The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series title in 108 years. Unquestionably, this is one of the strangest enigmas in all of professional sports. Basic probability dictates that it was bound to happen at least once in that time span. Instead, Chicago's north side has remained without a championship for over a century and counting.
While losses have often outnumbered wins for the Cubs, in the last several years, with the arrival of new manager Joe Madden, and new president Theo Epstein, they've built a winning culture, with the results showing in their season records. In 2015, the Cubs advanced all the way to the NLCS, where they were swept by the Mets in four games. With the addition of burgeoning young stars in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the team is clearly on the upturn, and primed to be a World Series contender for years to come.
On the other side of the coin however, lies the curse that has plagued the franchise for the last 108 years. Whether it's the "Curse of the Billy Goat" from 1945, or Steve Bartman's infamous fan interference in game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins, the team seems to have a hex placed upon them from the baseball gods. Indeed, it seems that it would take a kind of supernatural power to render them without a title for 108 years. Yet, it has continued without fail.
The Cubs are off to a quality start for this season, but how long will it last? Is this the year they finally break their World Series curse, and win a fall classic for the first time since the Taft Administration? I would have to say not.
Ranked below are the top 15 reasons the Chicago Cubs will not break the curse in 2016.
15 Their Starting Pitching Has To Stay Healthy
Although the Cubs do posses a quality starting rotation, injury risk has to be somewhat of a concern. Four out of five on the staff - Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta - are all at least 30-years-old. Two of them are at least 33-years-old, and it's fair to wonder how much durability these talented, yet aging arms will last over the course of an entire 162 game season, plus the postseason. It certainly can be done, but the probability suggests that at least one of them will miss substantial time, and given the importance of starting pitching in general, it could end up costing the team when they need them the most.
14 Their Roster Is Inexperienced In The Postseason
Even including their trip to the postseason last year, this is a young roster that doesn't have much in the way of a veteran presence that has had the experience of making a deep run in October. This fact reared it's ugly head in the NLCS in 2015, when the Cubs offense was effectively shut down. Only one player, Kyle Schwarber, managed to hit over .250 for the series, while the team as a whole mustered up just eight runs in the four game sweep. That doesn't necessarily mean the struggles will continue this postseason, but it is certainly something to consider, when the pitching they will face is likely to be of a similar caliber.
13 Joe Madden Has Never Won A World Series
Make no mistake, Joe Madden is a great manager, and has had much success during his career, but he still has never won a title at the helm of an MLB team. He had numerous chances to do so in Tampa Bay, and while he managed one AL Pennant in 2008, he lost in the World Series that year to the Phillies. Several other seasons with the Rays resulted in playoff appearances, but he never could get them back to the Fall Classic. With a manager lacking in championship success, it could hurt the Cubs in the postseason this year, when there is likely to be some kind of personnel that has had that ultimate victory on the opposing team.
12 The Bullpen Has Been Hit Or Miss
While the starting pitching has been lights out so far in the 2016 campaign, the bullpen hasn't been without it's fair share of struggles. No starting pitcher on the staff has an ERA above 3.54, and three have an ERA under 2.00. Contrast that with the bullpen staff, which currently has five arms posting an ERA of 3.95 or higher, and four of those are at least at a 4.82. Essentially, this means that the bulk of the bullpen is currently giving up runs at a high rate, which could prove disastrous in the playoffs, where timely pitching in late innings is key. Only Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill are dependable out of the group, and even they have had problems with control, walking a combined 16 hitters in 27 total innings.
11 They Have Had Good Teams Before And Failed
This isn't the first time that the Cubs have fielded a very good roster, which made many think that a World Series victory was imminent. They racked up first place finishes in 2008, 2007 and 2003, all of which resulted in ultimate failure. Sometimes the recent narrative has been twisted to the point where nobody really admits that the team has seen success before, and that this is an unprecedented occurrence, which simply isn't the case. Sure, the team is essentially run by different people today, but let's all admit that they have at least had opportunities in the modern era, and haven't been able to capitalize on them.
10 The Corner Outfield Production Is Lacking
In addition to the bullpen struggles the team is currently experiencing, the offensive production from both corner outfield positions has been absolutely awful so far. These are two positions that are often relied upon for high-average or power-hitting capabilities, and neither is being provided for Chicago right now. Left fielder Jorge Soler is hitting .175, with a lowly six RBIs, while right fielder Jason Heyward has hit just .216, with no HRs to his credit. This simply can not continue if the team wants to beat quality competition in October. There has to be some semblance of production from at least one corner outfield position, and while they have time to turn it around through improved play or replacements, the fact that it's been so bad over a month into the season does not bode well.
