Good times aren’t back at Wrigley yet, but you can see them from here

The Cubs making logical moves, plus struggling division rivals, means happy days might be returning to the North Side.

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The Cubs’ performance has given team president Jed Hoyer reason to smile.

The Cubs’ performance has given team president Jed Hoyer reason to smile.

Cliff Owen/AP

It feels like something is happening at Wrigley Field. I’m not going to saddle the Cubs’ front office with championship expectations just yet, but you can smell the burning embers of increased competition.

My Spidey sense is tingling.

It’s good to see Cubs president Jed Hoyer react to a slew of one-run losses with action. He hasn’t just brushed off winnable games as required growing pains. For the first time in years, the Cubs went looking for answers inside their own organization. I see that as a really good sign of progress.

Let me explain:

It would be easy for the front office to look at 2023 as a season that is only about development and not competition. I think even Cubs fans who are optimistic about the future might understand the approach.

During the offseason, the Cubs made sensible moves that incrementally have made them better. Most people would describe the offseason as solid, if not spectacular. The idea is that if the Cubs put in a respectable floor, they can add players next offseason who can push for a ceiling.

Every front office has a plan and a timeline. You only really need to look at the recent contract extensions to figure out what the Cubs’ timeline is. Ideally, with Nico Hoerner, Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Dansby Swanson signed through the 2026 season, it’s a pretty good indicator of the winning window.

I’m all for a good plan, but circumstances sometimes can change the best-laid plans. And I think we’re starting to see that now in the National League Central. The Pirates are regressing to their normal mean after a scorching-hot start. The Reds slowly are moving in the right direction, but they’re far away from being a threat. And then there are the Cardinals.

For decades, the Cardinals have been the envy of the NL. Even in seasons when they weren’t spectacular, they were consistent. Consistency can win you divisions. That hasn’t been the case so far this season. With the exit of Yadi Molina and an aging rotation, the Cardinals look erratic. Through almost a quarter of a season, they have been uncharacteristically panicky. And the Cubs can take advantage of that.

It must be incredibly satisfying for Cubs fans to look up and see the ‘‘Birds on the Bat’’ having a meltdown organizationally. That’s not usually how it works, but grab your popcorn because I think it might get worse before it gets better.

That leaves the Brewers, who are starting to get healthy. The talent in their pitching staff is cause for concern, but not so much that Cubs fans wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

As it stands right now, the Cubs are in position to compete to win the division. I think they see it, too. The call-ups of Matt Mervis and Christopher Morel were affirmative statements on how the team looked after a month of baseball.

You can see the Cubs are going to be a strong run-prevention team. If you want to geek out on something, watch how well Happ, Cody Bellinger and Suzuki are playing the outfield together. Their individual speed and collective communication have allowed them to turn doubles into singles. It might be a small thing, but winning in the margins is where the Cubs are at right now.

When Mervis was called up, there was a palpable excitement. So far, he has delivered. His bat plays at the major-league level and provides some much-needed offensive punch. He and Morel had perfected Triple-A hitting and should have been rewarded, but it doesn’t feel as though that was the only motive.

Hoyer said upon Mervis’ call-up: ‘‘The goal here is to impact winning.’’

This isn’t service-time manipulation. This isn’t wait till next year. I don’t know if the Cubs have all they need to compete, but they are arming themselves like a squad that is trying to take advantage of market inefficiency. The Cardinals might not be down for long. Take advantage while you can.

You can hear Laurence W. Holmes talk Chicago sports Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to
2 p.m. on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein.

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