2016 marked the end of the Chicago Cubs' championship drought. After 108 long years, the Cubs can once again claim to be the best team in all of Major League Baseball. Led by a core of young players and a manager with an unorthodox approach, the team proved that they were not only the future of baseball but also the present. Their victory in game 7 of The World Series, against the Cleveland Indians was a major turning point for the franchise. Instead of being seen as "the loveable losers", every team in baseball will now view the Cubs as a viable contender. Winning a championship is one thing, but establishing a championship dynasty, is far more difficult.
The Cubs have made it to the top of the Major League Baseball Mountain, but will they be able to stay there? We've seen past World Series Champions fail to even make the playoffs, the following season. However, with the majority of the Cubs' championship roster returning in 2017, there's reason to believe that a repeat of last year's success is possible. That being said, the MLB season is a long and rarely predictable. We know the Chicago Cubs "can" when it all again this year... but will they? Will Chicago once again be home to another World Championship or will another city claim the honor? Let's take a look at 8 reasons they'll repeat in 2017 and 7 reasons why they may not.
15 Will: One Of The Best Managers In Baseball
Joe Maddon has gained a reputation as being one of the premier coaches in all of Major League Baseball. In fact, he was awarded Manager of the Year honors in 2008, 2011 and again in 2015. He is known for making unorthodox moves, such as having his pitchers bat 8th in the lineup, as opposed to having them bat at the very bottom of the order, like most teams. He also had a great deal of success with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are a small market team, who are rarely able to sign big name free agents or retain many of their top stars, once their initial contracts are up. Despite these obstacles, Maddon was still able to take the team to the World Series in 2008. Now that Maddon is in a large market like Chicago, where there's plenty of money and resources, he should have many more successful seasons in the future.
14 Won't: Dexter Fowler Left For St. Louis
Dexter Fowler has been a major contributor for the Cubs over the last two seasons. Despite missing several games last year, due to injury, Fowler still put up solid numbers. He batted .276 and hit 13 home runs. Fowler also provided solid defensive play in center field. The Atlanta native was also named to the All-Star Team for the first time in his career. While he didn't have MVP type numbers like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo did, his production will still likely be missed. To make matters worse, he signed this off-season with the Cubs division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be interesting to see how the crowd at Wrigley Field reacts when Dexter Fowler returns in a Cardinal's uniform. The Cubs signed veteran Jon Jay to replace Fowler in center field.
13 Will: Jason Heyward Should Rebound
One of the Cub's biggest off-season moves, prior to the 2016 season, was signing outfielder Jason Heyward. The cubs and Heyward agreed to an eight-year deal worth 184 million dollars. Unfortunately, they didn't get the type of production they hoped for, especially given Heyward's lofty price tag. In his first season with the team, Heyward batted just .230 and hit only 7 home runs. The good news is that Heyward is still only 27 years, so he's just now entering his prime. He has a career batting average of .262 and once hit 27 home runs in a single season, back in 2012. His fielding is excellent, but his hitting will need to improve if he wants to remain a fixture in the Cub's starting lineup. However, given his success in previous years, there's good reason to believe he could be a big part of another postseason run for Chicago.
12 Won't: David Ross Retired
David Ross wasn't known for a being a great hitter during his MLB career. However, he was known for being a great teammate and a leader in the locker room. He was also an excellent catcher, who worked extremely well with star pitcher Jon Lester. Many players on the team seemed to look up to the veteran catcher, including Cubs standout 1st baseman, Anthony Rizzo. After the Cub's victory parade, Rizzo had this to say regarding his teammate Ross; "He's like a brother to me. He's taught me a lot in life - on the field, off the field, how to be a better person. I'm forever grateful for him, and he's going out a champion forever." While his bat likely won't be missed in the Cub's lineup, his wisdom will certainly be missed in the Cub's dugout. That being said, the team did recently re-hire Ross as a special assistant.
11 Will: Theo Epstein At The Helm
The Cub's President of Baseball Operations is one of the best executives in the entire league. If your team is supposedly cursed, then this is the man you need to talk to. He helped build the Red Sox team that broke the "Curse of the Bambino", by ending their World Series drought. Moreover, Epstein was also key in creating the Cubs team that ultimately broke the "Curse of the Billy Goat", by finally winning a championship after 108 years. He was even named Sporting News Executive of the Year in 2016. The Yale graduate began his career as a General Manager at the age of 28, which made the youngest in baseball history. Having an executive the caliber of Epstein, to help make personnel decisions, is a nice advantage for the Cubs going forward.
10 Won't: It's Statistically Hard To Repeat
There have been many outstanding teams who have won the World Series throughout the years. However, it's very rare that a team is able to win it all in consecutive seasons. The last team to win World Series in consecutive years was the New York Yankees back in 2000, roughly 17 years ago. The Yankees won it all in 1998, 1999, and 2000. Prior to that the Blue Jays won consecutive titles in the early 90's, preceded by the Yankee's teams of 1977 and 1978. As you can see winning back-to-back titles doesn't happen on a regular basis in Major League Baseball. However, the Cubs were actually the first team to win it all in consecutive seasons back in 1907 and 1908. Unfortunately, for Cub's fans, it would be 108 years before they would win another championship.
