The Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945. Congratulations are definitely in order and celebrations by long-suffering fans are absolutely justified.
But lost in the jubilation in the streets of America’s third-largest city is the fact that it ain’t over. You were clearly the best team in baseball this season as you steamrolled through the National League with a 103-58 record. But it wasn’t so much your stable of pitchers or your stacked lineup that got you here as much as it was a couple of front office moves starting with the 2011 decision to hire Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations. After a successful stint with Boston where he steered the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years, Espstein’s deft decision-making helped break the “Curse of the Bambino” and send the city of Boston into pandemonium. Now he’s on the verge of breaking another curse for another city.
The first three years of Epstein’s tenure in Chicago didn’t fare so well, as the Cubs ended up last in their division from 2011-2014. But then in 2015 they hired a new manager, the eclectic Joe Maddon who had somehow lead the lowly Tampa Bay Rays to a .517 winning percentage over the previous decade. During his first year in Chicago he took the Cubs to the playoffs. This year, to the World Series.
With the current Cubs lineup, it would have been shocking had they not made it to the World Series this year. And I suppose a drought of 71 years is reason to act like you already won. But don’t forget, beginning Tuesday there will be a team on the other side of the field that no one gave a chance to win this year, and all they’ve done is go 7-1 in the post season while playing in superior league. No, the Cleveland Indians aren’t as sexy on paper as the Cubs, but they have a ton of momentum right now and they’re battling history too. You see, the Indians haven’t won a World Series title since 1948, and oh by the way, they’re managed by the same guy who lead the Red Sox to their first World Series Championship in a million years in Terry Francona.
As someone who sat through plenty of games at Wrigley in the 1980s watching Sandberg and Dawson play, and singing along with Harry Caray in the 7th inning, I’m happy for Cubs fans. But there was something great about being amidst so many long-suffereing, yet happy people. The Cubs were lovable. The fans resilient. Now the Cubs are more like a juggernaut, and I have mixed emotions about that.
So congratulations Cubs fans. You’ve got the best team and front office in baseball and you deserve to celebrate. Just remember, getting to the World Series isn’t the end game. You still need four more wins. And the Indians, who have home field in this last series of 2016, are no slouch.