OF COURSE, IT’S THE CUBS. HOW COULD IT NOT BE THE CUBS!?
In 2016, for the first time in 71 years, the Cubs appeared in a World Series. This is a huge deal, unlike any other team drought we’ve ever seen. When the Red Sox won in 2004 it was their first win in 86 years, but they’ve appeared in four Fall Classics since then. In fact, their 2004 win was only 18 years removed from their last appearance in 1986. The Cubs have waited 71 years to even come close to winning a World Series and have waited 108 years to actually be Champions of the World.
The Cubs came into the 2016 season atop every preseason power rankings. The previous season the Cubs found themselves towards the middle of the pack, and their surge to frontrunners was met with Nationals-esque skepticism. The Sports Illustrated Preseason Power Rankings have lost their step these past few years. Finding yourself at the #1 spot has taken a Madden Cover type curse. The Washington Nationals have found themselves in the top 5 teams for the past four years in a row and they have still been unable to capitalize on that promise. The Cubs came in at #1 in 2016, and they delivered on those expectations almost immediately. In their first 30 games, the Cubs went 24-6. Those are some Golden State Warriors numbers. It started to seem like the Cubs would never lose a game again. This team was powerful and young and they took no prisoners.
Within the first month of play, Jake Arrieta had already thrown a No-Hitter. After the 4th day of the season, the Cubs never relinquished their top spot in the league. NEVER. NOT ONCE. This team didn’t dish out beatings, they brought domination. And with a lineup as jam packed with as much talent as they have, it’s not surprising. This year was billed as Kris Bryant’s coming out party, but he was joined by many more of his teammates than expected.
Among the other Cubs stars to surge into their own in 2016 were Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez and Dexter Fowler. The offseason additions of Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward only half came to fruition, as Heyward struggled to get even remotely close to his previous form. Zobrist was the complete opposite. Not only did he come alive in the playoffs, earning MVP honors in the World Series, but Zobrist provided outfield help when Kyle Schwarber went down for the season and made way for Javy Baez to explode on the scene.
The real triumph of the season was how well the Cubs played despite losing key guys to slumps and injuries. This team continued to blossom into an elite ball club all the way through the World Series.
At first, I criticized the move to add Aroldis Chapman, saying:
“The Chicago Cubs now have Aroldis Chapman… The Chicago Cubs have to win the World Series this year, right? Like, they fucking HAVE TO. You just can’t waltz into the year with that payroll and that hot start then sign the hardest throwing pitcher in the league and lose? RIGHT?! RIGHT!?! I think this is a strange move from Epstein. Look, on paper, hell of a deal. In real life? This seems to be a strong move for a team who had 100+ runs in differential than the entire league. They have statistically the best bullpen in the league AND THEN they got Chapman. Doesn’t that seem weird? It’s a weird move now. It shows a lack of confidence, it shows a lack of depth, and you finally put Aroldis Chapman in a pressure situation for a team who is playing to win and he blows his first save attempt and didn’t tell anyone he doesn’t like to get 4 out saves. So there’s that. It’s a bold move, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.”
I get where that idea comes from. I do. HOWEVER, this now looks like an insurance move. Without Chapman, the Cubs probably don’t win a World Series, but they still come close. That’s what that trade was about, leaving ZERO DOUBT that breaking a 71-year drought was possible.
Before the fateful 1945 World Series, the Chicago Cubs had been in the World Series 9 times, giving them the third-most appearances at the time, behind the Yankees and the New York Giants. Their 9 World Series appearances are more than 20 current teams have. The Cubs were also the first team to ever win a championship in back to back years by raising banners in 1907 and 1908, their most recent championship. They were also the first team to appear in three consecutive World Series. The Cubs were a strong organization up until 1945, and then the wheels fell off… for 71 years.
But that’s about to change. The Chicago Cubs are standing on the brink of greatness, the beginning of a dynasty. Two thirds of their World Series Starters are under the age of 27. This team is stacked and young. This is the 1998 Yankees, part two. We are not just witnessing a team break a 108-year-old curse, we’re watching a legendary squad come into their own before our eyes. The Cubs won the 2016 World Series, but they also won 2016.