CHICAGO -- Theo Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations, remembers the feeling in the clubhouse after the Opening Night win over the Angels, and sensed that the players could tell how good they can be. That feeling has continued through the first 30 games, as the Cubs have posted the best record in the Major Leagues.
"We're thrilled with the start we've gotten off to, but we're not blinded by it," Epstein said on Tuesday. "We're in a stretch right now when winning seems far easier than it actually is. We know there is going to be a stretch, probably a long stretch this year, when winning even one game seems virtually impossible. That's the nature of baseball. We're not blinded by it.
"There's a saying in the office, 'We're in a tree.' We want to stay up there as long as we can, but we're going to get down at some point."
The Cubs are off to their best start through 30 games since they went 24-6 to begin the 1907 season, which ended with a World Series championship. Epstein knows the prognosticators picked the Cubs to win it all this season, but he's also well aware of the ups and downs in a season.
"We still have vulnerabilities, we still have areas where we need to get better, we still have challenges and more adversity to come," he said. "We're going to suffer injuries, we're going to suffer downturns of performance. We're going to go through stretches of bad luck, we'll go through stretches of bad performance, we're going to run into really hot teams. We want to stay as locked in as we are right now, but the game is very humbling, and we're aware that time is coming when there will be great challenges. We almost look forward to [challenges]. That's when you find out what you're made of."
The Cubs have had to overcome a season-ending injury to outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who tore two ligaments in his left knee on April 7. Catcher Miguel Montero has been sidelined since April 25 with tightness in his lower back, and outfielder Matt Szczur is on the disabled list with a sore hamstring.
Entering Tuesday's game, the Cubs had the best pitching staff in the National League as well as a plus-102 run differential, but Epstein isn't planning any October celebrations just yet. He is quick to point out that the Cubs finished third in the NL Central last year, and they have a losing record during his tenure.
"There are teams who have gone out and earned that [recognition]," he said. "The Atlanta Braves went out and made it to the postseason 14 straight times. The San Francisco Giants won three out of five World Series. The Yankees and Red Sox are in the postseason every year, the Cardinals, too. Those are teams that should be lauded for their accomplishments.
"Hopefully, at the end of the year, we can look up and say we earned what people said about us."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.