MLB Postseason: For the Cubs, pressure may be even greater than you think

Sep 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) reacts after hitting a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) reacts after hitting a single against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Win the whole f****** thing – Tom Berenger, Major League, 1989

Every team in every sport has that goal. But for most, winning a world championship is not required to have a successful season. One of two things happen in the postseason. Either a team gets far in the playoffs and fans are happy. Or a team performs up to their standards, things don’t work out, and the fans still want everybody fired. But in the case of the 2016 Chicago Cubs, they have to win the whole thing.

It isn’t because they have unfair expectations placed on them like the Pirates had last season. It’s not just because they haven’t won in 108 years. It’s because they haven’t won in 108 years, and they no excuses not to break ”The Curse of the Billy Goat” in 2016.

The Cubs have the most talent in baseball by a reasonable margin. They also have a large bank account and, thanks to Theo Epstien and Jed Hoyer, know how to spend their abundance of cash. They are not dealing with any major injuries, and have one of the sharpest managers in the game. So Chicago has no excuses to win a title.

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The question that I am asking is; has any team in baseball history faced this much pressure? Sure, the Cubs have had their chances since 1908. But before the Bartman incident in 2003, the Cubs were perceived as loveable, happy-go-lucky, dammed if we do, damned if we don’t losers. That all changed, mainly due to the heartless reactions of Cubs fans after the Bartman ball. Therefore, everything that happened before 2004 is wiped out as far as this debate goes.

Since 2003, the Cubs have been to the playoffs three times, winning a total of 5 games. In 2008, the Cubs were 97-64, which was the best record in the NL. Their series dreams ended early, as the LA Dodgers swept them in embarrassing fashion. The 2008 Cubbies had pressure on them, but then again, the NLDS washout from the previous year probably tampered the fans expectations a bit and took some of the shocks away from that same fate happening in 08.

2016 has a different feel for the Cubs. They are on the heels of a surprising playoff run in 2015, where they won 97 games and advanced to the NLCS, before bowing out to the Mets in another sweep. Although the ending was bitter, the 2015 Cubs were a young team that gave their fanbase loads of optimism for the future, so I think that 2015 gave a positive vibe to the Windy City. Fast forward a year, and the Cubs are expected to win. They were supposed to dominate before the season started, and are even more expected to dominate now. So, all of these things considered, I think this Cubs team has more to lose than any other in franchise history. But what about other notable droughts?

The 2004 Red Sox had a ridiculous amount of pressure on them. As all who are reading this should know, the Sox went 86 years without a championship and blew their chance in 2003 thanks to Aaron Boone‘s bat and Grady Little‘s stupidity. Boston did have enormous pressure, but what’s different about these Cubs is that they don’t have a New York Yankees, meaning that nobody in the NL should, at least theoretically, give them a run for their money.

The Cubs crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox, went 88 years without getting a ring. But the White Sox didn’t even have the most infamous curse in their city. This is because Chicago has always been a Cubs town. Not only is Chicago a Cubs town, but baseball fans in the entire Midwest region who do not support the St. Louis Cardinals (who are not cursed) are Cubs fans. So not only are the Chicago baseball fans putting pressure on the Cubs, but fans from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, etc. are hoping and praying for a winner.

The Red Sox had that as well, as they are an institution of the Northeast region. But what separates Chicago and Boston (other than 22 years between droughts) to me is, again, the New York Yankees. Had the Red Sox not made that miraculous comeback against the evil empire in 2004, at least they would have lost to a worthy foe. The Cubs don’t have that type of competition now.

A loss to any NL team would be shocking and gut-wrenching for all of Cubs Nation. Yes, there are teams in the American League that I feel could give Chicago some problems. But if the Cubs were to get to the fall classic and lose, it would be even more gutting than it would be if they bowed out in the NLDS. The Cubs have not been to the World Series since 1945, so being there would electrify the city of Chicago, and the more pumped the fans are, the more deflated they will be if things go awry. Imagine if they got that close to getting the world’s largest gorilla off of their backs and fell short.

The second big point that I want my readers to think about is that unless the Cubs win the whole thing, their fanbase has no room to talk down on any other fanbase in baseball. One of my college friends, Jacob Meyer, believes that, no matter what happens with during the playoffs, the Cubs will go down as 2016’s best team. Well, that may be true in the sense that the Cubs were the league’s best team from April-early October. But so what? It is true that the Cubs were better than our Pirates were in 2016. If the Cubs were to crash and burn like we all want them to, Cubs fans will still talk down to Pirates fans because of the regular season.

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But fans of the Pirates and every other major league team will have something in which no Cubs fan will have an answer to, and that is that every other team in the history of North American sports that was around in 1908 has won a championship since then. The Minnesota Twins were the worst team in baseball this season. The Chicago Cubs were the best team in baseball this season. But guess what? The Twins have won 2 championships since 1908. So, if two friends are at a bar, one from Minneapolis, the other from the North Side, guess which one would have the upper hand in an argument should the Cubs go down in flames? That’s right. The person who’s favorite team went 59-103.

The Pirates have won 5 titles since 1908. The Cardinals have won 11. The Yankees have won 27. The Giants have won 8. The Braves have earned a title in 3 different cities. You get the idea. So yes, the Cubs have been flying in 2016. Yes, they should still be remembered as a good team regardless of what transpires over the next few weeks. But do fans of the Chicago Cubs have the right to stick out their chest and proudly proclaim their dominance? Until they get that ring, no. Because the Cubs have the most dubious drought in sports, and that’s something that no other franchise has over their heads.