The Chicago Cubs are World Series favorites. Let that sink in for a moment. The team is certainly full of impact players with a ton of talent, and the potential for the team is out of this world. It looks like a no brainer, right?
The Cubs are tenth in MLB for the youngest average age on its roster at 27.4, tying them with the Royals, Red Sox, Braves and Nationals.
Sure the team has playoffs experience under its belt from a year ago, but is that really enough for them?
The team is young enough that mistakes are bound to happen. They’re still learning and adapting to the game at its highest peak, playing against the best talent in the world. It comes with the territory. So again, the expectations could be a little high right now.
Outside of the Royals — who enter 2016 as the two time defending American League champs, and defending World Series champs — the other teams with the same average age have a lot of questions.
The Red Sox are playing in an expected mediocre AL East and still have a ton of questions. The Braves are in the midst of rebuilding itself and is far from the golden days many got witnessed seeing out of them in the 90’s and early 00’s. The Nationals are coming off a season in which they entered as World Series favorites, and outside of Bryce Harper, played six months of forgettable baseball.
So why can’t the Cubs come with questions for being young, and even inexperienced?
Despite age, it’s no easy task being the preseason favorites in Vegas odds. Since 2008, this is where the odds stacked up.
2008 Red Sox: Lost in game 7 of the ALCS to Rays
2009 Yankees: Won World Series over Phillies in six games
2010 Yankees: Lost in game 6 of the ALCS to Rangers
2011 Phillies: Lost in game 5 of the NLDS to Cardinals
2012 Phillies: Didn’t make playoffs
2013 Nationals: Didn’t make playoffs
2014 Dodgers: Lost in game 4 of NLDS to Cardinals
2015 Nationals: Didn’t make playoffs
Only the 2009 Yankees fulfilled the prediction, and three of the last four teams haven’t made the playoffs.
So not exactly an easy thing to live up to for the Cubs. Then again, nothing comes easy to the franchise who has more curses than blessings. They don’t need to be reminded that they’ve been in a 108 year drought without a championship or hear the stories regarding The Curse of the Billy Goat, and the black cat, and don’t even bring up the name Steve Bartman (still feel bad for the man) in discussion.
The team fell short in the NLCS last season to the New York Mets and the hot-swinging Daniel Murphy. Oh, and they also went up against the best rotation in all of baseball. That could be important. But with the series ended in typical fashion for the franchise, it didn’t feel like a typical loss. There was promise around the corner. Something that couldn’t have been said in years past.
Built around names like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, the Cubs have placed arguably the most talented team in MLB around them this season. They went out and added Jason Heyward for depth in the outfield and lineup. They added John Lackey to bolster up the rotation that already featured reigning Cy Young recipient, Jake Arrieta and rotation leader Jon Lester. They addressed depth by adding Ben Zobrist who’s fresh off a championship with the Royals and could virtually play anywhere Maddon needs him.
There’s a good chance the Mets-Cubs matchup could happen again, but time will tell, and hopefully this time around, it goes at least six. But for that to be considered an option in Ocotber, the Cubs have to get through arguably the toughest division in baseball. One year ago, the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs all won 95 or more games and made the playoffs. They’ll surely be tested throughout the course of the six month regular season.
It won’t be an easy journey for the Cubs. Nobody said it would be. There are a few factors that come into play in order for them to compete in the franchises first World Series since 1945, much less, win the whole darn thing for the first time in over a century. It all depends on where the young core of players can take them. For their sakes, let’s hope its further than the baseball Kyle Schwarber sent into the night last October. Stay tuned.