Cubs finally reach World Series, look to end championship drought



Eddie Brancale

Courtesy of

After 71 years of frustration, despair and relentless hope, the Chicago Cubs have regained the National League pennant, advancing past the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in Game 6 of the National League Championship series. For Cubs fans, the seemingly impossible is now firmly in their grasp, as the Cubs need only four victories to end the longest championship drought in baseball—108 years.

Even Jay Wright had to weigh in on the matchup.

“I love the old school teams who haven’t been in [the World Series] for a while,” Wright said. “I like the Cubs because I’m a National League guy, and I respect the passion of those fans.”

With young phenoms Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez leading the charge, Chicago has built a perennial contender not only comprised of youth, but also veteran leadership. Cubs fans can thank Theo Epstein, who may be making his case as baseball’s greatest “curse-breaker.” Before coming to the Cubs, Epstein was the architect of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, a team that broke an 86 year championship drought. Epstein has gotten somewhat lost in the shuffle, but his masterful job of constructing this team should not be overlooked. What is impressive is the evolution he has undergone as an executive. The 2004 Red Sox relied on big name acquisitions such as Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez, most of whom were acquired in trades. This Cubs team, however, was built from the bottom-up, using draft picks and the acquisition of top-tier prospects. Kris Bryant, the 2nd overall selection in the 2013 draft, is this year’s MVP frontrunner and the face of the Cubs for years to come. Javier Baez, 9th overall pick in the 2011 draft, has broken out in a big way this postseason, sharing NLCS MVP honors with ace Jon Lester. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, two major infield pieces, were acquired in trades while they were considered top prospects. Rizzo is a perennial All-Star, while Russell’s 95 runs batted in were tied for 11th in the National League. 

Lester, the undisputed anchor of the Cubs rotation, brought not only postseason experience to the clubhouse, but also a sense of professionalism and leadership. When he signed a six year, $155 million contract before the 2015 season, he had his share of detractors. This turned out to be just the move the Cubs needed to make to put them over the top. Lester brought with him a championship pedigree from his years in Boston and has raised the play of those around him while still performing at an all star level.

Lost in all of this is the spectacular play of the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have experienced their own drought as well, not winning a World Series since the 1948 season. Their last appearance was a ninth inning collapse against the Florida Marlins in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. The Indians led after eight, but the Marlins came back to tie, and eventually won on an Edgar Renteria walk-off single in the ninth. This year’s squad is led by superstar second year player Francisco Lindor and All-Star pitchers Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller. Fresh off the Cavaliers first NBA championship in June, the Indians will look to continue Cleveland’s dominance of the sports world.

There will be a Villanovan playing in the World Series this year. Matt Szczur, fifth round pick of the Cubs in 2010, attended Villanova and played for the Wildcats for two seasons. Szczur has been a key player off the bench for the Cubs, and his personal bat has proven to be a key cog in the Cubs playoff success. A story in The New York Times this week chronicled the Cubs playoff journey and mentioned how Szczur lending his bat to stars such as Rizzo and Ben Zobrist has given them good fortune. Interestingly enough, the last National League champion Cubs team included a Villanovan as well—Lennie Merullo—according to the Baseball Almanac. Merullo was the last surviving member of the 1945 Cubs before his death in June 1945. 

Sports fans will pay special attention as the Cubs chase the championship. Regardless where your loyalty lies, though, you have to respect the Cubs’ fanbase.

“I think that’s what being a fan is all about—the passion and love for the Cubs—and I want them to be rewarded for that,” Wright said.

Surely 71 years of patience can’t go unrecognized, but sports have a funny way of working.