After eliminating the St. Louis Cardinals from the division race, the Chicago Cubs turned their sights on clinching the division outright before they even get home to Wrigley Field. Of course, they did guarantee that they would come home to Chicago in first place after dispatching the Milwaukee Brewers, and having two routes to the NL Central crown is nice. Heck, even knowing they can back into the second wild card is nice. But did you know that the Cubs have never had a #0 in their uniform numbers history? No double zeroes, either.
Alas for the Cubs, the Brewers got to play the Reds this week, and the Reds aren’t exactly the most formidable opponent despite having some decent batters in the lineup. So, after a recently-rare off night from Jake Arrieta and a near-comeback, plus a poor Reds showing, the Cubs had to wait until Wednesday night to officially clinch. It didn’t look good at first, but John Lackey held firm and the Cubs offense finally teed off against Michael Wacha to turn the game into a blowout. For good measure, the Reds put some pressure on the Brewers by going ahead early and adding on.
It is a very good reminder that the Cubs are good, even when they look like crap for six innings. We’ve had to assuage your concerns all season long, even when the Cubs were under .500 and looking like they were in danger of missing the playoffs by the All-Star Break. But hey, that’s why they play 162, and over the course of a long season, we tend to see what a team’s true talent level is.
It certainly helps that everyone has remained healthy, even in the face of otherwise potentially catastrophic injury. There might be something to the Cubs’ new training facilities at home, the fitness and medical staff, and maybe even their diets, that are helping them stay fortunate when it comes to staying unbroken and productive. There’s something to be said for clinching on your biggest rival’s home field, too, and in front of a lot of your own fans in their place.
For folks who poo-poo the Cubs as a flash in the pan, this season is more validation of the original plan by Theo Epstein and friends, as the young guns kept adjusting and toiling to get out of their early funk and gather momentum into the postseason. This will be the first time since 1908 that the Cubs have gone to the playoffs three straight times, and while this won’t put the tired jokes to rest right away, it does help us dismiss them a bit more effectively (last year’s World Series championship certainly helped too). The way this team and front office is set up, you can almost imagine a 1990s Atlanta Braves-like run to the postseason, although I believe this team should be able to get a few more shots at the World Series crown…maybe even this year.
There are still a few days until the season officially ends, but with the magic number officially at zero, we can relax a bit more as we wait to see if the Cubs put out a roster as we imagined it. Based on recent memory, this is definitely a roster we can trust, even with the randomness within baseball. Now that they’re in, anything can happen. Why not hope for the best?