First things first: The Chicago Cubs are going to be very good for a very long time.
President of baseball operations/World’s Greatest Leader Theo Epstein has built a Cubs team brimming with young talent. Chicago’s starting lineup boasts five players age 25 or younger — reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant among them — and that’s not even counting 24-year-old infield wizard Javier Baez. Its rotation is rock solid, and Joe Maddon, like him or not, is one of the best managers in baseball.
The W will fly often in Wrigleyville, and more World Series banners will be won. Just not this year.
We realize we need an argument to back up that bold statement, so here are four reasons why we believe the Cubs won’t repeat as World Series champions in 2017:
1. The history.
This probably is the weakest argument, considering the Cubs just broke a 108-year-old curse. But Major League Baseball hasn’t seen a repeat champion since the New York Yankees’ three-peat from 1998 to 2000. There’s a reason for that: It’s incredibly hard to maintain success in a league that plays 162 games a year. Chicago was the most talented team in baseball last season, but it also enjoyed relatively good health outside Schwarber’s injury. The entire league will be gunning for the Cubs, and any injuries or signs of regression will have them feeling the heat.
2. The rotation.
Unlike their hitters, the Cubs’ hurlers are no spring chickens, as three fifths of this rotation is on the wrong side of 30. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta are an excellent top trio when healthy, but Lester is coming off his third consecutive season of 200-plus pitches and Arrieta saw a dip in performance last year after a stellar 2015. There are better rotations in baseball, and National League aces like Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner could put Chicago at a slight disadvantage on the mound in a postseason series.
3. The outfield.
If there’s one “weakness” on this team, it’s in the outfield. Even if left fielder Schwarber carries his World Series success into 2017, right fielder Jason Heyward has his work cut out for him after hitting .230 in 2016. In center field, 22-year-old Albert Almora Jr. and offseason pickup Jon Jay face the tall task of filling Dexter Fowler’s shoes. The Cubs’ offense should be fine in the long run, but the outfield still is a position group worth monitoring.
4. The Indians.
Here’s our biggest case against the Cubs. The Cleveland Indians look even better than they did last year after adding Edwin Encarnacion to a balanced lineup and welcoming Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco back to a strong rotation that super-reliever Andrew Miller can bail out at a moment’s notice. The Indians had Chicago’s number in Games 1 through 4 of last year’s series, and if these teams meet again in the Fall Classic, Terry Francona and Co. won’t let the Cubs off the hook.
The Cubs are one of the best teams in baseball and easily are capable of returning to the World Series. But we’re predicting the buck stops there.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Scuteri/USA TODAY Sports Images