With how many great teams MLB had in 2018, is it possible that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series at the perfect time?
When the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, it was not a question of if they would win another title, but rather when. Talks of the Cubs building a modern-day dynasty were not too far-fetched.
My, how so much can change in just two short years.
2018 Cubs good, other teams better
Of course, the Cubs have not necessarily dropped off since 2016. A 92-win 2017 campaign ended in a five-game National League Championship Series loss; a 95-win 2018 season ended in the NL Wild Card Game.
No, the Cubs have not dropped off since winning it all in 2016. What has happened, though, is that teams around the league have risen to and possibly above the level of the 2016 champions.
In 2016, the Cubs were the only team to win more than 95 games. In 2017, four teams surpassed the 95-win mark (three of those teams surpassed 100 wins). In 2018, five teams surpassed 95 wins (three of those teams hit or passed 100 wins).
And which teams ended the Cubs’ 2017 and 2018 seasons? In 2017, the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers took care of the Cubs in the NLCS, later losing the World Series to the 101-win Houston Astros.
Right time, right place
For all intents and purposes, the Milwaukee Brewers ended the Cubs’ 2018 season in Game 163 at Wrigley Field. The Brewers’ victory (No. 96 on the season) put the Cubs in the dreaded Wild Card game, which they lost to the Colorado Rockies.
My point is not that 2018 was the first season where MLB has ever had many good teams. That would be ridiculous to say and is obviously untrue.
The point is that the Cubs broke their 108-year championship drought at the perfect time. Yes, they won 103 games in 2016 and therefore should be remembered as one of the best teams in recent memory.
However, compared to the last two seasons, 2016 was a season where competition was not necessarily less tough, but simply not as strong as it is now. Three American League teams won at least 100 games in 2018, which is quite remarkable.
Great teams all-around
This season was the first in MLB history where three AL teams won at least 100 games. And yet, the Red Sox steam-rolled their way to the AL pennant.
Boston won 108 games, beat the 100-win New York Yankees in four games in the American League Division Series and the 103-win Astros in five games in the ALCS.
Yes, the Cubs worked hard to win the 2016 NL pennant, but their path to the World Series was not nearly as tough as the 2018 Red Sox. And entering 2019, it is evident that the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Brewers and Dodgers are not going anywhere.
The Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals should all be strong in 2019. It would also be foolish to forget about the Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. However, this doesn’t mean that the Cubs’ current championship-window is closed.
What it does mean, though, is that fans should be more appreciative of the current era of Cubs baseball. Because as those very fans know best, you never know when the next championship will come, though 2019 is not out of reach.