MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

A guide for Cubs fans on handling success

A guide for Cubs fans on handling success

CHICAGO -- Stifle that smile, Cubs fans.

You're better than that. We know you are.

Don't take pleasure in the Cardinals' pain, not this time. There's little worse than the disappointment of losing a great, young pitcher like Alex Reyes to a season-ending injury on the first day of Spring Training.

We understand rivalries, but you want your team, at its best, to outplay its rival, at its best. Your Cubs will be better if they're pushed during the regular season by teams like the Cardinals and the Pirates. The regular season is always better with a little intrigue.

Based on the record sales of World Series merchandise, we know these are different days. At last, the high road is open for Cubs fans, so why not take it?

Cubs' youth ready for next step

We're here to help. With the Cubs having held their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, now seems like a good time for a quick primer on handling success:

1. Don't feel entitled.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has done a great job stacking the odds in the Cubs' favor, but that doesn't mean another 100-win season is guaranteed. There will be bumps in the road. There will be injuries. There will be slumps. There might even be a losing streak somewhere along the line. When adversity appears, don't start pointing fingers. More to the point, enjoy the wins just as much as you did before Game 7 of last year's World Series. Don't micromanage the fun out of success.

2. Don't turn on the manager.
Running a Major League team might look easy, but it's not. You may not agree with all of Joe Maddon's moves, but keep some numbers in mind, please.

Prior to 2015, the Cubs compiled a .511 regular-season winning percentage in their long history, dating to 1876. It is .619 in Maddon's two seasons on the job. More significant, the Cubs are 15-11 in two postseasons under Maddon. They had been 18-50 in postseason games since winning the 1908 World Series, up until Maddon took the helm. Remember that the next time you don't like a pitching change.

Cubs relive Game 7, postseason

3. Don't disavow Dexter Fowler.
Sure, Fowler signed with the Cardinals, just as the Cubs took Jason Heyward and John Lackey out of St. Louis. Business is business. Fowler is the same guy he was the past two seasons, when he was a Wrigley Field headliner. Treat him with respect. Root for him in 143 games a year, and for sure send him over a drink if you see him out and about.

4. Fear the Dodgers, Nationals and Giants. The Mets, too (remember the 2015 National League Championship Series?).
While the Cubs have assembled a young lineup that whispers dynasty, there are other strong teams in the NL. The Dodgers have won 91-plus games four years in a row, and have more young talent coming behind Corey Seager. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA rankings project the Dodgers to win 99 games this year. That's serious business.

5. Don't ask when the Cubs are retiring David Ross' number.
Ross was a great character in the Cubs' storyline the past two years, and produced a 1.7 WAR last season. On the other hand, he turns 40 in March and leaves the Cubs in good shape behind the plate with Willson Contreras as the regular and Miguel Montero the backup. Jon Lester should be fine working with Contreras, even if he doesn't know it yet.

6. Take time to check on Eloy Jimenez's progress, and to look ahead to the June Draft.
While owner Tom Ricketts is enhancing Wrigley Field and growing the team's revenue, acquiring and developing top amateur players remains the key to sustained success, even if prospects like Gleyber Torres, Daniel Vogelbach, Jeimer Candelario and Ian Happ are turned into trade bait because of a set roster. Jimenez, a power hitter who could reach Double-A at age 20, is so highly regarded that he's probably untouchable. The Cubs hold the 27th and 30th picks in this year's Draft, and this stuff matters as much as it did in the early Epstein years.

Top Prospects: Jimenez, CHC

7. Don't treat Jake Arrieta like he's waving adios.
Arrieta's impending free agency is cause for concern. He's been a tipping-point guy for the pitching staff the past two years, fueling the run to the postseason and the NLCS in 2015 and winning two critical games in the '16 World Series. Letting Arrieta walk after the season is easily justified given his age and stated desire for a seven-year contract, as the ability to replace him with someone younger requires a shorter commitment. But the Cubs also have an opportunity to keep him, and until Epstein says so, there's no need to abandon hope of a contract extension.

Outlook: Arrieta, SP, CHC

8. Don't pick sides between Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez.
Both are huge assets. The depth they provide is a major advantage over every other team. Trust Maddon to juggle them between second base and elsewhere. Don't favor one so much that you complain about the other one. There will be ground balls Zobrist doesn't get to and times when Baez strikes out with a chance to move runners. Always important to remember: It's hard on the ears when fans complain about the ins and outs of winning teams.

9. Never look past the Division Series.
One downside to the former Braves and Yankees dynasties was the lack of excitement generated by annual trips to the Division Series, with some fans saving their time and money for the World Series. If the Cubs are successful enough to put together a long streak of postseason appearances, please continue to obsess over every game. The victories over the Giants and Dodgers last year provided almost as much memorable drama as the World Series.

10. Tip your bartenders (and vendors) well.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.