The last time the Cubs played a truly meaningful game, Barack Obama was still a U.S. senator and the "Twilight" series existed only in book form. It's been a long, rough road through the unmet high expectations of 2009, the midseason quit job of 2010 and the general malaise of 2011.
But I believe the franchise may have hit rock bottom, and there's no way from there but up. If you've disengaged from regular Cubs fandom—and judging by sinking broadcast ratings and empty seats at Wrigley, you have—now is the time to make like Captain Picard. (Engage.)
The Cubs just took two of three from the playoff-contending N.Y. Mets and swept lowly Houston. That 5-1 home stand was the North Siders' best since a 6-1 run at the Friendly Confines in July 2009. That's almost three years since we've had a more Steve Goodman-filled week. (Yes, they still play "Go Cubs Go" after wins. They're not going to stop.)
Anthony Rizzo hit his first homer with the Cubs. A pitcher named Wood threw 14 2/3 scoreless innings, and it wasn't Kerry. The first 20,000 people at the ballpark got free shaving cream pies. Hell, it's July and Alfonso Soriano hasn't made an error in the outfield yet! Except for the lone loss, a 17-1 laugher, good times returned to Wrigley.
Don't get me wrong, this Cubs team will remain double-digit games out of first place for the remainder of 2012. They've dug a big hole because they've played a lot of bad baseball. They need better starting pitching. They need to get on base more frequently. It ain't about this season.
But why not 2013? With the new wild-card format, the Cubs will have a 1-in-3 shot at postseason play on Opening Day 2013. And Theo's crew has only $35 million committed to next year's payroll. Financial freedom for free agency: Now there are some F-words we haven't heard to describe the Cubs lately.
If you've been waiting for signs of life from this franchise, I've got one more F-word for this team: finally.
Alex Quigley is a RedEye special contributor.