The Cubs came into the season being the talk of the baseball world. Was this the year their 108-year World Championship drought ended? No way. They did. Okay, okay settle down; were the favorite coming into the year, how impressive is this? This is insanely impressive and here’s why.
Coming into his highly anticipated second season, slugger Kyle Schwarber played two games due to a nasty ACL tear. Aside from that, the Cubs managed to stay healthy all year. Their pitching staff suffered no injuries and their near perfect infield all played 145+ games. Staying healthy isn’t solely luck, and staying healthy was key to the Cubs regular season success. But they also overcame unlucky injury.
Jason Heyward was the second highest paid player on the Cub this year, and arguably their biggest offseason acquisition. After a 7/49/.230 batting line for the expensive right fielder, calling Heyward a disappointment would be an understatement. The postseason was even more dreadful for him. Hitting 1-12 against the Giants, 1-16 against the Dodgers, and 3-20 against the Indians made him look clueless at the plate. But they overcame Heyward.
Attention is something Chicago had to adapt to. The media were all over the Cubs. Every week the MLB experts and analysts were critiquing some aspect of the Cubs. Media pressure has seemed to effect the recent superior teams. How often does the best team coming into the season dominate the regular season and then win the championship? The 2007 Patriots? No. The 2015 Warriors? No. All eyes were on the Cubs and the target was on their back every single game of their 179 game season. But they overcame the attention.
The Giants winning the World Series on even years seemed about as consistent as the sun coming up in the morning. After winning the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants sneaking into the second wild card spot and beating the Mets in New York made it seem as if they would do it again. Chicago only needed four games to dispose of the pesky Giants, after a miraculous four-run ninth inning in San Francisco. But they overcame the even-year-Giants.
After being shutout in back-to-back games, Chicago found itself down 2-1 to the Dodgers with Kershaw looking to pitch again in the series. After winning two in a row, Kershaw took the hill in Game 6, with a potential Game 7 coming. Wrong. After five innings, Kershaw walked off the mound, having given up five runs. But they overcame Kershaw.
Finally, the World Series, a 108-year drought four games away from being no more. In the other dugout are the Cleveland Indians, but more importantly Terry Francona; who is 8-0 in World Series games. The Indians boast the 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, arguably the hottest relief pitcher in postseason history in Andrew Miller, and a rock solid closer in Cody Allen. Due to the AL winning the all-star game, Cleveland also has home-field advantage. But they overcame the Indians.
Down 3-1 in the series, a monumental hole in baseball, the Cubs won a game at home and then went to Cleveland and had to win back-to-back games on the road, with seemingly no margin for error. After putting on a hitting clinic in Game 6, Game 7 didn’t look good. Nine of the last 10 Game 7 winners have been the home team. Kluber dominated the Cubs in two of the Indians three wins, the Cubs are worst in the MLB when it comes to hitting the curveball (Kluber has that), Andrew Miller is well rested while Aroldis Chapman is not, and Kyle Hendricks has been hittable on the road. In the 8th inning, the Indians put together a rally for the ages, including a Rajai Davis game-tying home run that shook the city of Cleveland. But they overcame the odds and the momentum.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs campaign was a spectacle that will never be forgotten. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon, and the Cubs overcame everything thrown at them. Now they have one more challenge to overcome. How in the world will the Cubs parade find a way through the Chicago streets that might never sleep?