9 Will: Kris Bryant
Having the reigning National League MVP is always a good thing when you're trying to win another World Series. Kris Bryant has arguably become the best player in the N.L., after playing just two seasons in the big leagues. In 2016, he hit .292 and crushed 39 home runs, while making his 2nd appearance in the All-Star game. If Bryant is able to remain healthy he has a shot at becoming a Hall of Fame caliber player. The scary part is that Bryant is only 25 years old and will likely only get better. If you would like to learn more about Krist Bryant, check out Chicago Cubs: 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Kris Bryant And Anthony Rizzo. It's a must-read for baseball fans.
8 Won't: Injuries
The Cub's got off to a rough start last year on the injury front, after losing left fielder Kyle Schwarber for the season due to a leg injury. Schwarber suffered significant ligament damage in his knee as a result of a collision with center fielder Dexter Fowler. However, outside of the Schwarber injury, the majority of the Cub's starters were healthy throughout most of 2016. In fact, even Schwarber was able to come back for a few at-bats during the Cub's World Series run. Having a lot of young players may have made the Cubs a bit less susceptible to injuries than other teams. However, you can't always count on your star players being able to play the majority of the season every year. If the team isn't as lucky with injuries this year, it could hurt their chances to repeat.
7 Will: A Solid Core Of Young Players
The Cubs are not only very good, they are also very young. Many, if not most, of their key players are still in their 20s. MVP 3rd baseman Kris Bryant is just 25 years old. Shortstop Addison Russell is only 23 years of age. Even the veteran 1st baseman Anthony Rizzo is just now entering his prime at age 27. That means as great as these players already are, they will likely only be better in 2017. Even Cub's executive Theo Epstein is only 43 years of age, which is quite young compared to most of the GMs in Major League Baseball. It's possible, that by the time many of the Cub's players reach 30, they may have already won several World Series titles.
6 Won't: Lack Of Starting Pitching Depth
The Cubs had a pretty solid starting pitching rotation for their World Series run. Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta came into last season as premier starters, while fellow starter Kyle Hendricks had a breakout season. They also added John Lackey in 2016, who finished the season with a 3.35 ERA. Lastly, the rotation featured Jason Hammel who posted a respectable 3.83 ERA.
The team decided to part ways with Hammel prior to the start of the upcoming seasons. They also added Brett Anderson to be the 5th man in their rotation. Anderson is just 29 years old but has struggled with injury during his career. Jon Lester is 33 years old and Lackey turns 39 this upcoming October. While age doesn't necessarily equate to injury, it's still something to consider. Mike Montgomery had some nice starts last year, but beyond Montgomery, there isn't a lot of depth in the rotation.
5 Will: Kyle Schwarber Is Back From Injury
Last season the Cubs lost Kyle Schwarber very early on due to injury. This season Schwarber is back and healthy. In 2015, Schwarber hit 16 home runs and 43 RBI's with just 232 plate appearances. Schwarber will likely start in the outfield this season and may also play catcher if needed. He was considered a major power hitting prospect and was drafted 4th overall by the Cubs, back in 2014. At just 24 years of age, he could easily develop into a player who can be counted on to hit over 30 home runs on an annual basis. In fact, he may be able to so as early as 2017, if he is able to stay healthy. The sky is the limit for the talented youngster from Middletown, Ohio.
4 Won't: The Boston Red Sox Are Stacked
Don't let the hype around David Ortiz's retirement fool you; the Red Sox still have a stacked team. Their starting rotation which features Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, and David Price, is arguably the best in baseball. They have position players like Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts, who are all franchise caliber players. The Red Sox are a solid bet to win the American League this year. Boston will be a very tough out if they are able to make it to the postseason this year. The Sox are a team who look every bit as good as the Cubs, at least on paper. If the Cubs eventually meet the Red Sox in 2017 World Series, they will certainly have their hands full.
3 Will: Added Bullpen Depth
Last year's closer Aroldis Chapman left the Cubs and signed a long-term deal with the New York Yankees. However, the team found a suitable replacement in All-Star closer, Wade Davis. They traded outfielder Jorge Soler to the Royals, in order to acquire Davis. Davis should be able to fill Chapman's shoes as the team's closer. They also added Koji Uehara, who will compete for the role of setup man. Brian Duesing is another noteworthy reliever the Cubs added this offseason. When you consider they already have players like Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards, it's hard to argue the Cub's bullpen isn't impressive. If the Cub's are able to win it all again in 2017, the bullpen will likely play a major role. This group of relievers should be even better then last years.
2 Won't: Still Two Tough Teams In Their Division
The Cubs and their fan base would certainly love to see a repeat of last year's success. However, they shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves. Their division rivals the St. Louis Cardinals barely missed the playoffs last year. Moreover, that was the first time the Cards hadn't made the postseason since 2010. St. Louis is a very well run organization and they certainly should not be overlooked or be expected to just hand the N.L. Central over to the Cubs. The Pirates struggled a bit last year, but that was the first time they finished with a losing record since 2012. Don't be surprised if the Pirates return to relevance next season. The Cubs will need to keep these two teams at bay if they wish to clinch another division title.
1 Will: The Curse Is Finally Broken
During the 1946 World Series, a man named William Sianis was informed that the odor of his pet goat was offensive to the other spectators and was politely asked to exit Wrigley Field. This prompted Sianis to shout “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. This incident is known to Cubs' fans as “The Curse of the Billy Goat.” This incident took place during game four of the series between the Tigers and the Cubs. The Tigers would go on to eventually beat the Cubs in The World Series that year. Superstitious baseball fans often cited the curse as the reason the Cubs' couldn't win the World Series. However, now that the Cubs have finally won it all, the curse has been lifted. Without the dreaded Billy Goat Curse, there's nothing to stop the cubs from winning it all again in 2017.