Oh, sorry, were actually planning on eating those Cheerios? I guess I shouldn’t have peed in them right off the jump like that. Thing is, I’m really trying to work on my click-bait skills and I figured the headline might help a little bit. Must be the case if you’re still reading. And you can pick the spoon back up, that wasn’t really pee.
There’s going to be a lot of talk about the Cubs and pressure and curses and blah, blah, blah over the next few weeks. Given their meteoric rise — which is a weird idiom because meteors actually fall — from the muck and mire of Reds-level irrelevance and the whole title drought thing hanging over the club like the Sword of Damocles, the onslaught of “Can they do it” think-pieces is inevitable. If those are the shots, the chasers are the “Here’s how the Cubs can be beaten” columns.
My problem with all of these things is the concept they seem to be pushing that A) the “best” team should win; and B) it’s a surprise when then they don’t. As though rampant regular-season success is a guarantee of anything other than an opportunity to face a Wild Card winner that had to throw at least one starting pitcher to get to the NLDS. Or that 100+ wins provides more than swagger and cachet beyond Game 162.[beautifulquote align=”right”]The Cubs still have a 73.5 percent chance of not winning the World Series.[/beautifulquote]
Sure, the Cubs have the best team in baseball, but to act as though the postseason is some sort of coronation tour is misguided and kinda lazy. Even by the most optimistic measure I’ve seen, the Cubs still have a 73.5 percent chance of not winning the World Series. Other respected predictors have them anywhere from 76 to nearly 83 percent. So the Cubs probably won’t win. Cue the sad trombone: womp, womp.
However…the flip side of those odds holds that the pinstriped purveyors of postseason paranoia have better odds than anyone else of actually winning the whole damn thing. Baseball Prospectus gives the Cubs a 26.5 percent chance (Red Sox – 23.2), while FiveThirtyEight has them at 24 percent (Red Sox – 22). FanGraphs is a little less bullish, putting the Cubs at only 17.3 percent with the Sawx at 20.2.
In spite of the odds saying they probably won’t win, the Cubs still have the upper hand when it comes to the possibility that they will. And that’s what I’m clinging to. I’m not looking at what failures on their part might open the door for another team. Rather, I’m looking at every team not run by Theo Epstein and managed by Joe Maddon and thinking that they’ve got to have a lot break right to beat the Cubs.
Baseball is a pretty volatile sport from a predictive standpoint and the playoffs don’t make that any less true. I started this Quantifying Hope feature last season because I wanted a way to follow the drive for the postseason when the Cubs were really starting to turn things on. They took the air out of the balloon pretty early this time around, but I can already feel the anxiety building as microscopic construction crews work to connect the central part of my amygdala to the pit of my stomach like some kind of biological Chunnel.
Thank God they’re unionized and it’s taking longer than the original bid stated.
I’m not saying I’ll be happy with anything short of a World Series title, though I am doing what I can to sever the regular season from whatever happens starting October 7. While I still posit that 2015 was even better because of the unexpectedness of it all, I’ve had a lot of fun this year. I won’t be able to fully compartmentalize things either way, but I’d be lying if I said my hope for the future hasn’t tempered my expectations of the present.
It’s sorta weird, the presence of hope. Wait till next year is still a very real thing, just not in the time-worn sense of resignation and irony. Maybe I’m just trying to dictate myself — that’s delude yourself, dummy — because I know that, come Game 1 of the NLDS, I’ll be a ball of nerves. Mostly happy nerves, though. That kind of emotion just makes you feel alive…aaaand you’ll have to excuse me because the nefarious earworm that is Ben Zobrist’s walk-up music has started to burrow into my brain and I need to take care of that posthaste.
Until next time.