9 Jake Arrieta Isn't As Good As Other Ace Pitchers
Arrieta is certainly worthy of being atop the Cubs rotation, but he still doesn't have the historical success as other pitchers in his role throughout the league. Pretty much every baseball fan at this point knows that Arrieta's career was falling fast with the Orioles, and only became a consistent arm when he went to Chicago in 2013. Amazingly, he has turned himself into the staff's ace, and done a complete 180 with his career. He's earned it, but I wonder how probable it is for him to outperform other elite arms in the postseason. Can he really out-duel the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg under the big lights? Time will tell.
8 The Rest Of The Lineup Has To Prove Themselves
We know that the Cubs have two stars in their starting lineup in the form of first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant. Other than that, there's a lot of questions as to whether the rest of them can sustain success throughout this long of a season. Addison Russell is only in his second year, center fielder Dexter Fowler, while having a career year now, had been just a decent outfielder for years prior. Veteran catchers David Ross and Tim Federowicz have been the definition of journeymen throughout their career, and never really established themselves for any one team. These are all questions that will continue to be asked as the season progresses, and we will see if they can turn into positive answers in the postseason.
7 Outfield Depth Is Thin
We've already established the struggles from the Cubs' corner outfield this season, who are producing near-nothing offensively. However, their really aren't many options in-house to replace them. Backups Javier Baez and Ryan Kalish are inexperienced, young players that likely would produce similar results if thrust into an everyday starting role. Overall, the only one in the outfield playing consistently is Dexter Fowler, scoring 25 runs, and hitting at a .333 clip so far this season. I doubt the Cubs can out-hit quality competition in the playoffs if this trend continues, and the fact that there is little to turn to on the bench makes this an increasingly troublesome situation.
6 Infield Depth Is Thin
Okay, so the depth overall for this team won't light the world on fire. Tommy La Stella is a versatile player who can play all over the infield, and same as several others on the roster, is having a career year this season. He's a good player, but again, forced into an everyday starting role, he probably won't be producing at the same rate. Outfielder Javier Baez can also play several infield positions, and much like La Stella, he's good in limited quantities. The general lack of a veteran presence on the bench (other than catchers Ross and Federowicz), could hurt this team in a postseason situation. Especially in the National League, where the bench is utilized by necessity, rather than manually as a change of pace or DH selection.
5 They Won't Beat The Nationals In The NLCS
When it comes down to it, the Cubs' World Series chances are hindered just because of the competition they likely will have to face, even if they make it past the first round. The Nationals have hitters all over the field in the form of Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Zimmerman. It's a great mix of veterans and, youth, and combined with the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer in their rotation, they have the youthful yet experienced edge there as well. Overall, they're just a more durable, productive version of the Cubs, and unless the career years that are being had on Chicago's roster continue, it will likely result in a playoff exit for them, continuing the curse.
4 They Won't Beat The Dodgers In The NLCS
The Dodgers' record will even out as the season progresses, and ultimately prove that much like the Nationals, their mix of productive youth and veterans can beat Chicago in a major playoff series. Again, the lineup is stacked, featuring the likes of Yasiel Puig, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Power-hitting, batting average, speed, and clutch-hitting are all accounted for. The rotation features ace Clayton Kershaw, who gets the one-up on Arrieta, Scott Kazmir, and the back end can be held up with quality arms in Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling. This makes two prominent National League teams that can beat the Cubs pretty handily in a seven game series.
3 They May Not Even Be The Best Team In Chicago
In what has become a most unlikely scenario, both the Cubs and White Sox are having stellar seasons so far, and one could make the argument that if the Fall Classic featured both teams, that the South Side would end up victorious. A lineup that features Jose Abreu, Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Todd Frazier could project to out-hit the Cubs current lineup. It would likely be a close series, but the Cubs losing out on a World Series to their fellow team in the city would be the most appropriate thing to happen, adding exponentially to the heartbreak they've suffered over the last 108 years.
2 They Just Always Have The Worst Luck
Seriously, there isn't a more plagued team in the history of professional sports than the Cubs (although the Detroit Lions and their one playoff win in the last 50 years comes close). The infamous Steve Bartman incident wouldn't have happened to any other team in baseball, and to make matters worse, it had to happen in a pivotal situation during an NLCS playoff game. I generally don't place too much stock into superstitions, but when you look at the many terrible seasons this franchise had, combined with the unfortunate incidents that occur when they have the occasional run, it's hard to believe that there isn't something supernatural or external in play here.
1 The Curse Has To Continue For The Sake Of Baseball Lore
Considering it is a sport that places much importance on historical significance, urban legend and old stories, baseball has become something of a form of Americana in the modern age. We don't talk about NFL football games from 1951, but Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round The World" home run from that year that won the pennant is still recapped on major sports networks every so often. The Cubs ridding themselves of their curse would mean that a part of baseball tradition, which is a value more revered than in any other professional sport, would effectively be lost. It makes the Cubs more interesting, and provides baseball with a captivating storyline that has a lot of mileage.