Who’s the Real Champ?
With the playoffs at our doorstep, prognosticators, fans and dilettantes of all stripes are coming out of the woodwork to tell anyone who will listen about their predictions for the World Series. And I don’t blame them. We here at The Spitter will be doing the same thing in coming days. It’s part of the game.
I won’t be one of those prognosticators, though, because I already know who the real champion of this year’s MLB season is: The Chicago Cubs.
No, they haven’t won a single playoff game yet. Nor have they held a celebratory parade down Michigan Avenue. Nonetheless, they have already won the championship.
I say this because I’m one of those obnoxious baseball fans who believes the 162-game marathon known as the regular season is what really determines the best team in the game. Not a monthlong crapshoot where some team can ride a hot streak, or, in the case of 2014’s champion, a hot hand, to a “decisive” title.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll be watching as much of the playoffs as possible. It’s still one of the most exciting postseason events in all of sports. And I’ll give a ton of credit to whomever takes home that awkward looking cheese tray of a trophy. It’s just, unless that team is the Cubs, I won’t personally be able to give them what others will consider their full due.
I’m sure the eventual champs will have a lot of sleepless nights over that little tidbit.
With less than a week left in the regular season, the Cubs have already won 101 games, seven more than their next closest competition, the Texas Rangers. And the Rangers, with a relatively minuscule +11 run differential on the year and the best winning percentage in one-run games in the history of baseball, have been exceptionally lucky to reach those heights.
The Cubs haven’t done it with luck – they lost Kyle Schwarber for the year just a couple of weeks into the season, and their biggest offseason acquisition, Jason Heyward, has been a complete bust at the plate, sporting an OPS 30% below league average.
They’ve put themselves in this position through years of perspicacious team-building by team president Theo Epstein and his crew, which has resulted in an overload of talent, and a steady approach led by manager Joe Maddon.
In an era where front offices across the game are smarter than ever, it’s become incredibly difficult to lap the field. But that’s exactly what the Cubs have done this year. The 2016 Cubs are one of the best teams I’ve ever seen. They’re right up there with the 2001 Mariners, the Yankees teams of the late-90s, and the Braves teams of the mid-90s.
Moreover, it looks like they are poised for a multiple-year run of dominance. That being said, any number of unexpected things can happen in life or in sports that might render this apparent dynasty to the trash bin of history’s almost-weres. But for now, I’m going to appreciate their greatness, crown them champion (already), and hope they can further prove their greatness by winning it all on baseball’s biggest stage.
Unless, that is, they end up facing off against the Tigers in the World Series.