I haven't yet heard a single word about this being the year that the Cubs go all the way.
Not a sound. Not a peep.
I certainly did in the spring of 2005, when there were quite a few people -- even "experts" -- who believed Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were overdue and Nomar Garciaparra was a good bet to rip the ball like his old self.
I definitely did in the spring of 2004, when the Cubs were coming off the previous fall's near-miss and added Greg Maddux to a can't-miss pitching rotation of Prior, Wood, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano.
I even did in the spring of 2003, when the Cubs were happy to have Dusty Baker in the dugout in place of Don Baylor, happy not to have Todd Hundley behind the plate and pretty excited about their opening day infield of Mark Bellhorn, Alex Gonzalez, Mark Grudzielanek and Hee Seop Choi.
But as spring camp commenced Wednesday with pitchers and catchers workouts, not a single member of 2003's opening day lineup remained on the Cubs' roster.
Even the once-confident Cubs who broke spring camp in 2005 have been forced to undergo an extreme makeover. Everything beyond the infield dirt at Wrigley Field is being built from scratch, including the entire Cubs outfield and 1,800 new bleacher seats.
While this "under construction" phase progresses, I don't know of a living soul out there -- other than the truest, bluest cheerleader -- who is projecting the Cubs to be a legitimate threat to take the 2006 World Series.
This is a team even Ron Santo and Ernie Banks might be inclined to express doubts about.
The only plausible way not to would be to maintain that Prior and Wood are overdue (again), that it is humanly possible for Derrek Lee to have another monster year and that a true leadoff man (Juan Pierre) can do for the Cubs precisely what one (Scott Podsednik) did for the White Sox.
By the time April rolls around, the Cubs are going to be good and sick of hearing about the Sox. This is the price they must pay for having a record of 79-83 in the same season that their southern brothers are going 110-64.
Not much of anything that the Cubs did during the off-season has generated this-is-their-year drumbeat from the baseball world. A nice pickup here or there -- perhaps more in Pierre's case -- but no jaw-dropping blockbusters, no shocks to the system.
At least the Cubs won't need to defend the deals they did make, the way the White Sox found themselves doing last spring. A lot of fans couldn't fathom the Sox's rationale for getting rid of popular ballplayers and gambling on ones with odd reputations (A.J. Pierzynski, Carl Everett) or no reputation (Tadahito Iguchi, Chris Widger).
No, there seems to be no buzz about the Cubs this spring at all
No division contender looks that strong, but then again, that's what a lot of White Sox fans thought last April when they were concerned with Minnesota but mistakenly figured Cleveland to be a year away from being a threat, or maybe two.
A couple of rookies have tantalized fans. Many seem persuaded Ronny Cedeno and Matt Murton are ready to start and become stars, in infield and out, but this is based mainly on very brief observation and hearsay. Remember Choi, Bellhorn, Bobby Hill and, most disappointing of all, Corey Patterson? In each case, fame was fleeting.
It is considerably easier to break a rookie into a winning team's lineup, as the Sox are considering with Brian Anderson in center field, than it is to do so with a 79-83, fourth-place team. Baker can't be overjoyed to put rookies in 25 percent of the eight spots in a National League team's batting order ahead of the pitcher. The known is always preferable to the unknown.
What truly would be thrilling is if everything clicks, the way it did for the Red and White Soxes these last astounding couple of years.
Some fans eagerly anticipated a "knothole" in the right-field area that would give pedestrians a peek at the Cubs in action. But this was a misconception because it never was the team's intent to offer fans a view of a game in progress. It was designed strictly as a peephole into the park for passersby whenever the Cubs are off-duty.
A much greater question is whether they will be worth watching this season when it is a game day.
Spring training has begun, but habitual hubbub about the Cubs has not.