So what do the Chicago Cubs have planned for an encore?

After a 15-2 win on Opening Day, anything less than a 162-0 season, a blitz through the playoffs and a World Series parade down the Magnificent Mile will be disappointing for Chicago. But then, we’re dealing with the Cubs and they play in Major League Baseball.

And nothing will be disappointing about baseball when October rolls around.

America’s national pastime is back. The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and the NBA playoffs approach, but Opening Day signals the beginning of summer.

Don’t mind the feathery downpour of snow at Baltimore’s Camden Yards or the 13-minute snow delay midway through the game. Instead of Louisville Slugger Day, the Orioles should hand out shovels to the first 5,000 fans for today’s game against Cleveland.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the 2003 season. Nearly every team that can walk and chew Bazooka Bubblegum without tripping can make the postseason. After the Anaheim Angels Disneyesque run to a title last year and the Minnesota Twins popping the Oakland A’s with the threat of contraction breathing down their necks, every team feels they have a shot. Well, almost everyone.

When the Chicago Cubs score more runs on an Opening Day game since 1899, you know they’re headed for another bad century. Three years into the next millennium, and you can write off the Cubbies like asparagus-flavored ice cream.

Icicles will form in hell, pigs will sprout condor wings and Pete Rose will confess his gambling sprees to Jim Gray at the next All-Star break before the Windy City Wonder Duds – the Cubs – win a World Series.

In the American League, the Yanks and Boston Red Sox will be at each other’s throats in the East. Out in the Central, the Chicago White Sox and the Twins will go neck-and-neck, and the Indians will slowly gain some ground. The AL West is more like a decathalon: Oakland, Anaheim, Seattle and Texas can all break through.

Everyone’s alive in the National League East. Atlanta and Philadelphia are heavy favorites, but if either slip, the New York Mets, Marlins or Expos can – with 82-88 wins – capitalize and win the East. St. Louis, Houston and Chicago can all win. And the NL West may be the tightest race in some time with Arizona, San Francisco and L.A. all exchanging blows.

But no matter who wins when, it’s still baseball. Grab a hot dog, a malt and a fold up chair and you’re already halfway to heaven. Except the Cubs. They’re still in purgatory.

-Eliav Appelbaum is the Daily Nexus sports editor. “ILL Spittin’ Game” will appear every Wednesday.