Here’s the thing about the Chicago Cubs, I don’t like them.
But they at least used to be cute, even a little lovable. Because they never won.
The Cubs were dependable and loyal but never a threat to my team, the St. Louis Cardinals. We — we, I say — were the winners and the Cubs were the losers and life was simple.
Now that dynamic has been turned on its head.
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The Cubs won 103 games this season and finished 17 1/2 games ahead of St. Louis in the National League Central.
You’ve seen the Cubs — what’s not to like?
Their core of hitters goes like this:
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, 26, signed through 2019 with team option for 2020 and 2021.
Javier Baez, 2B, 23, not eligible for free agency until 2022.
Kris Bryant, 3B, 24, not eligible for free agency until 2022.
Addison Russell, SS, 22, won’t move out of his parents’ baseball until 2022.
Jorge Soler, OF, 24, still likes Tootsie Pops.
Albert Almora, OF, 22, recently weaned off Gerber’s.
Wilson Contreras, C, 24, not eligible for free agency until the Sun explodes.
And add to this mix 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber, who missed all but a couple of games of the 2016 after requiring knee surgery but has come back to rip the ball in the first two games of the World Series against Cleveland.
Schwarber might be the best hitter the Cubs have. Better, even, than Bryant and Rizzo, two top candidates for National League MVP.
The Cubs, though, aren’t perfect. Thank goodness. They did give right fielder Jason Heyward an eight-year, $184 million contract last winter and Heyward has been a bust. But the Cubs have the depth to get past that blunder.
It feels like this team is going to win the next 10 world championships. But the realist in me understands the fickle nature of baseball, of sports. It’s not as if the other teams in the National League, or the Cardinals in particular, are going to lay down and stop trying just so the Cubs can have their era.
Who knows? Perhaps the Indians will find a way to win this World Series. The Cubs haven’t been perfect in the postseason, needing four games to get past San Francisco in the NLDS and falling behind Los Angeles in the NLCS 2-1 before winning three straight.
It feels like the Cubs are conquering the baseball world, though. It feels like they’ll steamroll anyone who steps into their path for years to come.
Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Baez, Contreras, Schwarber — those guys are only going to get better. Heyward might figure out how to hit again. And the Cubs still have some of the highest-rated hitting prospects in baseball, particularly second baseman Ian Happ and outfielder Eloy Jimenez.
Center fielder Dexter Fowler is a free agent after this season but the Cubs could easily afford to bring him back. Outside of Heyward’s salary, the Cubs don’t really have any terrible contracts on the books.
As for pitching, left-hander Jon Lester is 32 and signed through 2020. Righty Jake Arrieta is 30 and eligible to be a free agent after next season, when John Lackey will finish a two-year deal at 39.
Kyle Hendricks, who could win the NL Cy Young Award, is only 26 and can’t be a free agent until 2021.
The Cubs have aggressive ownership and in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer two of the brightest deal makers in the game. They’ll make sure the pitching — and the Cubs’ starters were the best in the National League in 2016 — remains strong.
As a Cardinals fan, who has lived through five world championships, I suppose it’s selfish of me not to congratulations the Cubs on their success. If I thought it was fleeting, perhaps I would.
My fear, though, is that we’ve entered into a baseball world that will be ruled by the Cubs for at least the next five seasons. No other team has this collection of young talent and it’s not even close.
Perhaps I’m working myself into an unneeded frenzy.
In the 54 years since I became a Cardinals fan in 1962, St. Louis has finished ahead of the Cubs in the standings 39 times. That means for 72 percent of my baseball-fan life, my season has ended better than a Cubs fan’s season has ended. Cardinals fans have had their fun. Isn’t it time for Cubs fans to have theirs?
Unselfishly, maybe. But who me an unselfish sports fan. We want our team to pile up championships because it makes us feel good.
Watching the Cubs have this success doesn’t make me feel good. It makes me feel sick. And scared.
The Cardinals won’t surrender, I know that. But how much can they or any other team fight this Cubs stronghold? As Chicago fans revel in this success, I’m preparing myself for tough times.