Chicago Cubs: What Should Fans Believe?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 15: Starting pitcher Rich Harden #40 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball against the Colorado Rockies on April 15, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Rockies defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I attended the Cubs' game on Sunday afternoon and left with an overwhelming sense of empty optimism.

"Empty optimism" probably isn't what you would think I was feeling after four hours of baking in the bleachers on a Sunday afternoon especially when the raising of the white "W" flag meant the Cubs were in first place.

Hung over maybe, but not questioning the validity of, the Cubs seat atop the National League Standings.

Yet there I was, walking past lines of Reds fans waiting for a bus back to Ohio, wondering if what I had just seen was legit.

Was Alfonso Soriano hitting a solid single to right field something I can put my faith into?

Can I expect Rich Harden to go deeper than six innings and look spectacular, especially in the afternoon?

Is Milton Bradley going to be on base all day, and score from first with ease?

Does Kevin Gregg really own the ninth inning?

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After a first half that saw the team every publication in North America picked to walk away with their division struggle to stay above .500, watching the Cubs sprint out of the second half gates was refreshing.

The reality is that, in ten games against Washington, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati, a team that wants to be in the playoffs should be 8-2 at worst.

Part of me wants to believe that the biggest acquisition in the division this July is Aramis Ramirez coming off the disabled list.

Other parts of me are jumping at the prospect of BJ Ryan getting his act together and joining a bullpen that's been pretty good of late.

If Geovany Soto comes back from his oblique strain to hit anywhere close to what he did in 2008, how much hope can Cubs fans have for this fall?

Sorry White Sox fans, but there are a lot of North Siders that are pushing their chips into the middle of the table with Journey's enthusiastic chorus of "Don't Stop Believing."

Deep breath. Pause. Open eyes. Deep breath. Exhale.

The Cubs got dangerously close to giving away a game they had owned on Sunday, in large part because Jeff Samardzija is still in the bullpen. Aaron Heilman did the same thing on Saturday. And Carlos Marmol hasn't been lights out like he was last year.

Indeed, Marmol's "funk," that lasted for a couple weeks last year, has lasted four months this time.

And Soriano?

He has the ability to hit like Ted Williams for a few weeks, but he's been hitting like Stevie Wonder most of this season. What happens when he goes back to the piano and misses everything but air for a week?

Everything's happy-go-lucky at Wrigley Field right now. There are lots of reasons to have hope that this team can do what it's done in each of the last two years, and finish the season with a division crown.

The euphoria created by two good weeks cannot ignore the first two months of the season, where Cubs fans saw just how bad it can be for this team.

So what should Cubs fans buy into? What should we believe? Does Jim Hendry have anything up his sleeve to propel this team into a more positive October than the last two?

Hendry's answer will likely happen this week, the rest is a story that will unfold in the shadows browning ivy. Hopefully the enthusiasm of Sunday doesn't fade like the color of the vines.