Two years ago the Cubs were indisputably the best team in baseball. They won 103 games and they somehow toted 108 years of baggage all the way to the finish line and, maybe you’ve heard this, won the World Series. They did it with an impossibly young team, and they did it ahead of schedule. Way ahead of schedule.
Since then, the Astros have won a World Series and the Dodgers have installed themselves as the class of the National League, winning 104 games last year and knocking the Cubs out of the playoffs.
And so, the Cubs are now seen as a really good team, but a team that’s maybe a half-step behind Houston and LA, and (gasp), perhaps even the Yankees.
But here’s the thing about that.
It’s not true.
You can forgive the Cubs for having an “off” year the season after they won the biggest world’s championship in the history of North American sports. If it were me, and I was on that team, I’d probably still be drunk. And for the Cubs, the “off” year was 92 wins, a division title and a playoff series win.
The addition of Yu Darvish is an upgrade over what Jake Arrieta is becoming. Look, we all love Jake and what he did in his four years with the Cubs was nothing short of amazing. But not only did his second half of 2015 set the bar impossibly high, but the decline was evident in 2016 and 2017. Is he still good? Of course he is. But Yu will be better than Jake the next few seasons. Tyler Chatwood is an upgrade over whatever the hell was left of John Lackey (mostly huge teeth, fastballs that caught too much of the plate and indecipherable corn pone nonsense), and a full season of Jose Quintana gives the Cubs the deepest rotation they’ve ever had.1
The bullpen might not have the “name” closer like Aroldis Chapman or Wade Davis, but this is the deepest ‘pen they’ve had since the glory days of Lee Smith, Tim Stoddard, Rich Bordi, Warren Brusstar, and George Frazier. Or something. Anyway, even if tiny-faced Justin Wilson doesn’t get his shit together, this bullpen should be a major strength. If he does…look out.
With Javy Baez playing second base full-time, the Cubs infield defense (including catcher) is by far the best in defense.2 The outfield defense will be excellent on the days when Albert Almora and Jason Heyward are both out there, and when it’s Schwarber-Happ-Zobrist…well, OK, maybe not that.
Offensively the Cubs will roll out a lineup every day of All-Star caliber players between the ages of 23 and 28 exclusively. They won the World Series two years ago with none of their key players 3 at their chronological peak. In other words, these guys should all be better than they were two years ago. Especially Kyle Schwarber. Our large adult son isn’t quite as large, but he’s plenty damned big enough, and there’s no way he’s not becoming an elite hitter. That World Series shit didn’t happen by accident.
On the bases, they’re not going to steal a lot of them, but this is how good the Cubs as a team are at running the bases. We just expect them to be good at it now, because the last four years they just have been. We watched this team for decades be complete shit at running the bases. They’re so good that we’ve forgotten all that awfulness altogether.
So this Cubs team has loaded pitching, a stacked lineup, incredible defense and top-notch base running. They also have an excellent manager, and a top notch front office. In other words, the Cubs are good at everything there is to be good at, and if somebody creates new things to be good at, they’ll just be good at those, too.
So here’s the bad news for every other team in baseball.
The Cubs are going to be dominant from the jump again this year. They’re going to win the World Series.
And there’s not a goddamned thing you can do about it.