Will the Cubs Thrive in 20-1-5?

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Somewhere, I can hear the late great Ernie Banks giving his annual rally cry for his beloved Chicago Cubs. Every year, he spins a rhyme about the Cubs succeeding this season. This year, I can almost hear him saying “The Cubs are gonna thrive, in 20-1-5”. They were not always perfect, but come on… there are not many words that rhyme with 15, and even fewer that actually make sense.

In case you did not know, the Cubs have a history with goats, specifically in 1945 and the alleged “curse of the billy goat” which has supposedly kept the Cubs out of the World Series ever since the team did not allow a goat into a World Series game. This year though, the goat is back. If you were not aware, according to the Chinese Calendar, this is “the year of the goat” which comes around once every 12 years. Any time you say the words goat and Cubs in the same sentence, some fans will be bound to get nervous; even though there is absolutely no reason to.

In case you were wondering, the last time the Chinese calendar celebrated the “year of the goat” was in 2003, and we all remember what happened then.

Despite the Chinese calendar and their past, the Cubs have some heavy expectations placed on them for the coming season. The first prediction that the Cubs would win the World Series came all the way back in 1989, the same year the Cubs won the National League East, only to fall to Will Clark and the damn San Francisco Giants. In that year, a movie also predicted that the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015. Remember Marty McFly time traveling to 2015?

Well, 2015 has finally arrived, and while that movie has gotten many things wrong, they have also gotten a few things right. Who is to say that they did not get another thing right? If by some chance they did correctly predict the Cubs winning the World Series 26 years before hand, that movie will become even more legendary. As things currently stand, they did correctly predict there would be a baseball team in Miami four years before they even existed, though they probably had heard there would be one. They just got the league wrong.

But futuristic comedies aside, they might have been the first to predict the Cubs winning the World Series in 2015, but they certainly were not the last.

In his introductory press conference new Cubs manager Joe Maddon told the world that the Cubs were going to make the playoffs. His expectations are sky high. He knows the talent the Cubs have on the team, and fully believes that he has enough to make a run for a playoff spot. This was even before the Cubs ponied up the cash to sign Jon Lester or trade for Miguel Montero. Call him over confident if you want, but I like that out of my manager. Someone who always believes that he has enough to win, and has no problem telling everyone what he wants and believes.

About a week and a half ago, Cubs All Star first baseman echoed his new manager, but took things a little further. Rizzo fully believes that the Cubs will not only make the playoffs, but that they will beat out the St. Louis Cardinals and win the National League Central. That is one bold prediction, one that he is not shying away from. He said to quote him on his prediction, and he has been quoted; over and over again.

But the biggest prediction (one from modern times) came just a little over two weeks ago. That is when the Sporting News predicted the Cubs would win the World Series!  Unlike the movie Back to the Future II, they actually used some logic while the movie just used the Cubs as a running gag. While the Sporting News may be a little on the optimistic side, predicting them to do more than Rizzo and more than Maddon, they have gave some sound reason. They added one of the best managers in the game, they had one of the best bullpens in baseball last year and added a true Ace at the top of their pitching rotation. While Lester cannot win the division by himself, pairing him with Jake Arrieta who had a break out season last year to go along with Jason Hammel back in blue and up and coming pitcher Kyle Hendricks the Cubs could have a pretty good starting rotation that could keep the Cubs in games.

Add in the young players who are coming up through the system (like Kris Bryant) and there is plenty of reason for optimism. The Cubs have a very good chance to make a serious playoff run. The Cubs, for the first time since 2008 have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs; especially now that there are two Wild Card spots in each league.

But the Sporting News did not predict the Cubs to just make the playoffs, the said they believe the Cubs have enough to win the whole damn thing. That is something that Ernie would have also believed in. The question is, how realistic are any of these predictions?

Let’s start with Maddon, and his prediction of the Cubs making the playoffs. With the two Wild Cards, the Cubs have a very good chance to make the playoffs. Even though that would only give them a one and done, win and your in situation, they would still have technically have made the playoffs. In order to do that though, the Cubs have to at least beat out two of the teams in their own division, which is possible. The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers are not overly scary, and the Cubs could potentially surpass them in the divisional standings. All they have to do after that, is to beat out every other non divisional winner, which would include some other teams that have seriously improved.

Two of the top three teams in the National League West will be tough to get past. The Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres are all going to be tough to beat out. Is that an impossible task? No, but that will be pretty hard to do. Add in the teams from the East, other than the Washington Nationals, there might not be too much of a threat, but there are always teams that jump in out of nowhere to claim a playoff spot. Perhaps the Cubs could be that team this year.

Rizzo’s prediction might be a little easier, but not easy at all. Getting past the St. Louis Cardinals will not be easy. The Cardinals and their black magic always seem to be around the top of the division. They lose great players, and replace them without even missing a step. Whether or not you want to accept this, the Cardinals are the kings of this division and if you want to win the Central, you will have to knock the king off the mountain top. That is a hard task, but might be easier than beating out 10 other teams for the second Wild Card spot.

As far as Sporting News and Back to the Future II, honestly, that is a lot easier than just getting in. Once you get into the playoffs, no matter how you get in, anything can happen. Recent history shows that the World Series winning team has frequently been a Wild Card team, such as in 2003 when those blasted Florida Marlins beat the Cubs to advance to and win the World Series; or even last year when the Wild Card winning Giants beat the Wild Card winning Kansas City Royals.

If the Cubs just get in to the playoffs as Maddon suggested, or win the division as Rizzo predicted, there is a chance they can win the World Series. Is this a sure thing? Do the Cubs seriously have more than enough to not only make the playoffs but win the World Series?

In my opinion, the Cubs might be a year and a player away from being serious contenders, but who am I to disagree with a movie, a manager, a player and other reporters? The Cubs have a shot, but taking advantage of that shot is what will matter most.

But, I will not try to talk you out of your optimism or your expectations. You know who else will not tell you to? Epstein.

If he is not going to tell you to tempter your expectations, who the hell am I to? For years he has told us to be patient and not overshoot the moon with what you expect, but now he is telling us to expect whatever we want. If the team falls apart, hold them accountable.

I doubt Epstien would tell Cubs fans that if he honestly felt the Cubs were still a ways off from being watchable and in position to strike.

Do the Cubs have enough to “thrive in 20-1-5” as Ernie might say? We will find out in a matter of months! Whatever happens, one way or another this will be one entertaining year.

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