It has been nearly 108 years since the Chicago Cubs last won the Fall Classic over the Detroit Tigers. Since then, it’s been a vicious cycle, where the season starts one day and practically ends the next. That was until last year, when 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant took the reins and led the struggling franchise to a NLCS brawl against the New York Mets, which did not end up being much of a contest. Nevertheless, it was a step in the right direction for a team that had only been to the NLCS once since 1989. While we know it has to end at some point (or, at least we hope so), there are plenty of reasons as to why this year is simply not the year Cubs’ fans have been waiting their entire lives for. If history repeats itself, Cubs’ fans will be saying “maybe next season” once again before the end of October.
As the regular season reaches its dying days, only the Chicago Cubs are guaranteed a spot in the league’s postseason at the moment, and with thirteen games left on the schedule, they could finish 6-7 in those final thirteen games and still finish with 100 wins. How have 100-win teams fared in the playoffs? According to MLB.com, not very well. In fact, only one team (the 2009 New York Yankees) has won the World Series out of the 19 different teams that reached 100 wins since 1998. Even the Seattle Mariners, who finished with 116 wins in a single season, failed to complete the task. There were a total of six teams that ended the regular season with 100 wins or more in 2002 and 2003, but none of them were crowned champions. Does this mean that the Cubs, a team that is bound to finish with over 100 wins, are doomed when the calendar switches to October? Obviously not, but it definitely proves that teams that seemed to be invincible in the regular season are anything but in the games that really matter.
Teams that ended the regular season with the best record in the league have also had their troubles. Only once since the 1998 has the best regular season team won the World Series, again the 2009 Yankees, who finished with a record of 103-59. There have been some times where two teams have shared MLB’s best record and one of them came out on top. The most recent example of this is the 2013 Boston Red Sox, as both Boston and the St. Louis Cardinals finished with 97 wins on the season. Oddly enough, they met in the Fall Classic that year, where the Red Sox took the series in six games. Again, this does not mean that the Cubs have no hopes of lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy, but the odds are certainly against them.
One year in particular stands out when considering how much of an advantage a team has when winning their division. In 2014, both the Royals and Giants made it to the World Series, but neither team won their division. The Giants won the wild card game as the fifth seed in the National League and went on to capture their third title in just five seasons by defeating the American League’s fourth-seeded team.
Knowing that Cubs’ fans have been suffering for their entire life just to see their team win a championship, it is very understandable to be confident in this year’s group. But they should be warned that finishing strong in the regular season means nothing when the postseason comes around. It’s up to Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Jake Arrieta to finish the deal.
Oh, and I guess these plays by Addison Russell might help too.