcoming season will bear better results. Wealthy clubs that spent the offseason importing talent, meanwhile, get to look at their rosters and picture a summer full of clean, excellent play, a six-month charge into record books. Everyone has hope, but the types of hope differ, and they hurt in different ways if unfulfilled.
The Chicago Cubs hope in just about every way you can think of. Most obviously, they are dynastic losers, having failed to win a World Series in the last 107 years or even to appear in one in the last 71. They serve as shorthand for every malady from bad luck to institutional backwardness to supernatural curses. So the team and its fans alike, judging by press conferences and conversations, seem to be wishing for a change in fortune in that guarded way that allows for maximum protection from disappointment while leaving the possibility of euphoria just open.
But the Cubs are also this year’s preseason favorites. Casinos in Las Vegas have given them four-to-one odds of taking home the Commissioner’s Trophy in October, more than twice as good as those of any other team, and the predictions of the sports media have largely echoed the sentiment. Chicago’s status is the result of a promising 2015—with one of baseball’s youngest squads, they won 97 games before falling in the league championship round of the postseason—and a winter that saw them add a number of highly sought-after free agents to their roster. They are at once underdog and front-runner: history’s David and this year’s Goliath.