108 years was the time between World Series Championships for the Chicago Cubs. The longest sports championship drought in the history of North American sports ended on November 2nd 2016. Now, can the Cubs repeat, and become the first team to do so since the 2000 New York Yankees?
This upcoming version of the Chicago Cubs returns much of the squad that brought the parade to the Windy City. With the catalysts of the offense in team leaders Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant leading the charge, amongst a bevy of other sluggers in the lineup; the offense isn’t likely to miss a beat. And the pitching returns four of the five starters from last season that contributed the most to the full-season of success. And, driving the ship built by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is manager Joe Maddon.
Looking over how the Cubs got to this incredible position of sustained success, in what some feel could be a budding dynasty, it dates back to October 12, 2011 when the Cubs signed Theo Epstein to overhaul the baseball operations of the franchise. Since then the incline has slowly formed towards the top of the baseball pyramid.
The Cubs last season won the most games in the regular season with 103. They won the NL Central by 17.5 games, and dominated all season, save a short stretch near the All-Star break. Seven all-star represented the team, and more could have had a case been made on their behalf.
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Third basemen Kris Bryant captured the Most Valuable Player for the National League. Pitcher Jake Arrieta and Rizzo earned Silver Slugger awards. Outfielder Jason Heyward, and again Rizzo won Gold Gloves, and a strong case could have been made that Kyle Hendricks should have won the NL Cy Young Award.
The Cubs didn’t leave much on the table in terms of things to accomplish. They certainly came very close to letting the title slip away with the late inning heroics of Rajai Davis in Cleveland. However, World Series MVP Ben Zobrist erased those concerns with what would be the game-winning hit in extra innings.
Currently the Cubs stand as the team that is projected to win the most games with 96, according to Fangraphs. Obviously, health and possible transactions could affect that number, but as it currented stands is the expected most wins in MLB.
As with all sports, the expression ‘heavy lies the crown’, comes into thought when trying to defend the title. All eyes will be on the Cubs as they try to make more history. But, what stands in there way of winning it all again?