A Once-in-a-Century Season

Randy Ollie, Sports Editor

With the Major League Baseball preseason in full swing, baseball fans across the country are gearing up for what looks to be another competitive and exciting year for America’s favorite pastime. Along with the excitement and jubilation that precede the start of the regular sea­son this summer, another feeling has been permeat­ing throughout Chicago’s north side: hope.

Chicago Cubs fans have plenty of reasons to be hopeful after a 2015 sea­son that was chock-full of accolades and accom­plishments. In his MLB debut, third baseman Kris Bryant was named MLB Rookie of the Year, while manger Joe Maddon was named MLB Manager of the Year after only one season with the Cubs. Ace pitcher Jake Arrieta was also honored with the Cy Young Award, making him the most awarded player to step onto the mound in 2015. The last MLB team to win three of the four Base­ball Writers Association of America awards in the same season was the Seat­tle Mariners in 2001, mak­ing the Cubs the 13th team to accomplish the feat.

While Bryant, Maddon and Arrieta represented integral parts in the Cubs’ National League Champi­onship berth — a rare feat for a franchise that has historically struggled — the Cubs’ roster is much deeper than two future all-stars and a potential Hall of Fame manager. Jon Lester and John Lackey provide the Cubs with a solid rotation of reliable pitchers, and first base­man Anthony Rizzo’s per­formance this past season already has him as an MVP front-runner.

The Cubs’ pitching was a lethal force last season, ranking first in the MLB in WHIP (a sabermetric measurement of the number of base runners a pitcher has allowed per inning pitched) and batting average against and third in earned run average. Their hitting defi­nitely showed room for improvement, but the young Cubs still rocketed more than a few balls out of Wrigley Field last season.

Excitement for the Cubs’ prospects extends beyond the North Side of Chi­cago. The Vegas superbook has the Cubs’ odds of winning the World Series at 4–1 — the only team that has cham­pionship odds in the single digits. Any sports fan should recognize the impli­cations of the Cubs now being a con­tender in the MLB. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was over a century ago in 1908. The team’s fail­ure to win a World Series in 107 years represents the longest drought of any sports team in North America.

Blame for this disparity and the gen­eral lack of any championship hardware has always been like a game of hot po­tato in Wrigleyville. Whether it is an in­effectual front office or underperform­ing players, no one has ever been able to put their finger on why the Cubs are the least decorated team in profession­al sports. Some diehard fans even pro­claim that the Curse of the Billy Goat is the real culprit — as if kicking a man out of Wrigley Field in 1945 because his goat was too smelly somehow affected the Cubs’ prospects for years to come.

While I certainly don’t want to jinx what could potentially be a champi­onship season, if the Cubs do win the World Series there will inevitably be serious consequences. For example, on the Boston Red Soxs’ way to their first championship in over 86 years, fans were arrested by the dozens and caused thousands of dollars in property damage. A young fan actually died af­ter an unfortunate run-in with Boston riot police. Chicago is no novice when it comes to sports riots; the 1992 riot after the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA title resulted in over $10 million in property damage, numerous arrests and two casualties, representing one of the most infamous sports riots in history.

That being said, the Cubs have a long road ahead of them and a season ripe with opportunity to disappoint one of the most dedicated fanbases in American sports. For most Cubs fans, the Cubs winning a World Series would rectify a lifetime of disappointment and frustration. But undeniably for all, the Cubs winning their third World Series would be a once-in-a-lifetime event.