Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
The Chicago Cubs: World Series or Bust?
Baseball fans, I have avoided talking about the Chicago Cubs for weeks. What was there to say? Cubs win, are winning, and keep winning? You don’t need me to tell you that.
The Cubs started this season wanting to do two things; win and chew bubblegum and they ran out of bubblegum a long time ago. Manager Joe Maddon turned the cursed team around in 2015 and has done nothing but dominate in 2016. I picked them to win the NL Central this season and it’s been painfully obvious to the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cincinnati Reds that none of them have a chance at catching them. The Cardinals are the closest and they are a staggering 16 games back.
So why am I bringing them up now? As we get into the second week of September, we are getting closer to the playoffs and possibly the Cubs breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat. But what if the curse isn’t broken? What if the Cubs have this epic season that has made them untouchable in the race for the playoffs and they lose the World Series? Or worse, don’t even make it to the World Series? What are the chances?
One doesn’t need to look to far back to find a similar fan disappointment; just talk to a Golden State Warrior fan. In 2015 the Warriors were it! They were the team to beat, but very few could get it done. The Warriors finished the season with a record of 73-9 breaking record for most wins in a single season previously held 1996 Chicago Bulls 72-10. One would say that the Warriors created their own version of basketball Camelot, but even Camelot can fall. Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came in and crushed the dreams of this record breaking team; Stephen Curry would have to try again next year.
After the loss heard round the world, head coach Steve Kerr said that “All the talk and focus on the record got them away from the process and what makes us who we are; what makes us good”. The pressure to win, stress of the season, and long playoff rounds are all rumored to be what contributed to the end of the Warriors season. Could the Cubs see the same demise?
Unlike the Warriors, there has been little talk about the Cubs breaking in win records. When they surpassed 45 losses they left the record for wins in a modern 162 game season in the dust. The record for most wins is currently held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners with 116-46. That Mariners team went on to lose the American League Championship to the New York Yankees and the Yankees went on the to lose to the World Series the the Arizona Diamondbacks. Breaking records, doesn’t necessarily win championships. We all know everything can change in the playoffs.
The other two factors; a stressful season and long playoff run could however affect the Cubs. Maddon has built his reputation on being different and having a player centric way of coaching but 162 games regular season games is long for any team. Keeping the game fun will be key in keeping the stress in the clubhouse low; it’s just another game. Whether or not long playoff series will be an issue is yet to be seen and hard to predict. I’m thinking they will take the divisional series 3-1, the National League Championship 4-1, and yes I’ll call it, the World Series 4-2. Right now I think they have what it takes to lay the billy goat to rest.
So back to my original question; what if they don’t win the World Series? There is always next year.