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posted: 8/31/2017 5:30 AM

Constable: How these Cubs can win it all again

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  • He's not as brash, controversial or blazing as the Cubs 2016 closer, but relief pitcher Wade Davis set the team record for consecutive saves Tuesday by nailing down his 27th save in 27 opportunities.

    He's not as brash, controversial or blazing as the Cubs 2016 closer, but relief pitcher Wade Davis set the team record for consecutive saves Tuesday by nailing down his 27th save in 27 opportunities.
    Associated Press

  • These guys finished a mediocre two games above .500 in 2006. Yet, the St. Louis Cardinals ended the season celebrating a World Series championship. And the 2017 Chicago Cubs are a much better team than the 2006 Cards.

    These guys finished a mediocre two games above .500 in 2006. Yet, the St. Louis Cardinals ended the season celebrating a World Series championship. And the 2017 Chicago Cubs are a much better team than the 2006 Cards.
    Associated Press

  • The best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break, Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta didn't give up a run Tuesday as he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. That's the sort of stuff that helps a team win a World Series.

    The best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break, Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta didn't give up a run Tuesday as he beat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. That's the sort of stuff that helps a team win a World Series.
    Associated Press

  • Looking to reclaim some of that 2016 magic, Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist watches his home run give the Cubs a 1-0 lead Tuesday as the Cubs went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Zobrist has had a disappointing season so far, but that's no reason he can't rally to win a second World Series MVP and lead the Cubs to a championship.

    Looking to reclaim some of that 2016 magic, Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist watches his home run give the Cubs a 1-0 lead Tuesday as the Cubs went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Zobrist has had a disappointing season so far, but that's no reason he can't rally to win a second World Series MVP and lead the Cubs to a championship.
    Associated Press

  • Chicago Cubs fans worried that this year's Cubs just aren't good enough to win the World Series should remember the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. That team lost nine of their last 12 games to finish with a measly 83 wins. Then they put together a couple of good weeks of baseball to win the championship.

    Chicago Cubs fans worried that this year's Cubs just aren't good enough to win the World Series should remember the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. That team lost nine of their last 12 games to finish with a measly 83 wins. Then they put together a couple of good weeks of baseball to win the championship.
    Associated Press

  • Video: This looks like 2016 Cubs

 
 

It's a gorgeous night at a rockin' Wrigley Field. Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is slicing up the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cubs batters are doing their jobs. Ben Zobrist delivers a clutch home run. Jason Heyward gets two hits and drives in a run and lovable Anthony Rizzo smacks the ball all over the place. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez make slick fielding plays. The Cubs' closer barely takes the mound in the ninth inning, and my wife already is talking about how the victory anthem of "Go, Cubs, Go" will start playing the second the Cubs record that third out. And she is right.

It sure does feel like 2016.

The biggest difference is that instead of fireball closer Aroldis Chapman strutting to the mound to the blazing guitar riff from Libertyville's Tom Morello in the pounding "Wake Up," by Rage Against the Machine, Cubs closer Wade Davis just sort of appears on the mound while a 16-year-old ditty from Dr. Dre plays unobtrusively in the background. With his 27th save in 27 opportunities, Davis quietly sets the Cubs' record for most consecutive saves.

The 2017 Cubs (except maybe on the charity front) are quieter than the 2016 Cubs. Gone is all that noise about how the Cubs could end 108 years of goats and black cats, and curses and jinxes, and foul balls and Cubbie occurences. While the 2016 Cubs boasted the entire starting infield for the 2016 All-Star Game, pitchers Arrieta and Jon Lester and outfielder Dexter Fowler, the 2017 Cubs sent only Davis. Bryant won't win the National League MVP award this year, but he's having a productive season. Rizzo won't win it either, but he deserves to be in the discussion. Pitcher Kyle Hendricks won't turn in the lowest earned run average in baseball, but he's pitched more like his 2016 self since recovering from an injury.

While I loved Fowler playing center field for the Cubs in 2016, current Cubs center fielder Jon Jay, with help from occasional center fielders Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ and Heyward, have put up similar numbers. As much as fans loved backup catcher David Ross and cheered clutch hits by fellow backup catcher Miguel Montero in 2016, the Cubs are getting better production this year from rising star Willson Contreras and new additions Alex Avila and Rene Rivera, who are holding down the spot until Contreras returns from his hamstring injury.

The Cubs clearly have all the ingredients needed to win the World Series again. As long as they make the playoffs, September doesn't even matter. To see how this is done, we need to study our old nemesis, the St. Louis Cardinals.

Google "worst team to win a World Series," and the 2006 Cardinals pop up on your screen. That team finished the regular season with a mediocre record of 83-78. The Cardinals were 71-61 on Aug. 31. Our 2016 Cubs were 71-60 going into their game against the Pirates Wednesday.

The 2006 Cardinals went 12-16 in September, lost their last game of the season on Oct. 1 and backed into the division title when second-place Houston lost its last game.

Once those Cardinals limped into the playoffs, their pitchers found some magic. In the National League championship series, pitcher Jeff Suppan, who started the year as the Cardinals' fourth starter, was awarded the MVP. In the World Series, the surging Cardinals beat the favored Detroit Tigers four games to one.

Rookie pitcher Anthony Reyes, who won five games all season for St. Louis, pitched a gem in winning the opening game of the Series. Diminutive 5-foot-6-inch shortstop David Eckstein drove in four runs while hitting .364 to win the MVP honors. The Cardinals' pitching staff compiled a 2.05 earned run average.

That's a blueprint for the way the Cubs, who have a better roster than those 2006 Cardinals, could win the 2017 championship. The pitchers rediscover their 2016 form. The Cubs best hitters perform the way they should, and a player under the radar (Almora, Tommy LaStella, a rehabbed Contreras or Addison Russell, or maybe even Ben Zobrist again) gets hot and earns World Series MVP honors.

In the meantime, Wrigley Field remains a magical place to watch a baseball game.

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