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In Las Vegas today, in front of a sunworshipping sellout of 11,652, the Cubs, rather pointlessly, lost to the Mariners 2-1. I say "pointlessly" because most of the regulars made cameo appearances, most likely so the paying customers wouldn't complain, and then left the game to get ready for the team's flight to Cincinnati this evening.

The only thing of note today was Jason Marquis, who once again had his sinker working, and threw four credible innings, allowing only two hits and a run, striking out three and issuing no walks. Isn't that refreshing? A Cub pitcher issuing no walks?

In fact, no one at all walked today -- contributing to the rapid game time of two hours and thirteen minutes.

After the game was over I met Mike for dinner and to do some ticket exchanging, and to greet the new year, something we've been doing the weekend before the season begins every year for quite some time now.

And following that, I drove him back to his place, which isn't far from Wrigley Field. Passing by the ballpark, we saw some sort of film shoot going on -- not sure what it was, but there were quite a few people and bright lights lined up near the Harry Caray statue at Addison and Sheffield.

Now I'm going to write something that'll make you roll your eyes and figure I've gone out of my mind, but I'm going to say it anyway. On my way home I drove down Waveland, past the back of the bleachers. And somehow, seeing the ballpark, seeing the "CHICAGO CUBS" lit up in red on the back of the scoreboard, I felt an energy that I've rarely felt passing by that corner -- and I pass by there frequently, even in the offseason, in my travels around the city.

It felt different. It felt like something special is going to happen there this year. Maybe that's just my wishful thinking coming out, maybe it's just excited anticipation of the season to begin in less than 48 hours -- but something felt there that hasn't felt "there" before.

Let it be so.

Tomorrow, I'll post my annual predictions for the teams' finish; Mike's drawn a season-opener cartoon that you'll see either late tomorrow or early Monday...

... and then it's on to Cincinnati, and the first game discussion thread of the 2007 regular season.

Happy New Year to all!