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Chicago Cubs: Let’s think rationally here, Cubs’ fans

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Mar 5, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) looks on during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) looks on during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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There’s a lot of World Series talk surrounding the Chicago Cubs, but are we getting ahead of ourselves here?

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Before starting this post, I must say that I love the Chicago Cubs just as much as any die-hard fan, maybe even more. While I may not be the eldest fan, I have been around for long enough to witness many losing Cubs’ seasons. In fact, the team has only made the playoffs five times in my lifetime, winning just two series during that span (excluding the one game Wild Card game last season).

Essentially, I have stuck with this franchise through thick and thin, from the awful ending to the 2003 NLCS to the defeat of the rivals St. Louis Cardinals in the 2015 NLDS. I love the Cubs, but it seems that fans and analysts alike are forgetting how good the National League will be this season.

For starters, the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates will be a force to be reckoned with in 2016. Yes, the Cubs took John Lackey and Jason Heyward from the Cardinals, but they’re still the Cardinals. They always find a way to win. They literally made the World Series two seasons after losing the iconic Albert Pujols. They are the MLB’s model franchise.

In regards to the Pirates, they have made the postseason three straight seasons after countless years of losing. In fact, they have been forced to play in the Wild Card game each of those three seasons, going 1-2 over that span.

The Pirates will be more motivated and hungry than ever, looking to make the postseason and not have to play in the do-or-die game. They and the Cardinals both have something to prove after being eliminated from October baseball by the Cubs last season.

Not only is the National League Central division stacked with quality teams, but the league in general, has many great teams who have World Series potential. The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks all should be in playoff contention in 2016, barring any unforeseen circumstances or injuries.

The Nationals are coming off of a season where they missed the playoffs after being World Series favorites in 2015. New manager Dusty Baker should have this team re-focused and ready to go this season, with a strong pitching staff led by Max Scherzer and an offense lead by 2015 MVP Bryce Harper leading the charge.

It seems that people are forgetting how the Cubs were eliminated from the playoffs in the 2015. The Mets’ strong pitching staff is still in place this season and should be even better. Top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler will return from Tommy John surgery in 2016, slotting into a rotation full of four other hard throwing young pitchers. This team will be just as good, if not better.

As for the Giants and Diamondbacks, both teams improved after missing the playoffs in 2015. The Giants have won the last even-year World Series (2010, 2012 and 2014) and are much improved this season. Adding pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to a rotation that already has Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy is a scary thing to think about.

The Diamondbacks’ additions of Shelby Miller and former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke improves a team on the rise. They might be a year or two away from the postseason, but this team is improving and is worthy of note.

The Dodgers also must not be forgotten, as they have made the postseason three straight years. With an ownership that is not afraid to spend money, they will be in the thick of things all season long. Losing Greinke hurts, but one great player does not hurt a team in baseball as bad as it does in other sports.

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In all honesty, I love the Cubs and have high expectations for them this season. I would love for them to return to the postseason and compete for a World Series. I believe they have a great chance to do so in 2016, but I also think the MLB has a lot of quality teams who will be hungry this season.

Take a deep breath, Cub fans. The MLB season is a long and steady grind and should be very exciting in 2016. Just make sure you remember that the league has many great teams besides the Cubs, so try to relax if they don’t finish 162-0.

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