Chicago Cubs look to erase years of drought and capitalize on optimistic regular season predictions
Every Chicago Cubs fan’s favorite word is “hope.” Every offseason brings hope that new top players will join the team. Every spring training brings hope for a great start to the season. And every April brings hope that the Cubs can put together a World Series winning team.
That sentiment is no less true this season, but this year Cubs fans have some confidence to back up their hope.
The Cubs are a team notoriously known for being cursed. In 1969, a black cat crossed home plate during a late-season series between the New York Mets and the Cubs. After the game, the Cubs collapsed and lost first place in the division to the Mets.
Last postseason the Cubs faced off against the Mets once more, yet the Mets swept the Cubs in a heartwrenching playoff series. The Cubs, with a prolific offense and highly-regarded pitching staff, seemed to be the favorites going into the matchup. Fans were distraught after the loss and linked the loss to the cursed 1969 game.
Most infamous of all is the 2003 playoff series against the Florida Marlins, in which innocent fan Steve Bartman robbed outfielder Moises Alou of an out, leading to a historic collapse.
The Cubs come into the 2016 season as the favorites to win the Major League Baseball World Series. According to VegasInsider.com, the Cubs hold 9-to-2 odds of winning the 2016 World Series — the top odds given in Major League Baseball.
And for good reason — this is one of the best offensive teams in Cubs’ history. Nearly every player in the Cubs lineup is a threat — from first baseman Anthony Rizzo to shortstop Addison Russell. Put that together with a solid pitching staff headlined by 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta, a formidable bullpen anchored by closer Hector Rondon and one of the best managers in the league in Joe Maddon, and you have a recipe for success.
But there is something more to this year’s Cubs team. The Cubs have had great hitting teams before — note the 2008 division-winning team with Alfonso Soriano — and great pitching teams before, as well — note the 2003 playoff squad with Kerry Wood and Mark Prior — but this year, there is something different: there is a trust in the system.
Maddon emphasized the importance of trust among players and coaches alike. “I really trust my players,” Maddon said. “They have to trust me, but I have to trust them, meaning that when you talk about pressure and expectations it’s spread out among the whole group. It’s not just one guy. We have so many good players here.”
The Cubs’ players are not just playing for themselves. They are not just playing to hit as many home runs as they can or to strike out as many people as they can. They are playing for each other.
Hanging on top of the Lakeview Baseball Club building just outside Wrigley Field is a sign that reads “Eamus Catuli AC,” followed by a series of numbers. Eamus Catuli translates loosely from Latin to mean “Let’s go Cubs,” while AC stands for “Anno Catuli,” meaning “in the years of the Cubs.” The numbers correspond to the number of years since the Chicago Cubs have won the division, league and World Series, respectively. This season, that sign will read 107 at the end — meaning it has been 107 years since the Cubs last won the World Series in the 1908 season.
That is a large number, and it comes with a lot of pressure, but the Cubs know that if they trust in their system and take games day-by-day, they will be fine.
“If you want it to be, it could get too much, but I feel like our group doesn’t let it,” Rizzo said. “Right now, we’re really hungry. We’re a hungry team. Anyone in this clubhouse thinking about the World Series right now [is] in the wrong spot. We have to think about tomorrow and dominating April. And keeping it small steps.”
The Cubs will win if they do just that. Here’s to hoping they can.