The funny thing about Chicago is that everybody talks about the cold when, in fact, it’s really the summers that suck. You can buy a really warm coat for the winter, you can find things to preoccupy your time with and just try and tune out that damn wind whipping off Lake Michigan. But unless you’re from there, you don’t really realize that the summers can get almost equally as brutal. The humidity and the heat index make it really tough to deal with July through September. That, and you’re usually watching the Chicago Cubs play until it’s time for the season to end and for the Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks to hopefully pick up the slack. The summer is usually out of reach by this time of year, and if they do make it to the playoffs, there’s either a Steve Bartman deal (side note: can we stop talking about poor Steve Bartman? I promise to after this) waiting for them, or they get swept. The latter is much more probable.
Yet here we are in the middle of August and the Chicago Cubs are the best team in all of baseball. Statistically speaking, the lovable losers have the best chance of winning the World Series at 18 percent, something announcers will routinely remind you they haven’t done since 1908. This is the best regular season Cubs team most people have ever seen in their lifetime. The little kid, his dad and grandpa who fought in Korea, none of them have ever seen the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, one of the best starting rotations in baseball with a terrifying bullpen. The one big complaint is Jason Heyward, one of the best defensive players in the game, who isn’t producing when he goes to bat. You’re probably thinking that these are the greatest problems to have, but they’re not – this is the Chicago Cubs we’re talking about.
Welcome to the most stressful August ever in Chicago Cubs history. The team is so good that some Cubs fans, who are accustomed to things just falling apart in totally spectacular fashion, are just searching for a reason to panic. Having it happen in the playoffs is one thing, but August is a different thing entirely.
Speaking as a Cubs fan, this season has been incredibly fun, with a Jake Arrieta no-hitter, Javier Baez cranking a walk-off homer in the 13th to win the game, the team playing dress up and David Ross winding down his career in style. The good times and the level they’re playing at, dare I say, reminds me a little of another great Chicago team from three decades ago who delivered a championship to the city after a long drought.
Still, speaking as a Cubs fan once again, you look for signs. Over a century’s worth of coming up short in your history leaves you wondering if this really horrible song choice will be the new black cat or if John Lackey leaving last night’s game (granted, his numbers make him the fifth best pitcher in the team’s rotation right now, but still) is something that you should worry about.
You shouldn’t, and you can’t. All you can do is listen to what George Michael once said, and keep watching. That, and you can get really into checking MLB prediction sites on a daily basis to calm your fears. Maybe more than anything that’s what makes the Chicago Cubs the team of 2016. In this election year, where you’re constantly looking over how battleground states might impact your candidate of choice, different probabilities might come into play and what, exactly, you need to win, Chicago Cubs fans are probably doing the exact same thing. What will it take to finally win? What has to go right and what can’t go wrong?
Anybody who collected trading cards when they were young or has seen Moneyball will tell you that baseball is a numbers game. They wouldn’t be wrong, and those sabermetric principles that Billy Beane used to get the best Oakland A’s team with the least amount of money do come into play here; but the numbers we’re talking about with the Cubs are different. It’s a chance. It’s a Bon Jovi song, basically. The Cubs and their fans, just like every other team and fanbase in baseball, are living on a prayer. Granted, the Cubs, Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays have way better chances compared to defending champion Kansas City Royals, who currently sit nearly eight games out for a wild card spot with a 2 percent chance of even making the playoffs and negative 1 percent chance of repeating. But for those teams with a high percentage, the ones with a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs, and the Cubs and the Nationals, along with Toronto and the Cleveland Indians, who now have an 11-percent chance of winning the World Series, the next month and a half will be excruciating no matter how great their lineup is.
The long summer is winding down and winter is coming for every team in baseball – except for one. If the Chicago Cubs can prove the statisticians right, then it won’t matter what the weather is like in Chicago. It will be glorious.