With Major League Baseball players getting ready for the 2018 season in Arizona and Florida, this is the time that predictions start to grab the headlines. While the defending world champion Houston Astros are everybody's choice as the clear favorite, the 2016 world champion Cubs are acting like Ricky Bobby from the movie Talladega Nights, living by the motto "If you ain't first you're last."
The 2016 season took so much out of the team that the 2017 season began in the throes of a World Series hangover. The Cubs struggled out of the gate and spent the first half of the season trying to stay in the National League Central race. Despite a sub-.500 record at the All Star break and a 5 1/2 game deficit to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs steadied themselves and won the division to advance to the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive season. However, 2017 never felt like a championship run was in the cards. When the Cubs were eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games, no one was surprised and it almost felt like a sense of relief to those around the team.
After a very active offseason that saw the Cubs overhaul their pitching staff both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen, expectations are sky high. Las Vegas oddsmakers set the Cubs expected win total at 93 1/2 and multiple prognosticators see the Cubs as one of the favorites to win the World Series.
But do the players feel that way? Or are they simply embracing the mantra "One Batter, One Pitch, One Out at a Time?" Despite the one day at a time approach that most professional athletes employ, Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. exercises no such caution.
In fact, he believes that only one result is acceptable.
"The expectation for this group is to win the World Series," Almora said. "We know the group in here can do it and we expect nothing but that. No matter how old or young we are, we have a great mix of players and we can do it. We've done it and our mindset is to do it again."
So while so many in professional sports repeat the standard line that "we just play them one day at a time and let the chips fall where they may" one of the youngest members of the 2018 Cubs is all in on what he believes can be accomplished.
Chicago Cubs, 2018 World Series Champions. Almora likes how that sounds and he expects it to happen.