101 wins and counting. How good does that odd number sound? How much better does it feel, Wrigleyville Nation?
The last time the Chicago Cubs produced such a spectacular regular season record was 1910. The Cubbies were just two years removed from their final World Series victory of the 20th Century, the beginning of a 100-plus seasons of Chicago heartbreak.
It’s 2016 and the Cubs aren’t just the best current team in Major League Baseball. This is one of the elite clubs in recorded history. And with a few games remaining before the season officially ends this Sunday, our winning ways may yet continue.
It’s an emotional, even poetic time for fans and sportswriters alike. I got a little choked up this morning reading Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander’s Cubs Have 101 Wins and That’s No Fluke. Like so many of us experiencing this glory alongside the ghosts of diehards past, Telander writes of a moment not experienced since, “before this old scribe’s father was born, before this scribe’s grandfathers were in junior high — one in Chicago, one in St. Louis. This was just two years after the Cubs won their last World Series, something we take on faith because no one now alive saw it.”
Faith. It’s been in short supply lo these many Wrigley years. But the good feelings come rather easily these days. Telander mixes a few metaphors trying to pin down the sensation with words:
“The 101 wins seemed to come almost casually, as if the Cubs simply pressed the accelerator on their precision Indy car and flew past other racers with lesser machines… They come out of every potential disaster smelling like a wedding bouquet.”
The Cubs haven’t been to the big show in so long, it’s not quite accurate to ask if the perennial team of bridesmaids might finally walk down the aisle. Most of us have never been asked to content ourselves with runner-up. But damned if all scenarios don’t feel possible, especially when 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, likely 2016 MVP and beloved fan favorite Kris Bryant is saying stuff like this. For devotees like myself, last year’s team was the most exciting and promising…well ever. For a critical All-Star to believe this iteration of the Cubs could “crush” those great guys? If this is a dream, let’s not wake up, eh Chicago?
While the Cubbies can’t eclipse the 2001 Seattle Mariners and their 116-game winning season (a modern record that might frankly never be touched), a victory tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates, plus two out of three from the final series against the Cincinnati Reds could add another beautiful dimension to 2016. After all, the 1909 Cubs also won 104 games…but didn’t make the playoffs.
There’s a number of caveats at work here. 1909 occurred before the start of the two-division league structure and expanded playoff format introduced in 1969. As Wikipedia’s crowd sourced experts accurately put it, “With the Divisional Series and Wild Card format in place today, it is extremely unlikely for a team with a 100-win regular season to fail to qualify for at least a Wild Card berth.”
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Cubs were the first to clinch their 2016 playoff spot, giving loyal fans the unprecedented luxury of time. Time to anxiously pace the floor for those too battle scarred to relax. Time to pop a few metaphorical bottles and revel in greatness for those desperate to quench decades of thirst.
101 wins. Maybe more. It’s a gorgeous number, no matter how this weekend’s contests play out. And it feels miraculous.