The Cubs overcame a 3-1 series deficit to claim their first World Series title since 1908, and now a dynasty is brewing on the North Side of Chicago.
The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.
It’s not a sentence that anyone is used to hearing. After all, the Cubs were the lovable losers of Major League Baseball for more than a century. For 108 years, the Cubs exemplified futility. So many things happened in that span. Two World Wars were fought. 18 different presidents assumed office. Sliced bread was invented. But one thing remained constant: the Cubs were not champions.
During the past five years, though, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have turned Chicago into one of the most formidable franchises in the league. The pair has crafted a fully-balanced monster of a roster, loaded with talent in the field and on the mound.
This season, the Cubs led the league in run differential, team ERA, WHIP, and BABIP against and were third in runs scored and team wRC+. Kris Bryant is the favorite to take home the National League MVP award, and both Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are finalists for the National League Cy Young award.
That’s part of what makes the circumstances under which the Cubs ended their 108-year title drought all the more incredible. Even with all that talent, even with all of that success throughout the year, even after ending one drought by reaching their first World Series since 1945, the Cubs needed to create even more history in order to win a title.
Entering this season, only five teams in the history of the league had overcome a 3-1 series deficit to win the World Series, and no team had done it since 1985. All the momentum and a lot of the history was on Cleveland’s side in the series, but the Cubs constantly found a way to buck history.
You might think that would be enough, but the Cubs added a cherry on top by closing it all out in the greatest baseball game of the last 25 years, and one of the greatest games of all time.
Game 7 of the 2016 World Series had everything. A Dexter Fowler lead-off home run. A Jon Lester relief appearance that included a two-run scoring wild pitch. A David Ross insurance home run in the final game of his career. An improbable, game-tying home run by Rajai Davis in the bottom of the eighth inning. A rain delay. A Ben Zobrist game-winning double in extra innings. Kris Bryant smiling like a child who just found out he got a puppy for Christmas as he secured the final out. No one could have asked for more from this game.
Fun fact: according to the Smithsonian, there are roughly 70 supercentenarians — individuals of at least 110 years of age — alive today. Think about that for a moment. Approximately one in every 100,000,000 (about 0.00000098 percent of the Earth’s human population) person alive on the planet today lived through the entirety of the Cubs’ championship drought. That’s mind-boggingly absurd.
And so the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions. Say it over and over again and it still might not seem real. One of the most intriguing parts of this entire story, though, is that this year is far from the last time the Cubs will contend for a championship.
Epstein and company did not build this team by loading it with short-term contracts and old, wily vets determined to capitalize on a closing window. This team was torn down to its screws five years ago and was entirely rebuilt from the ground up.
The Cubs’ core is young and is locked up long-term.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, and Kyle Hendricks — all essential cogs in the Cubs machine — are 27 years old or younger. All of them are also signed through at least the 2019 season.
Ben Zobrist and Jon Lester are a hair older than the preceding group, but both are key components to Chicago’s success and are signed long-term, through 2019 and 2020 respectively.
That’s not to say Chicago doesn’t have work to do in the upcoming offseasons. Center fielder Dexter Fowler is a free agent this winter, as is rental closer Aroldis Chapman, and both are expected to sign long-term with a different team. Starting pitcher and former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta will become a free agent after next season, as will fellow starter John Lackey.
The Cubs will have a few pieces to move around and replace during the offseason, but their main core of position players and two of their most important starting pitchers are staying in Chicago for at least the next three seasons.
Chicago will return with enormous expectations, but infinitely less pressure and significantly more experience. Almost every significant contributing piece will return to a team that sat at or near the top of the league in every major offensive and pitching statistical category, and won a championship. That should terrify the rest of Major League Baseball, and excite every fan who enjoyed the wild ride the Cubs took us on this season.
The Chicago Cubs are World Series champions. It’s a sentence you should get used to, because you’re going to hear it quite often over the next several seasons as a dynasty blooms in the North Side of Chicago.
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