Rozner: Odds against repeating don't scare Cubs

  • The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in thrilling fashion last season, and they seem poised to do it again. But history shows the odds of a repeat are unlikely.

    The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in thrilling fashion last season, and they seem poised to do it again. But history shows the odds of a repeat are unlikely. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/11/2017 7:09 PM

And thus it begins.

In just a couple days, the Cubs report to spring training still floating on a cloud and in search of a repeat.

 

History suggests it's unlikely given that no team since the 2000 Yankees finished a three-peat and a run of four titles in five years.

But history is not something the Cubs care much about, not after erasing more than a century of misery in November.

"We're not scared," said Anthony Rizzo. "We're just glad to have the opportunity to repeat. You don't get to do that until you win one -- and we did that."

So the Cubs are favored again at 3-1 to win it all, chased by the Red Sox (4-1), Indians (7-1) and Dodgers (10-1). On paper these are clearly the best teams, though no piece of paper could have forecast the postseason the way it went down.

There was almost no one this side of Terry Francona who knew he could ride Andrew Miller to within an inch of a World Series victory.

And the Cubs' easy romp through the playoffs was nothing of the kind.

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They were within three outs of heading home to Chicago and a meeting in Game 5 with the Giants and Johnny Cueto.

They fell behind the Dodgers 2-1 in the NLCS and rallied to win three straight, clinching at home in Game 6 against Clayton Kershaw.

And, of course, they were behind 3-1 in the World Series, forced to win the next three and Game 7 in frightening fashion.

They needed some bounces, some breaks and a silly amount of talent to overcome the managing of Joe Maddon when it mattered most. Fortunately, Theo Epstein built a team so talented that they were able to rise above every Maddon move that nearly cost them the big prize.

It's a simple reminder of how difficult it is to get there -- and how difficult it is to win if you do get there.

There's was absolutely nothing easy about the 2016 postseason for the world champs.

So now they've lost Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman, not to mention 30 starts and 15 wins from Jason Hammel.

They gain Kyle Schwarber for a full season and brought in Wade Davis, who's as good as any closer in the game, assuming health.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If Brett Anderson can stay on the field and make 31 starts as he did for the Dodgers in 2015 (3.69 ERA), that would be a fine addition to a rotation that will look for chances to use six starters.

Ah yes, the rotation.

If it makes you more comfortable having something to worry about, there's the concern, the wear and tear of pitching deep into October (or November) the past two years for Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Arrieta.

In the case of the 38-year-old Lackey and 33-year-old Lester, it's the last four years.

It is the biggest reason teams don't repeat and it's the biggest fear for any manager who has watched his staff pitch stressful innings into late October.

They are different innings. They are serious innings. They are painful innings. And they take a massive toll.

Just getting to the league championship series for a third straight year would be something of a feat, as the only teams in the National League in the last 20 years to accomplish this were St. Louis (four years, 2011-14), Philadelphia (2008-10), St. Louis (2004-06) and Atlanta (eight straight in the '90s).

In the American League, only Detroit (2011-13) and New York (four straight, 1998-01) made at least three straight LCS.

The good Cubs are as good as -- or better than -- any of the aforementioned teams, with the possible exception of the Yankees.

But you have to get back to the postseason first and the good news there is neither St. Louis nor Pittsburgh made the playoffs last year, and those clubs didn't do anything this winter to scare the National League.

At the same time, the Cubs have every reason to think they can win 90 games for the third straight season.

Besides, the Cubs Convention offered proof that the Cubs are young, hungry, excited and thrilled to be back together.

The odds are against them, but if the Cubs can keep their staff healthy, it might be unwise to bet against them repeating in 2017.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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