The word “expect” is replete with semantic implications. When you say you “expect” to eat lunch today, it’s a pretty good indication that you’ll actually eat lunch today. But when a parent says she “expects” her young son to behave and sit still in church, there’s a different feel – the parent might not actually believe the son will be able to sit still, but she places those expectations upon him because that’s where she wants him to be.
So, when the men in charge of the Cubs – President Theo Epstein and manager Dale Sveum, for example – speak as though they “expect” the 2013 Chicago Cubs to be a playoff contender, I can cut them some slack, and pass on the easy jokes. They may not believe it will happen, but it’s fair for them to expect contention from their players, and from themselves. See? Semantics.
Each man was asked about the 2013 Cubs during the Cubs Caravan yesterday, and each essentially did say that they expect the team to be good in 2013.
Sveum started by taking issue with .500 as a goal for the 2013 Cubs.
“The one thing you hate doing is saying, ‘[finishing] .500 will be good,’ because it’s not good,” Sveum said Wednesday, per Carrie Muskat. “It’s not 101 losses, but .500 isn’t getting you to the playoffs. Just getting in the playoffs is satisfactory …. In a perfect world, if [Matt] Garza and [Scott] Baker are ready to go Opening Day, its not a bad staff to have [Jeff] Samardzija, Garza and [Edwin] Jackson at the top and the other guys in the four, five spots. Fujikawa would come in the eight inning, Marmol in the ninth, there’s so many things that are so much better going into this season than last year. [Finishing] .500 is, like I said, still not acceptable.
“You can’t fall victim to, ‘Yeah, we are obviously in a transition in the organization, and we’re trying to get healthy and do all this,’ but don’t fall into the category that we can’t win right now,” Sveum continued. “Baseball is a funny thing. Just last year, we close out some games in April and the start of the season is a lot different and you never know what happens after that. You might not have the exact same bullets as the guy actross the street, but all you need are guys to play up to their capabilities and have a starting staff and close out games, and you win a lot of games.”
Given that Sveum is in Year Two of a three-year contract, this is everything you’d “expect” him to be saying. Nothing wrong with any of it.
Epstein’s take was similar.
“There’s no reason to show up or build a team [if you don’t believe non-playoff seasons are a failure],” Epstein said Wednesday, per Paul Sullivan. “It’s postseason or bust every year. That’s what our goal is. That said, we’re obviously building for something greater, which is a time when we can expect to get into the postseason every year.
“Behind the scenes, regardless of the results, there’s progress being made. But as far as 2013, you can define it as a success or failure by whether we make the postseason, and ultimately whether we win the World Series. But absolutely. There are stories every year about teams that don’t necessarily look like the favorites on paper that find their way playing meaningful games in September, playing into October, playing into deep October. Baltimore, Oakland last year, they are great inspirations for teams in our position.”
From my perspective, I neither “expect” nor “believe” the 2013 Chicago Cubs will be a playoff contender. Of course I “hope” it, and I do think it is within the realm of possibility (however small). But, in truth, I’d just like to see progress in 2013. That’s my “expectation.” That doesn’t necessarily mean a better record in 2013, though I think that will happen.
It means that, by next October, I’d like to feel much better about the Cubs’ chances of being competitive as soon as 2014 than I did this past October.