Although the Chicago Cubs are coming off a 61-101 season, team president Theo Epstein sounded an optimistic tone in recent days as the team's push toward spring training heated up.
"It's postseason or bust every year," Epstein said. "That's what our goal is."
If teams and their executives, even realistic ones like Epstein, can't be optimistic in the middle of winter, they can never be optimistic.
Cold reality figures to hit soon enough. Epstein was quick to point out that while he's optimistic for 2013, the long-term plan is still in effect.
"That said, we're obviously building for something greater, which is a time when we can expect to be in the postseason every year," he said. "Behind the scenes, regardless of the results, there's progress being made, but as far as 2013, you can define it as a success or failure by whether we get to postseason or ultimately whether we win a World Series."
The Cubs have beefed up their pitching staff with the additions of starters Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker and Scott Feldman along with late-inning reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. The offense is still suspect, but the pitchers, if healthy, may be able to keep the Cubs respectable.
As the team's winter caravan and annual fan convention kicked off, Epstein was asked if his rebuilding plan was on schedule. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have been on the job less than a year and a half.
"It never goes quite as fast or quite as well as you want it to because no one likes being in a situation where you're looking up at teams," Epstein said. "You want teams to be looking up at you. But if you look to where we were a year ago to where we are now, I think we've added several core pieces on the big-league club. Several guys stepped up and emerged.
"Our minor league system, I think, is in better shape than it was a year ago. I have a lot of confidence in the infrastructure and the processes we've put in place in scouting and development. If we have another year as productive as this one was in terms of adding young players and having players step up into the core, I feel great about the schedule that we're on. But nothing's taken for granted."