I've had a sneak peek through the proverbial crystal ball at the Cubs' 2014 season. It was a little foggy, as is the photo above, but here's what might, or might not, happen over the next several months.
January 7: The Cubs sign Masahiro Tanaka to a six-year, $140 million, backloaded contract with a no-trade clause. The signing immediately makes the Cubs so popular in Japan that the phone system at the Wrigley Field ticket office crashes after tens of thousands of Japanese fans call in, wanting to jump the waiting-list line and buy season tickets. BCBer elgato picks Tanaka up at the airport to drive him to his welcome news conference.
February 15: Rick Renteria, asked if he'll continue the spring-training bunting contest, says, "Nope. That was Dale Sveum's thing." Nate the Video Guy quits in protest.
March 28: The Cubs end the spring season with a record of 25-11, causing absolutely no one to predict that they will repeat this winning stretch during the regular season.
April 3: The Cubs complete a three-game sweep of the Pirates in the opening series at Pittsburgh, two of them shutouts by Tanaka and Travis Wood. Tanaka throws 145 pitches in his two-hit shutout. When reporters ask if that isn't a bit too many, pitching coach Chris Bosio says, "He did it in Japan! He can do it here!"
April 10: The Cubs fall to last place in the N.L. Central after being swept on their six-game homestand by the Phillies and Pirates.
April 15: Unseasonably cold weather brings a freak April snowstorm to New York City, with a foot of snow falling. Both games of a scheduled two-game interleague series between the Cubs and Yankees are snowed out. Both teams take the subway to midtown Manhattan and stage a sit-in at MLB headquarters, protesting: "Why did you schedule these games this way?"
April 23: The Cubs celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field against the Diamondbacks. It's sunny but cold (43 degrees at game time), and the crowd of 31,211 is 10,000 short of a sellout. The Cubs lose 8-1.
May 6: Torrential rains hit Chicago, postponing the two Cubs/White Sox games at Wrigley Field. They are rescheduled for day-night, two-ballpark doubleheaders on May 7 and 8. The Cubs win three of the four games to win the Crosstown Cup for the second straight year.
June 3: Tanaka has to leave a start against the Mets with what is described as "shoulder trouble."
June 4: Tanaka is placed on the disabled list. Tsuyoshi Wada is recalled from Iowa to replace him in the rotation.
June 20: Javier Baez is recalled from Iowa, where he has hit .366/.415/.603 with 18 home runs in 60 games. He's immediately installed at third base, and hits a home run in his first major-league at-bat, off Gerrit Cole of the Pirates. At least 40 bloggers write a story with the theme: "Why wasn't he brought up sooner?"
June 29: As part of celebrating each decade of Cubs history, the Cubs are wearing throwback uniforms for every Sunday game. The visiting teams have gotten into the spirit, but when this day's opponent, the Nationals, are asked to wear 1970 Montreal Expos uniforms, they refuse, saying, "Expos? What are Expos?" After three hours of negotiations, the Nats take the field wearing these uniforms -- after the game, the Cubs say they found them in a storage room in a sub-basement at Wrigley Field.
July 2: The Cubs are swept by the Red Sox in a three-game series at Fenway Park. Theo Epstein is seen leaving Fenway muttering to Jed Hoyer, "Remind me again why I asked for this series on the schedule?"
July 13: The Cubs are swept by the Braves at Wrigley Field and hit the All-Star break with a 40-53 record. Theo Epstein is spotted with a cellphone literally glued to his ear, as he works to begin the usual round of deadline deals. After one deal falls through, he rips skin off his ear when he pulls the literally-glued phone off.
July 28: Jeff Samardzija is traded to a mystery team. No, really. None of the other 29 teams is willing to reveal which one receives Shark's services. The Cubs are to get three players to be named later, none of whom can be from above the High-A level, after the season is over. Shark will spend the rest of 2014 in an airline club at O'Hare, awaiting instructions on where to fly.
August 4: The rooftop owners reach a milestone: they issue their 1,000th threat to sue the Cubs.
August 18: Unable to find other dates for their two snowed-out games to be made up, the Yankees and Cubs play a night game at Yankee Stadium -- after the Cubs play the Mets in an afternoon affair at Citi Field. The Cubs win both games, but still sit 10 games under .500.
August 24: Because neither team wants to give up their August 25 off day, the Cubs reschedule their Sunday home game against the Orioles for 10 a.m. CT so they can fly to New York to play the Yankees in the other snowout makeup at 8 p.m. ET the same day, after the Yankees' home game against the White Sox. The Cubs win the morning game, but lose to the Yankees in New York. ESPN switches Sunday night coverage to the Cubs/Yankees, dumping a previously-scheduled Mets/Dodgers matchup.
August 31: Tanaka returns from the disabled list and throws five shutout innings against the Cardinals in an ESPN Sunday night game. After the game Tanaka is asked if his workload might get lessened on his return from injury. His translator says, "I cannot say what Mr. Tanaka said, while your cameras are rolling."
September 10: Anthony Rizzo hits his 30th home run of the season and Javier Baez his 12th since his recall and 30th combined between Triple-A and the major leagues as the Cubs crush the Blue Jays 14-0 in Toronto, their eighth straight win, to pull to within four games of .500.
September 28: The Cubs beat the Brewers in Milwaukee 4-3 and finish 81-81. Tsuyoshi Wada gets the win, Kyuji Fujikawa picks up the save, and the Cubs' popularity in Japan overflows with joy.