Is there an ex-Cub Factor? The White Sox hope not

As a die-hard White Sox fan, I take no joy in pointing this out: If you believe the ex-Cub Factor brings ruin in October, the postseason does not bode well for the Sox.

Of all the teams lining up for MLB's postseason, the Sox will carry the most former Chicago Cubs on the playoff roster.

The Sox have, count 'em, five ex-Cubs waiting to see what cruel fate has in store for them. They also have a manager who, it must be remembered despite his Hall of Fame cred, played his last game in Cubbie pinstripes too.

But more about the dangers of the Sox connection to their crosstown rivals later.

First: The ex-Cub Factor also makes Tuesday night's American League Wild Card game between ESPN favorites look like an easy call.

Kyle Schwarber dispatched any fears of Cubbish aftereffects by scoring what turned out to be the winning run in the Boston Red Sox clincher over the Nationals Sunday. But even if that was only a tease to greater heartbreak, he's still the only ex-Cub on the Carmine's roster (which also includes former White Sox ace Chris Sale.)

That hardly stacks up in volume to the four prominent ex-Cubs in the Yankees' locker room - Wrigley Field icon Anthony Rizzo, shipped off to New York in July; 2020 AL batting champion D.J. LeMahieu, dispatched by the Cubs to Colorado at the end of his rookie year in 2011; infielder Gleybar Torres, swapped midseason in 2016 for rent-a-closer Aroldis Chapman; and that very same Chapman, who re-signed in the Bronx as a free agent after blowing the save but then winning Game 7 for the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

Four for the Yankees to one for the Red Sox. If you believe in the ex-Cub Factor, there are just too many opportunities for too many things to go wrong for New York Tuesday night.

Whichever team wins will have a division series date with the Tampa Bay Rays, who appear on paper to be in pretty good shape.

They have only one old Cubs name on the roster: onetime right-handed phenom Chris Archer, acquired by the Cubs on New Year's Even in 2008 in a deal for Mark DeRosa but then traded without ever making it to Wrigley in a package for Matt Garza two years later.

What's more, Archer is ailing and won't be making any appearances in the postseason. (Speaking of wounded pitchers, former White Sox closer David Robertson is recovering from injury in the Rays' bullpen and is expected to appear in the playoffs.)

Meanwhile: In the National League, the Atlanta Braves had better hope along with the Sox that although baseball is steeped in superstitution, the ex-Cub curse is not real.

They have three former Cubs on the roster, more than any other team in the NL playoffs - power-hitting outfielder Jorge Soler, journeyman reliever Jesse Chavez, and 2021 free agent Joc Pederson, peddled by the Cubs in July for a minor-league first baseman.

And if that wasn't enough, their manager Brian Snitker grew up as a Cubs fan in downstate Macon, Illinois.

The Braves will be playing the Milwaukee Brewers, who have only Daniel Vogelbach, a onetime Kane County Cougar and ballyhooed minor-league sensation blocked by Rizzo, offering an ex-Cub Factor.

While the Brewers lack in ex-Cubs, they don't lack for ex-White Sox players. Three regulars should be in Milwaukee's postseason lineup: outfielder Avisail Garcia, catcher Omar Narvaez and slugging infielder Eduardo Escobar.

In the other division series, the San Francisco Giants will line up with former MVP Kris Bryant, picked up from the Cubs this summer, and infielder Tommy La Stella.

They will play the winner of Wednesday's Wild Card game between the Los Angeles Dodgers (one ex-Cub Cole Hamels and one ex-Sox Tommy Kahnle, both on the IL) vs. the St. Louis Cardinals (one ex-Cub Jon Lester, who likely will not appear until the division series, presuming the Cards can make it that far.)

If you were going to place a World Series bet purely based on the ex-Cub Factor, which team would you pick?

That might appear to be the Houston Astros. Their squad is devoid of anyone who ever played for the North Side.

But keep in mind, they do have Dusty Baker, toothpick in mouth, running the team. Some, still haunted by the North Siders collapse of 2003, might reason that by itself is enough ex-Cub Factor to sink Houston.

Which brings us to the Astros' first-round foes, beginning Thursday.

Yes, everyone remembers Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease, two stars Theo Epstein gave up four years ago when captivated by the intriguing but false allure of Jose Quintana.

They've been a big part of the 2021 Sox team, and still look like potential Hall of Famers who promise to get even better in the years ahead.

But with the ex-Cub postseason tradition, will Eloy be able to avoid running into an outfield wall? And will strikeout king Cease unfortunately avoid getting the ball over the plate?

They're not the only ones who offer enthusiastic hope sprung eternal while also threatening White Sox karma. Already, Craig Kimbrell has shrunk into a mere mortal after Rick Hahn acquired what he thought was an unhittable closer two months ago from the Cubs in exchange for, sigh, Nicky Two-Strikes, breaking many a Madrigal-loving Nellie Fox fan's heart.

Ryan Tepera, also picked up from the Cubs this summer to solidify the bullpen, had looked good - until he cut one of his pitching fingers on a door frame at his house. Does that or does that not sound like the consequence of a billy goat curse?

Let's not forget about fleet-footed outfielder Billy Hamilton, who seems like a valuable postseason pinch runner in the best Herb Washington tradition. That is, until you remember that the Cubs picked up Billy for last year's playoffs. How did that work out? The Cubs were eliminated in two straight by, ahem, the MIAMI MARLINS!

So five ex-Cubs on one postseason team. But that's not all. There's also the manager. Tony La Russa may have three World Series rings, but let's not ignore that he finished his playing career wearing numeral 42 for the Cubs.

He appeared in one game, pinch running on April 6, 1973 for Ron Santo and coming around to score a walk-off winning run against the Montreal Expos.

Despite that celebratory achievement, Tony was unable to break into the lineup again and was shipped off to Triple-A six days later, never to return as a player to the majors.

Is there really an ex-Cub Factor in the postseason? Probably not. Just a cynical superstition, after all.

At least the White Sox hope that's the case.

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