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Cubs’ party will be wild, even without the World Series prediction

The Cubs Convention should be quite the affair this weekend, what with the team set to go all the way in 2015.

Wait, you didn’t hear? Yes, it’s true: The Cubs will win the World Series this season. That prediction comes not from a fired-up fan base but from a noted brand, SportingNews.com. It’s a development that raises the question, Can an entire website have a drinking problem?

Now, no one is exactly sure what criteria Sporting News used or whether Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan financially backed the study. But forget about that. The point is that hope is in the air, and it’s thicker than I can ever remember it being.

It will be on display Friday through Sunday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The Cubs Convention traditionally attracts the truest of true believers, the kind of people who each season are certain that This Is the Year, when, in fact, It Most Certainly Is Not. So I’m not sure how the fans dressed up this weekend in their best Ron Santo jerseys and oversized Harry Caray glasses can get a better buzz than the one they already have. I just know they’ll try.

If I might add a teaspoon of reality to the proceedings: Doesn’t there have to be a way station on the journey to the top? After five straight fifth-place finishes in their division, don’t the Cubs have to get to second or third place in a season before they get to first? Most people don’t go from benching 100 pounds one day to 300 pounds a month later. Not unless they’re hitting the Flintstones Vitamins really hard.

For a moment, forget the 106 years of futility that has defined this franchise. In the past five seasons, the Cubs have gone 73-89, 66-96, 61-101, 71-91 and 75-87, respectively. Winning a World Series after such a run of wretchedness would defy some sort of natural law. Baseball is supposed to be hard.

OK, enough with the reality and back to the high hopes. Sporting News might not realize it, but its World Series prediction reflects the mindset of a portion of a Cubs’ fan base that wants to be done with the pain and suffering. That got old about 10 amputations ago.

Now there are all kinds of reasons to believe. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has built a deep farm system. He hired Joe Maddon to manage the team, a coup if there ever was one. And he signed an ace, Jon Lester, beating out other teams that might have offered more attractive situations.

There is every reason to believe that the Cubs and their fans have turned a corner at a high rate of speed.

That’s why there is so much anticipation about this year’s convention. It’s a realistic kind of anticipation. For the first time in three years, it’s not just about projections, about who might be called up to the big leagues and when. It’s about flesh and blood. All the hotshot young players will be in attendance this weekend: Javy Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Addison Russell. Presents to be unwrapped soon.

When Lester is introduced to a roaring crowd at Friday’s opening ceremony, there’s a decent chance the hotel will slide into the Chicago River, solving the future glut at shortstop. In those roars will be a mixture of euphoria and relief over the end of a nightmare. Are the dark times almost over? Well, the prodigious losing should be a thing of the past. Beyond that, I’ll leave the rest of it to your hope level.

If you want to be a party pooper, raise your hand at one of the convention’s Q & A sessions and ask where the offense will be coming from in 2015. If it’s supposed to come from all those young players, there’s a good chance the Cubs won’t get a sniff of the playoffs. Please see Baez’s struggles in 2014 as a reminder of how difficult it is to hit in the major leagues. It bears repeating: Baseball is supposed to be hard.

After last season ended, the Cubs’ odds of winning the 2015 World Series were 50-1, according to Bovada.com. Those odds moved to 12-1 after they added Maddon and Lester. I thought it insane, considering the team’s struggle to get on base the past three seasons.

And then Sporting News came out with its prediction late last week, making Bovada look as conservative as a banker’s suit.

I believe in miracles. But I do have limits.