Dark days are upon Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs.
But not far ahead, there's a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.
The Cubs have been abysmal thus far, and things could get worse despite a brief turnaround. With the trade deadline less than week away, the Cubs' roster could weaken for the immediate future but hopefully will provide even more reason to believe that there's something positive to believe in in the Windy City.
The Cubs are lined up for a last-place finish but also a bright future. Here are 10 reasons why.
Despite a slow week, Rizzo bounced back on Wednesday with a 2-for-3 day including a home run.
Regardless of what Rizzo accomplishes the rest of the year, he's the clear building block under Jed Hoyer.
He was immediately placed in the No. 3 spot in the order, and there he will stay.
Forget where he ranks, or didn't rank, in lists of top prospects. The fact is, he's reached the major leagues. Many prospects in top-50 lists will be lucky to claim such a thing.
Five home runs is nice, but 12 RBI seems a little low. Some can be blamed as growing pains, while part of it is the anemic offense. What he can control is his batting average and on-base percentage, both at a more-than-respectable .323 and .357, respectively.
Rizzo will not only impact the No. 3 hole but also those in front and behind him. Starlin Castro will likely see more strikes (assuming he doesn't keep swinging at balls) and Alfonso Soriano, or whoever takes over the cleanup spot, will have more RBI opportunities because of Rizzo getting on base.
Castro was Anthony Rizzo before Anthony Rizzo.
He, like Rizzo, walked across Lake Michigan en route to his debut at Wrigley Field.
That wasn't too long ago.
Castro, still coming into his own, is in the top five among MLB shortstops in hits, triples, RBI and stolen bases.
Whether or not a position change is in the cards, I want Castro somewhere in the deck .
I've always been one of the nonbelievers when it comes to Jeff Samardzija, but it's almost time to fully buy in to the right-hander.
I'm not 100 percent on board with Samardzija yet, but I have a few reasons to lean that way.
In his first full year as a starter, Samardzija has had outings that rival some of the best of the year.
His April outing against the Washington Nationals gave a glimpse of what we could see with 8.2 innings of four-hit ball, surrendering just one home run with eight strikeouts.
Similarly, he stymied the Pittsburgh Pirates--which actually means something this year--to just one hit over eight innings.
These strong outings give reason to believe that he can develop consistency to be a top end-of-the-rotation pitcher.
Once he solves the curse of peaks and valleys, he has a chance to be a rock in the rotation.
In his first managerial job, Dale Sveum has gained something that had been missing for quite some time in the Cubs dugout: Respect.
Mike Quade couldn't earn it, Lou Piniella lost interest and Dusty Baker lost respect while Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were under the knife—whichever time that was.
Has Sveum made mistakes? Of course. But this is the year for that to happen. As he learns throughout the growing pains, he can learn from his mistakes.
When the Cubs are ready to compete, it will only increase the respect in the clubhouse as Sveum was with the team each step of the way in the rebuilding process.
Most of the active roster won't have a direct hand in helping the Cubs reach the playoffs, let alone the World Series.
But that doesn't mean they won't have an indirect way of helping the organization reach the plateau of sustained success.
The Cubs have plenty of veterans with value. It's just that the value belongs to other teams instead of the Cubs. Instead, the Cubs are looking for value of their own in return.
Ryan Dempster can bring back a second-tier prospect if he's traded or a draft pick during the offseason. Either one will have an impact in the future.
Matt Garza can bring back multiple pieces if he's moved, whether it be before the trade deadline or during the offseason.
Other pieces like Geovany Soto, Paul Maholm, Carlos Marmol, David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano and Bryan LaHair could all bring in future pieces that help the club.
Don't look now, but the Chicago Cubs are putting together quite the farm system.
Keith Law's updated Top-50 list includes three Cubs, probably more than any year in the last 10.
A quick list of possible difference-makers in the system include Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, Junior Lake and Dan Vogelbach.
If you notice, Almora, Soler, Szczur and Jackson all play outfield. There's only three outfield spots available when that time comes.
Vitters, Baez and Lake are all either shortstops or third basemen. With a man named Starlin manning one of the positions, those are limited as well.
And Mr. Vogelbach is barking up the first base tree that won't be available during his playing lifetime.
This works out well for the Cubs. For one, it provides depth should some of these not pan out, which is likely.
It also presents the opportunity to move one of them for a serious area of need: pitching.
Remember when the Philadelphia Phillies had a stranglehold on the National League with a core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt?
That dynasty hardly outlasted Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra.
Instead, there are only eight teams with a worse record than the Phillies.
This is a prime example of the state of the National League?
Who exactly is running the show?
Some would say the St. Louis Cardinals, but Albert Pujols is gone, and how long can Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman hold up? Perhaps Shelby Miller and Oscar Taveras can come save them in the near future.
If the Cubs keep building the farm system, the throne is there for the taking.
Theo Epstein brings with him, if nothing else, credibility.
His wins and rings in Boston means little to Cubs fans. But it does give him credibility.
It gives him time to make things work in Chicago. It gives him confidence from players to come to Chicago. It keeps players happy negotiating to stay.
Whether Epstein has learned from his overpaid busts in John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford is still to be seen, but it's clear he can still draft talent.
As long as he's in the front office with people he trusts, the Cubs have a chance.
Tom Ricketts has made it clear that whatever the cost to make the Cubs a contender, he's willing to provide it.
The Tribune Co. wasn't always fond of spending money, but Ricketts has put his faith in Epstein to provide an on-field product worth the millions that he's giving.
Don't expect the lifelong Cubs fan to sell the club any time soon. His commitment is imperative to the Cubs' future success.
Despite the woeful play by the Cubs this season, Wrigley Field has still been filled to 90-percent capacity on the year, which is the same number if you combine all White Sox home games into one.
Regardless of record, Cubs fans will always show positive support for the team. They're always buying gear--and beer--at games, all of which supports the team.
As long as the fans keep coming, Ricketts will keep pouring money into the team. I'm not very good at math, but that plus the front office equals sustained success.
Or at least that's the plan.