When the first pitch is thrown Monday night at Busch Stadium, all the predicitions get thrown out the window.
All the shots fired in media interviews and public appearances will become an afterthought.
A new chapter is ready to begin in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.
Joe Maddon attacking "The Cardinal Way" in the Wrigley Field dungeon is so last year. As are the 19 regular season matchups and four-game National League Division Series.
The fallout from the Jason Heyward signing is last winter's story.
All that remains are the memories, but it's now time to forge a new path.
The Cubs are no longer the little brother just trying to hang in there with one of the elite franchises in baseball.
Now the Cubs are the favorites and the Cardinals are trying to chase them (on paper, at least).
When talking about the history between the two franchises, Heyward used air quotes around the word, "rivlary."
"People ask me about the rivalry this year, but I'm on this side and it feels like we have a lot of work to do as far as being established in the playoffs," Heyward said. "They've got World Series championships. They've got division titles. We want to be established as a group here in Chicago."
Heyward has a point. The Cubs didn't win a game after dispatching the Cardinals in the NLDS, so it's not like they drew any closer to the Cardinals' 11 World Series championships in 2015.
Maddon got his first taste of the rivalry's passion last season, lighting up the Cardinals after they threw at Anthony Rizzo in retaliation.
The Cubs manager admitted part of that rant was about changing the perception of his team, letting his young group of players know they have to go out and earn their place among baseball's best.
"We went through the same thing in Tampa Bay with the Red Sox and Yankees," Maddon said. "Nobody's going to give you anything, man. I don't expect anything to be given to us, either.
"If you want to ascend, you gotta take it. It's not gonna be given to you. What I felt last year was that we didn't necessarily understand that, so I wanted our guys to understand that."
Maddon grew up a Cardinals fan and reiterated his respect for the organization Sunday at Wrigley Field.
"But I'm a Cub," he said. "They're good and they've been good for a long time. They're not gonna relinquish anything easily.
"That was my point. Not to denigrate anybody or say anything poorly or badly about it. It was about us and our ascension. That's how you do it."
The young Cubs needed to learn they belonged with the big dogs, but when it comes down to actual rivalry, many of the parties involved on both sides insist that kind of stuff is more for the fans.
Even if it is mostly a fan-driven rivalry, Monday should be an interesting series opener.
John Lackey - the Cardinals' best pitcher last season - will make his first start in a Cubs uniform in Busch Stadium while Heyward will do the same.
When the 26-year-old outfielder spurned the Cardinals in the offseason, some fans took to burning their Heyward jerseys in an emotional response.
Heyward has shrugged all that off - "As far as burning the jerseys, they paid for it, so they can do whatever they want."
But Maddon took a different stance.
"It's not good for your children to see stuff like that," Maddon said. "I mean, why would you do something like that? I don't get that.
"I'm sure the real Cardinal fans weren't proud of that moment, either. They have one of the best fanbases in all of professional sports, just like we do. There's probably certain things that we wouldn't be proud of people doing in [Wrigley Field]."
As for playing against his former teammates, Heyward admitted he'd be happy to see a lot of familiar faces - "It's like playing against your brothers."