The Chicago media, the New York tabloids and the national TV networks have tried hard to sell this as coming attractions, a sneak preview for October, the Cubs and Mets as two National League teams on the rise.
But before we anoint them as playoff contenders for years to come, just listen to Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, the kind of veteran leader the Cubs probably would have tried to sign after the 2013 season if their timelines had matched up better.
“The big thing is: 1.) You got to hope everybody stays healthy,” Granderson said before New York’s 2-1 loss on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field. “That’s one thing that we can never control and never can see. And 2.) Hopefully, everybody continues not to be content. It’s one thing getting there and getting excited that I’ve made it. But then some people stop working at that point.
“Hopefully, everybody continues to keep wanting to get better and will look and say: This is one point of where I want to be over the course of my career. And, hopefully, I’m a little further at this point next year, and the year after that. But (that’s) a lot easier said than done.”
[MORE CUBS: Cubs find a way to beat Mets on Matt Harvey Day]
Granderson, a three-time All-Star, stood in front of his locker inside the cramped visiting clubhouse, explaining how to survive in a big market and keep your reputation intact.
Granderson knows this city after graduating from Thornton Fractional South High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago and staying involved here with his charitable foundation.
Granderson knows what it’s like for a talented young core to come together after making a surprise run to the 2006 World Series with the Detroit Tigers.
Granderson knows New York and win-or-else expectations after going to the playoffs with the Yankees in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
[MORE CUBS: Is Kris Bryant the long-term answer at third base?]
“You just got to understand that you’re going to get asked questions in the best times, and also the worst times,” Granderson said. “Be ready to step up and answer those (questions). Definitely don’t hide from it, because it’s always going to be there.
“A big thing (I learned) from Derek Jeter early on (was) not reading what’s being written. I think I was doing that even in the minor leagues when you had such publications as Baseball America and the different almanacs and references that were putting guys here, there and everywhere.
“But those guys aren’t the ones making the decision. You guys have a story to do, and we respect that and understand that. But at the same time, if I go out there and play, and know what I can do, and talk to my coaching staff and my organization on how I need to get better, then ultimately I can get to where I want.”
For years, Cubs prospects have been told how great everything’s going to be in Chicago, a city that caters to athletes and has so many distractions.
[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here]
Kris Bryant got his own adidas billboard on Addison Street before his big-league debut, and filmed a Red Bull commercial during his time with Triple-A Iowa. Addison Russell is the third-youngest player in the majors at 21 years and 111 days and learning a new position (second base) on the fly.
Who knows when Javier Baez will hit his way out of Des Moines and if he can make the adjustments at this level? Jorge Soler hasn’t made it look quite as easy this season, striking out 49 times through 143 plate appearances.
Starlin Castro earned three All-Star selections before his 25th birthday and some people still think it would make sense to trade him to New York. (The Mets aren’t a fit.)
“One day, you can be the best person in the paper,” Granderson said. “The next day, you can be the worst person in the paper. So I leave that to family and friends to read that and get the highlights.
“Just come ready to play and just continue to have fun. You have fun – it doesn’t matter where you’re playing at.”