By Randy Richardson
The Cubs’ biggest obstacle to winning that elusive World Series title won’t be the Nationals. Or the Dodgers. Or even the Red Sox.
No, the toughest challenge for the so-called Lovable Losers will be beating the odds.
Even as the prohibitive favorites, the odds are still against the Cubs finally ending their 108-year World Series drought.
The statistical experts at fivethirtyeight.com have the Cubs as the odds-on favorite to win the World Series at 27 percent, followed by the Red Sox at 22 percent and the Dodgers at 16 percent.
But being the favorite doesn’t mean the odds are actually in your favor. Sure it sounds nice to be the favorite until you realize that it means that there’s a 73 percent chance that the Cubs won’t win the World Series.
And it gets worse, Cubs fans. Fangraphs is even less optimistic, giving the Cubs a 20 percent chance of winning the World Series. That’s 1-out-of-5 odds.
Yet in the last 20 years going back to 1996, only two of baseball’s 22 100-win teams have won a World Series.
One might think that winning over 100 games would boost the Cubs a little extra. But actually it does just the opposite. The 100-win threshold remains the hallmark of the best teams in a given season.Yet in the last 20 years going back to 1996, only two of baseball’s 22 100-win teams have won a World Series. Interestingly enough, both were the Yankees: their 103-win 2009 and 114-win 1998 teams.
The Cubs of course have a chance to make it three but the historical odds are clearly stacked against them. If the track record of 100-win teams is any indicator, they have a slightly less than 10 percent chance of finally breaking that 108-year World Series drought.
But here’s the thing: At least the Cubs have a chance. Think back at all of those Cubs teams of the past that didn’t even make it to the playoffs. Since the last time the Cubs actually played in the World Series, 1945, only seven Cubs teams have even made it to the postseason. That averages to one postseason appearance a decade over the last 70 years. So nine out of 10 years the Cubs haven’t even made it to the starting gate of the postseason. With such a dismal record it’s not all that surprising that the last time the Cubs played in the World Series was at the end of World War II.
The Cubs archrivals in St. Louis, the Cards, have gone to the postseason 20 times over that same 70-year stretch. In other words, they had nearly three times the number of chances. They parlayed that into six world championships. It has been a decidedly one-sided rivalry.
The new Cubs’ regime, led by president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, has taken a page right out of the Cards’ playbook by building the franchise to be competitive year-to-year, which is a big improvement over the old century-to-century model.
The key is consistency, something that the Cardinals have mastered. The new Cubs’ regime, led by president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, has taken a page right out of the Cards’ playbook by building the franchise to be competitive year-to-year, which is a big improvement over the old century-to-century model.
Just five years into the new organizational plan Cubs fans are already seeing dividends. The team will be playing in the postseason in back-to-back seasons for only the second time since it last played in the World Series, the other time being the 2007-2008 seasons. The significance of that accomplishment shouldn’t be lost on anyone. The Cubs are putting themselves in a position to finally give the boot to that stinky old billy goat.
To win the race you have to be in it. The Cubs finally get that rather simple notion. It shouldn’t have taken them over a century to figure that out but let’s not get mired in that old hindsight thing.
And we must also realize that getting to the postseason is just the first step. There’s still a huge hill to climb to get to World Series glory. Just ask the Atlanta Braves. Since 1991, the Atlanta Braves have reached the postseason a remarkable 17 times – and yet they have won only one World Series championship in that stretch, in 1995. But, hey, that’s one more title than the Cubs.
So, Cubs fans, ignore the odds. They are tough to beat because they are always stacked against you. Don’t let them ruin the party.
Instead, enjoy the moment. Relish it. Breathe it all in. Close your eyes and blow on the dice. And let the good times roll.
Randy Richardson is the author of the Wrigleyville murder mystery, Lost in the Ivy, and a regular contributor to Wrigleyville Nation