2015 was, well, there’s no other way to say it, a really fun year to be a Cubs fan. Free from the burden of expectation, we could revel in the antics of our team, which quite often resulted in victory. And while the final result left a bit to be desired, the combination of youthful talent and premature success led many to project big things for the Cubs. I was one of them.
But when it comes to setting realistic predictions, fans aren’t necessarily the most trustworthy group. I mean, when you’ve got a vested interest in the success of something, it’s possible that your motives would be less than pure. We aren’t always the smartest bunch, either, are we? That’s why I like to turn to the experts when it comes to matters of prognostication. And as far as sports go, you can’t do much better than Vegas.
Yes, I’m sure your uncle taught you the skills to pay the bills and you’re up big-time — despite the grand you just paid back to your bookie — but they don’t keep building multi-billion dollar mini-cities in the Nevada desert because the house loses a lot. So when Vegas sets odds on something, I take it pretty seriously.
With the obvious caveat that we have more than 150 days before the 2016 season gets started, the Chicago Cubs opened the offseason with 11/1 odds to win the World Series. This according to Bovada, a reputable online sportsbook, casinso, and poker room.
So that’s cool and all, but it’s also got me a little worried. Not about the Cubs themselves, but our ability to view the upcoming season through the proper lens. Expectation breeds anxiety and acrimony like a pair of Viagra-fueled rabbits. And yes, that is a very thinly veiled reference to every other commercial you see during Cubs broadcasts. My fear of how I’ll be able to enjoy the season, however, is no laughing matter.
I’m still small-time enough that only a few meatballs have been pulled into my social media orbit, but there’s something about sports that can turn even the most level-headed among us into blathering troglodytes. I’m loath to imagine having to explain to someone how a 93-win team in 2016 might actually be better than the 97-win squad we saw this year. Then again, seeing how the Mets and Royals made it to the World Series gave us all a nice education.
There’s no magic bullet, no secret formula. But in watching those two teams over the last few days, I think we all saw ways for the Cubs to improve heading into next season. The Mets’ rotation really showed out, though it ended up being little match for the Royals’ contact rate and superior bullpen. Huh, what was it Theo Epstein had mentioned wanting to bolster this offseason? I forget, but I’m sure it’ll come to me soon.
Seeing those Vegas odds isn’t an accomplishment and shouldn’t be celebrated as such. Rather, it’s yet another sign that the Cubs have indeed laid a foundation for success. It’s a starting point. Now they need to make the necessary moves to shore up weaknesses and fill in holes here and there. While it won’t match what we felt during the season, I think we’re all going to enjoy cozying up and warming our hands by the warmth of the hot stove this winter.
And I’d like to encourage you to take into 2016 the same hopeful exuberance you had when a bathroomless Wrigley Field opened her doors back in April. By all means, raise your expectations for this team. But please don’t allow them to cast shadows over your enjoyment. Well, unless they miss out on all the big pitching targets. Then you can shake your fists and yell at your own contrived clouds of a Cubs conquest.
As for me, I’m just gonna look at the oncoming wave of a new season laden with projections of success and say…