Chicago Cubs: Will this new lineup dethrone the Cardinals in the N.L. Central?
Following a strong free agency frenzy which featured the signings of veteran right-hander John Lackey, utility man Ben Zobrist, and outfielder Jason Heyward, the Chicago Cubs appear to be coasting their way into training camp.
As we all know, this young club exceeded all expectations in 2015, wrapping up the season with the third-best record in all of baseball having 97 wins under the belt.
They would go onto defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the N.L. Wild Card game, shutting them out and setting up a showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals.
It looked as if the Cardinals were going to pick apart the Cubs after claiming Game 1, until Jorge Soler helped spark this offense, leading to the North Siders advancing to the National League Championship Series.
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We’ll skip the N.L.C.S. against the New York Mets and focus on what this club has accomplished afterwards. Despite trading Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees, this club looks a whole lot stronger from top to bottom with plenty of depth on both the bench and in the minor league circuit.
This time around, reaching and claiming the N.L. Wild Card will not be enough for Joe Maddon and Anthony Rizzo‘s squad. They’ll be looking to dethrone the Cardinals who have dominated this division since 2000.
The Central was formed back in 1994, but the Cincinnati Reds wouldn’t claim the first division title until 1995 due to the strike that began on August 12, 1994.
For three years, the Houston Astros entered the postseason as division champs from 1997-1999 only to be eliminated in the division series by the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
Since then, St. Louis, who won their first N.L. Central title back in 1996, quickly turned the tide starting in 2000. They currently hold the most division titles with 10, while the Chicago Cubs have only managed to win it just three times.
This ties the North Siders with the Reds at three with the Milwaukee Brewers trailing the two by only one. Pittsburgh is the only team out of the bunch who hasn’t had the opportunity to celebrate a division championship, but they’re right on the tails of both the Cubs and Cardinals.
While Andrew McCutchen and the Bucs attempt to make history, yet again, this new look lineup in the Windy City has the best shot at winning multiple N.L. Central crowns starting in 2016.